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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before High School

High school is a time when teenagers are beginning their transition into young adults. It’s a time when just about everyone is socially awkward, but only a few are wise enough to know that’s the case. It can probably best be described by the opening line of Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Because one day you’ll wish you could stay in high school forever and the next you can’t leave for college soon enough. To help there be more better days than worse, we’d like to offer the following 10 things we think every high schooler needs to keep in mind from day one.

#1 Even as a freshman you have to think about college.
If your ultimate goal is getting into the best college you can (which is the case for most high school students) the GPA that gets sent to colleges isn’t the GPA you get beginning the day you decide you want to get a good GPA. It’s the GPA you get from the very first day of high school. Too many students try and make up for a lost semester or two from Freshman year only to find their GPA will never be what they ultimately want it to be. Don’t be one of them. So, from the very first day of high school you need to be focused and getting good grades.

#2 Try new stuff.
High School’s probably the first time in your life when you get to actually pick some of your classes. So, try some new things. Also, look into joining some clubs. Try out for a few sports. Run for Student Government. You may not make the team, or get elected, but then again you might. The Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of all shots you don’t take.” So, take a few shots. You’d be surprised you’re probably a lot better at things than you think.

#3 Build relationships with your teachers.
High School is when you begin to realize that not all teachers are out to “get you.”
Some of them are actually pretty cool, and high school is when they begin to start treating you like the adults you’re starting to be. It’s mature to have a friendly relationship with the ones you like, and those relationships can actually help you out in the long run. You can always go back to them for help and advice, even a college recommendation letter. That said, there’s still probably going to be a few who you might just want to steer clear of and it’s probably pretty obvious who those are.

#4 These are not “the best years of your life.”
Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise. High school is mostly a journey toward discovering yourself. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. The best is yet to come. That’s not saying you won’t develop friendships that will probably last a lifetime, but you’ve still got a lot of growing, and meeting new people, to do. Keep that in mind and put everything in perspective.

#5 Working hard pays off.
No one will ever regret working hard. Often, in the middle of an all-nighter, you may start asking yourself if all this hard work will ever really pay off. It will! All-nighters are not fun. Feeling overwhelmed with work is not fun. What is fun is the result and the immense feeling of pride that comes with it. That said, if you’re doing more than one all-nighter a semester, then you need to work on your time management skills, because you’ve obviously got your current priorities out of whack.

#6 It’s just one grade.
Yes, grades are important. That said you’re probably not going to get straight A’s through all four years. If you stumble, tell yourself, “It’s just one grade, in one class, in one year of school.” Then pick yourself up, dust off the blues and re-double your efforts to make it up on the next exam.

#7 Watch what crowd you run with.
You might think that the people who everyone thinks are “cool” or “popular”, are just that: cool and popular. As it turns out, that’s not always necessarily the case. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few popular kids who are also cool, interesting, and fun to be around; there absolutely are. But don’t go changing who you are or what you believe to hang out with people you think are “cool.” Stay true to yourself and the real friends you have. They will be there for you in the future a lot longer than transitory “cool” friends who aren’t really your friends to begin with.

#8 It’s never too early to start learning about money management.
High School is the time when you become old enough to actually get a job (usually a summer job.) This is a good thing to do for two reasons. 1) The experiences and lessons you learn from being in the workforce are invaluable and 2) Having professional experience at an early age puts you ahead. Try to save half of your earnings – or at least something. Don’t just blow it all on pizzas and soda. If your school offers some sort of finance or economics class, take it. If that’s not an option, do a little online research. Money matters. Educate yourself. The sooner the better.

#9 Practice time management.
Time management is going to be critical to your success both in high school, college and life. So, start by working with to-do lists and/or calendars. The best thing about creating to-do lists and using calendars is that it doesn’t have to be an elaborate or time-consuming practice. The second-best thing is that these lists can make a huge difference in your efficiency and output. Visually seeing a list of all the stuff you have to do helps you understand just how much there really is. That’s when you can begin to start paying close attention to not only how much free time you actually have to spend but think more intently about who you want to spend that time with. You’ll learn to not let people waste your time and learn you shouldn’t be wasting theirs either.

#10 Stop worrying so much about your clothes.
If you like to dress up for school, that’s great. If you’d rather save the energy for the weekend, that’s also great. Really, it’s OK if you aren’t wearing your best clothes each and every day. In reality, most people probably don’t even notice that much what you’re wearing because they’re too concerned about their own outfit. Choose an outfit based on what allows you to feel confident and comfortable, instead of what other people will think. People will likely notice your confidence before they take note of what shirt or shoes you’re wearing.

High school can be a trying time, but it can also be a great time. Just stay true to who you are and you’ll be fine. Find a good group of friends and get involved in things you find interesting. As Kevin Atlas says, you just need to believe in you.

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