Advice to High Schoolers

1I’ve been a senior in high school for about three months, and I can tell you, there are already things I wish I could have done better. For your benefit – underclassman, junior, perhaps even middle schooler – I’m going to offer you some of the advice I would give my younger self if I had the chance.

1)Review. Actually review.

This probably sounds pretty obvious, but most people don’t review no matter how many times they’re told to. So hopefully if you’re reading this it will be the last time. Every week, every unit, every marking period – review what you’ve learned in each class. Make sure the review you are doing is actually sticking, meaning that spending 20 minutes skimming your notes is not enough. What I like to do is get out a few blank sheets of paper and my fancy Staedtler Fineliner pens and rewrite all of the salient points from each unit. Now I’ve got a nice reference guide that I can look back on during finals week.

2) Get involved.

By getting involved, I do not mean join every club under the sun, take every leadership position available in your school, etc… Spreading yourself too thin is very different from being engaged. I advise that you go to all of the interest meetings for the clubs you’re interested in, narrow your list down to you favorites, then give it a week or two to adjust to your schools new schedule. Attend the meetings during that time when you can, but don’t let it totally steal your time. Once you’ve got a feel for when you have the free time and when you don’t, then you can commit to a club.

I also want to point out that involvement does not only imply participating in club activities. It could also be volunteering, teaching, tutoring, or starting your own club! Be creative and don’t feel limited to programs people have already started – you are free and capable of starting groups and enterprising however you’d like. If you need proof, consider my German chemistry teacher, who is starting a club about the philosophy of unification, which is a purely discussion-based club on a purely hypothetical reality. I still don’t fully understand it, but power to him!

3) Research

Common misconception: research only happens in a lab, wearing lab coats, playing with chemicals. The truth is that most people are scientists in their own right. Economists study the flow of money across the globe. Artists study how concepts and emotions can be expressed visually. Fashion designers study how to engineer comfort and style in one package. It’s all research, and you can and should endeavor to do it also. Seek out an internship position in a local business or institution. Start conducting your own research at home, start a blog about your discoveries, write a paper, create a video – the possibilities are endless. The point is: start researching, and don’t forget to document it!

4) You can’t study for standardized tests in a few days.

But most people do, unfortunately. Be part of the minority and get going before it’s too late. Not only do you have to suffer another month or so of torture if you need to take it again (that includes prepping and waiting for the stupid scores to be released), but you also have to pay. Don’t give them any more money than you need to. Buy a prep book off ebay, get a tutor or follow an online class (Khan Academy is perfect for this). Spending two hours on it per week for three months will do wonders for your score. (That is a relative statement, please don’t confuse “wonders” with 2400)

And if you’re struggling with math, I highly recommend Dr. John Chungs series on SAT Math/SAT Subject Test: Math 1, Math 2/AP AB and BC Calculus. They are extremely challenging, but if you can make it through the book then you are beyond prepared for the regular test. Using that brought my low SAT Math score up by 800 points in two months.

4) The college application process begins now. Right now!

You’re a freshman, you say? That goes for you too! Open up a new document and start listing your accomplishments, goals, failures, places you need to improve and things you need to get done. Update this as the years go on. It will serve as a very valuable tool when creating your resume, writing college application essays and doing college interviews. Sophomores, you’ve got to go back up to Tip #3, PSATs are right around the corner. Juniors – be aware that you should be asking your teachers for recommendations before the school year is over. And be ready for the Common Application to open up during the summer. Application deadlines will come knocking before you have the chance to blink, have them done early and get as many eyes on them as you can. Your english teachers do serve other purposes, you know. I’d also suggest that you start taking a look at scholarships wayyy before the summer of junior year.

5) Don’t slack off in senior year.

I shouldn’t have to explain that to you. Colleges do get your final grades even after you have been accepted, and they have the right to rescind your acceptance. Just a word of warning.

6) Don’t be stupid.

I shouldn’t have to explain that either. As I said, colleges can rescind your acceptance, don’t give them a reason to.

7) Keep a journal

I’m not very diligent about keeping my own journal, but looking back on my dorky little self from middle school is very entertaining, and I guarantee reading about your high school self will be just as fun.

8) Enjoy yourself

This is something I had a lot of trouble with. I’m not your stereotypical overachiever type – I study a lot, but I have a life. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t make use of every minute I had to enjoy myself the way I should have.  I encourage you – if you don’t already – to live your life to the fullest. In all likelihood I won’t remember the days I spent doing nothing during the summer, but I will remember how I taught a few kids in my community how to wire a circuit and build a solar oven out of cardboard. Enjoy high school!


I’ll probably continue to update this as I come up with new, revolutionary ideas about how to be a high schooler.

Until then: good luck my fellow suffragists, the battle to adulthood and the diploma continues!