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Rowan's Guide to a Successful High School Experience

Updated: Apr 29


Are you an incoming freshman? Or perhaps you just haven’t quite gotten the swing of high school yet? If so, you've come to the right place. I remember all too well how nerve wracking going into high school was.

I didn't know if I would make friends, do well in my classes, or fit in.

It wasn't the smoothest transition, but I made it through! One thing that helped me a lot was my older sister's advice. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a cool older sibling to guide them, so my hope is these tips, addressing topics from academics to social circles, will help you in a similar way. Happy reading!


Work in Class or Finish Last

Picture this: it’s 2:25 pm at the high school and you’re nearly done with school for the day. You’ve spent the past 40 minutes of class working on an assignment and you are just about brain-dead. Now at this point comes a pivotal decision. You can either push through and finish your assignment or decide to give yourself a brain break and save it for later. I’ll let you in on a little secret; the latter option, though more appealing, is only going to lead to a world of hurt. Most times that “save it for later” turns into doing it at two am or possibly never finishing it at all. Then all of a sudden, you have teachers and parents constantly on your back about completing your work. Even if you do find time to finish your work outside of class, the time you spend doing the work could have been used for studying, extracurriculars, or even having a much-needed self-care night. Trust me, I’m all for free time, but it is much more enjoyable in the comfort of your own home and not in a stuffy, smelly high school classroom. So, have the willpower to push through that brain fog and take advantage of your in-class work time. Your future self is thanking you! Now, I can’t say I always take my own advice here, but what I can say with 100% confidence is that if I did, my life would be significantly less stressful. 


Talking to New People is Scary-- but so is Living Without its Benefits

If you’re anything like me, making friends may not come easily. It can be stressful and overwhelming to get up the courage to talk with and get to know new people-- especially if you already have a group of friends you are comfortable with. However, it is extremely beneficial to form new connections for a variety of reasons. Being comfortable talking to a variety of different people is a very important life skill. Even if you don’t form a strong connection with others, it is incredibly beneficial to be able to comfortably and effectively communicate with all types of people. You'll use this for the rest of your life in situations as common as checking out at the grocery store, making a reservation, or working on a group project. By speaking with a variety of people, you could be exposed to an interest that you never would have known about without them. This interest could even be your passion--impacting your future and potentially determining your career. Lastly, connecting with new people can help realize your self-worth. Seeing how people outside your circle treat you can lead you to realize that your current friends are not appreciating or supporting you enough. On the other hand, you could realize just how perfect your current friend group is for you and feel extra grateful for all they do. Despite the circumstances, it’s hard to find a situation where getting to know new people isn’t beneficial.


Do Things You’re Bad At (yes, you read that right)

Growing up I was talented at school; I had a great mind and the grades to prove it. I was labeled one of the smart kids and put into gifted groups. Because of that, I felt an extreme amount of pressure to maintain my grades. In my mind, I couldn’t mess up or my family, peers, and teachers would think I was stupid and wonder how I had gotten good grades in the first place. Now, though I understand it’s irrational, I still have the same thoughts about my schoolwork. For a long time, similar thoughts of being rejected by people simply because I was untalented stopped me from doing what I wanted. I wouldn’t talk to people I wanted to befriend, because I was scared they would think I was too awkward. I didn’t participate in FFA; I was scared of judgment from other members because I didn’t fit the “farm-kid” mold. I wouldn’t join tennis, because I was scared the coaches would get frustrated with my lack of hand-eye coordination. I eventually built up my courage and did those things. You might be expecting me to say none of my fears came to fruition; that would be a lie. All the fears I listed happened and it sucked. But, SO much good came from me “failing.” While some people I talked to had no interest in me and my awkwardness, many more wanted to be friends. I’m not going to fit in with all FFA members anytime soon, but I’m still surrounded by a great officer team that cares about me. Evidence of my tennis improvement is slim, but I genuinely love the sport. I’ve failed, and it’s turned out okay. I've learned that the important people in your life will support you regardless of your performance and that the opinions of those who don’t support you are irrelevant. Your fear of failure is holding you back far more than any actual “failure.”


One way to incorporate gratitude into your daily life is recording it in a journal!

Gratitude is the Best Attitude

The best way to care for yourself is to apply gratitude to every aspect of your life. I understand that this may seem cliche, but changing my outlook to try to find gratitude in all situations has greatly improved my happiness. Switching your mindset is not easy at first, but the more practice you have the easier it gets. You can start with instances where it is easy to find the good. When you find yourself in a good mood, take some time to analyze what has led to that happiness and be grateful for it. Once you have developed the habit, you can start to analyze all situations to find something to be grateful for. Doing this can help you to recognize that while oftentimes an overall situation is negative, there are still positive lessons to be learned. If you're thinking this sounds like a load of bull that your parents and teachers say so you stop complaining, you’re not alone. That was how I felt about a year ago. Then my mental health started to decline, and I was trying to find a way to stay happy. When nothing else worked, finding something to appreciate helped me to remember that good was coming from my everyday actions. Recognizing and nurturing that good only led it to become more bountiful. Now, I try my best to not give negative thoughts value, because it only leads to them becoming more abundant and persistent. I consider being deeply grateful the key to my happiness; if you give it a chance, it could be the key to yours.

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Dylan Decker
Dylan Decker
29. Apr.

Great article and advice!

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