9 Important Lessons I Learned In High School

High school can be difficult to maneuver for underclassmen (9th and 10th graders), and even sometimes for upperclassmen (11th and 12th graders), too!

High school is a time and place for exploration and learning, and you’ll learn a lot of things– not just academic! In this post, I’ll reveal the 9 things I wish I knew when I entered high school.

By reading this post and knowing these 9 things, you’ll be way ahead of the game when you enter high school and be much more likely to succeed from the very first day. Let’s get started!

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Your “friend group” will shrink

I started freshman year of high school with a considerably large circle of friends, but as I entered sophomore and eventually junior year, my circle had become smaller yet tighter.

This occurs because you mature as you go through high school, discovering what your “true” self is like and subsequently finding friends who help you become better and cutting off those who bring you down.

You’ll learn to make new friends– friends who understand you, give you advice, support you through highs and lows, and inspire you to become a better person. This may sound idealistic, but although your friends won’t be perfect, they’ll be the best people for you.

You’ll also begin to cut off “toxic” people, because they are not good for your mental and emotional health. Here are some telltale signs of someone who is “toxic”:

  • They hurt your self-esteem
  • They gossip and share your secrets
  • They aren’t sincere
  • They make you nervous and stressed out
  • They seem to bully you more than tease you

If you feel that someone is damaging your health, it’s time to talk to them or cut them off completely. Be honest and acknowledge that you don’t feel comfortable around them, and distance yourself from them.

Joining a group is important

Unfortunately, the idea of “fitting in” still exists in our high schools. Having a group where you belong will make high school much more fun and help you stress less about the “social” aspect of school, and instead focus more on your academics.

Though your friend group might seem like an intuitive network to stay in, it’s also important to explore your school and see what other groups it offers. There are often many organizations in school, such as:

  • Band, orchestra, and choir
  • Leadership
  • Sports teams
  • Clubs (competitive or casual)

Being part of a group in high school will mean an automatic group of people like you, who you can turn to for help or for fun. Though they may not become your best friends, you’ll become part of a tight-knit community that supports each other on campus.

Fashion trends do not matter

Truthfully and seriously, no one will remember or care about what you wore to school. Sure, you may receive a few compliments if you dress up extra nicely, but no one will judge you if you come to school in full sweats.

It’s completely normal and okay to want to look good, but do not stress yourself or spend too much money because of it! Everyone cares much more about themselves than others, so do not prioritize fashion over more important things.

In addition, feel free to pursue comfort above all when it comes to dressing for school! Simple outfits such as a t-shirt and jeans, full sweats, or a sweater and leggings, are common sights in high school. Just be comfortable and be you!

One exception may be spirit days, which American high schools love to celebrate! On these days, make sure to show your school spirit by sporting your school colors or merch!


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Self-studying is an essential skill

The learning pace in high school is going to be different from that in middle school. You can expect a quicker pace (especially in harder classes) and a lot of self-teaching.

High school teachers will not be there to guide you through every step of the learning process, and you have to be responsible for taking good notes, doing outside research, and asking questions.

In many cases, you’ll be covering a lot of content yourself and in a short amount of time. Therefore, it’s important to practice self-control and maintain motivation. You can check out this post for some extra help: How To Find Motivation To Study When You Don’t Feel Like It.

Using a planner will also be insanely helpful to effectively track your assignments and test dates. Try not to fall behind in class, because once you do, it’ll be incredibly difficult to get back on the same page as everyone else.

Lastly, don’t forget to use all the resources available to you! This next tip will cover some more details:

Online resources are useful

Don’t limit yourself to your teacher and textbook! Good students know how to use their resources, and you should know what’s available to you from day 1. Here are a few resources I found very helpful in high school:

There are many educational YouTube channels and videos (and other resources, but I find YouTube to be the most robust tool) out there that will teach you exactly how to understand and master a certain concept.

Of course, don’t use the Internet to cheat! Cheating won’t get you anywhere in high school except the teacher or principal’s office, and your efforts to cheat will not pay off in the long run. 


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Challenge yourself

In most cases, no one but yourself (and perhaps your parents) will be actively pushing you to take harder classes and challenge yourself with new and difficult concepts. This means you have to do it yourself!

Always staying within your comfort zone might be, well, comfortable, but it won’t help you improve. Only when you try new things can you explore things you don’t know yet, eventually getting enough exposure so that you understand it.

Therefore, once you have more freedom in choosing your classes, be sure to challenge yourself a little bit. Of course, be reasonable (for example, don’t choose to take multivariable calculus if you don’t understand basic calculus yet)!

If you’re not sure what’s the best path for you, you can also reach out to your teachers or counselors and talk with them. They may know what’s the best path for you due to your academic stance and propose a plan for you.

Try new things & be proactive

As I mentioned earlier, high school is a time and place for exploration as well as learning. In order to truly maximize your time here, you need to be proactive.

In class, ask questions whenever you don’t understand something, and even stay behind to talk to your teacher individually if you need to.

Outside of class, explore the clubs your school offers and join a few that interest you. You don’t have to commit to them for all of your high school career, but exploring these opportunities early will prepare you for success in later years.

Especially if you’re not sure of your passions and future major (in college and beyond), don’t be scared to try new things in high school. Try out different clubs, visit college and career fairs, take interesting electives, apply to summer programs, etc. 

Upperclassmen & teachers are your friends

Please don’t be shy to reach out to upperclassmen and/or your teachers if you need help or advice! Though they might seem intimidating, it is unlikely that they have ill wishes for you.

Another benefit of joining groups in high school is the connectivity you have with students from all classes. You can turn to upperclassmen for advice with things like “How does a certain teacher grade essays?” and “How do you manage your time with so many activities?”.

Of course, you can and should also turn to your teachers for help if you are struggling in their classes (or even for a general question!). Always be polite to them, and be considerate when emailing them or asking to meet.

Building relationships with teachers will be important for the future, because some of those teachers will be writing your letters of recommendation for college applications! Speaking of which…

Start preparing for college early

Starting from freshman year, you need to start thinking about college, or at least what you want to pursue. This means joining clubs, exploring different interests, and taking interesting classes to find out your passions.

Starting from sophomore year, you should form a college list that consists of the schools you are planning to apply to. Check out this post for detailed steps on how to do this effectively: How To Build The Perfect College List In 8 Steps.

Once you enter junior year, it’s time to seriously start preparing and planning for college. By the middle of senior year, you would’ve already applied (or begun to apply) to college, so junior year is going to be your busy year.

Visit this post (and save it for later!) for a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for college in high school: The Complete College Prep Guide For High School Underclassmen

Conclusion

Yay, you made it to the end! I hope you found this post helpful! High school can be intimidating, but now that you know these 9 important ideas, it can hopefully go much more smoothly for you!

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