Starting my senior year has opened up a can-of-worms for self-reflection and unnecessarily emotional tirades to my friends -- two things which I have tried to limit for the past three years of high school. However, now, as I can practically feel the nostalgia in the air with every “last" I experience, from cheering at the football games to studying in my car minutes before a test, I think a very necessary emotional tirade is in order. With the stress of college applications ominously looming over my head, I write to the freshman out there who are still worried about navigating the convoluted linoleum halls and finding friends to sit with at lunch, unaware of what’s to come.
When I ventured into high school as a freshman I only had the slightest direction of what I wanted to do in life. Coming out of eighth grade wanting to be an author and having never completed a full-length story, lost was a good way to describe me. However, I did not take advantage of this uncertainty and use it to discover myself; instead, I told myself that since I’m a freshman I should not inundate myself with new experiences and just try to “adjust." While that is party good advice from my former, suspenders-wearing self, I caution freshmen to not use the “I’m new" excuse to miss out on the opportunities to get involved that high schools are brimming with.
One major take away I have from freshman year is to join clubs that you’re actually interested in instead of the ones your friends tell you to join. As someone who knew they enjoyed writing, I wish I had joined my school newspaper my freshman year to hone my writing skills instead of my sophomore year because I would have realized my passion for journalistic storytelling sooner. But me, being the unknowing student I was, joined my school’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown instead. With no concrete interest in theatre or set-building, I’m still not exactly sure what the appeal of my school’s theatre company was except for the sense of comradery I witnessed from the outskirts of the drama classroom. In hindsight, the experience allowed me to rule out “Theatrical Arts" as a major and have a story to tell other, unassuming freshmen one day.
Also, as the season of begging and bribing teachers for letters of recommendation dawns upon the senior class and I find myself scrambling for teachers I made solid connections with, I wish that someone had told little, freshman me to actually engage with my teachers instead of avoid eye contact with them on my way to lunch. If not for the potential for letters of recommendation (which is, admittedly, a shallow reason to establish connections with your teacher's), then try to engage with them simply because they are interesting individuals who actually have lives outside of school. They are also full of sage words of wisdom and great resources to help navigate your first and subsequent years in high school -- truly a relationship you will not regret forming.
Though these tips are mainly academic and extracurricular in nature, they will make your high school experience more enjoyable and also more beneficial to you in the long run (especially when you’re tirelessly churning out college application essays, dreaming of simpler times). Along with this, however, also remember to simply enjoy every moment you have, as cheesy as it sounds. Although I’ve never been one to romanticize high schools as Disney movies and slightly pretentious social media poets do, I can truly say that I’ve enjoyed my experience in high school and I’m looking forward to my future educational endeavors. And I hope you will, and are, too.