Teenage girls of color sitting at a table and smiling

Advice for High School Freshmen From Me, a Sophomore

Teenage girls of color sitting at a table and smiling
High school freshman and sophomore girls learn about STEM careers at College of DuPage in Illinois. (“COD Hosts Women in STEM for High School Students 2017 27” by Press Photography via COD Newsroom / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license)

Commentary, Yaslin Rodriguez

So you’re starting high school? It wasn’t so long since I did too. Here are some tips from a current sophomore that can help you adjust to this new chapter in your life.

High school can be extremely intimidating. It’s a part of life that most kids anxiously wait for. There’s plenty of movies and shows with a plot built around teenagers in high school, and it’s easy to confuse the media with reality, especially when it’s something that you haven’t yet experienced. The truth is, while some parts of these movies and media sources are true… they’re also very fake. They’re usually unrealistic and exaggerated. High school isn’t a wild, enthusiastic musical where all the students randomly break into song or a cat fight among all the girls. High school can have social hierarchies and risk-taking teens, but it definitely isn’t as dramatic as the movies make it out to be. Nevertheless, you might want guidance and advice when it comes to entering four years of academic and social pressure. Here are some pieces of advice for incoming high school freshmen.

  1. Put yourself out there.

Oftentimes, students find it intimidating to try new things. This is exactly why you must do so. I see it like this: In life, there are many challenges and events where you’ll have to go out of your comfort zone in some way, shape or form. It’s good to practice these habits early in life. It can seem very scary to make new friends or join new clubs. Later in high school, however, these big steps will pay off. I went out of my comfort zone by joining chorus in freshman year. It paid off, because now I am more familiar with the extracurricular, and I’m learning how to sight-read music, which means being able to perform a piece even if you haven’t seen it before.

  1. Set your boundaries.

When making new friends, people may do things that may not align with their morals in order to fit in. It is important to set boundaries and not be pressured by other students into doing something that you don’t want to do. It is OK to say no or to say that you don’t want to participate in something that other students are doing. For me, when I find my friends doing something that I don’t agree with, I either won’t participate, or I’ll tell them that I think they should stop. It’s up to them to decide what they want to do for themselves, but I know I did what I could do to follow my morals, and that’s what matters.

  1. Choose friends wisely.

In high school, it can be really easy to get sucked into the popularity contest. While it’s good to have many friends from many different groups, it is also important to be smart about whom you choose to be friends with. If you are friends with someone who is doing things that you’re not quite ready for, it can be easy to be influenced and to then do things you don’t want to do. Instead, you can prevent peer pressure by being careful about who you choose to spend time around. For me, I know that there’s a certain group of people that I should not hang around, even though they’re my friends. I know that they partake in certain activities that I personally would not like to partake in, so I avoid hanging out with them on a regular basis. But I will always be there for them if they need me.

  1. Pay attention in class.

It is very easy to slack off and play games in class instead of actually paying attention. It can be easy to have a mindset of, “I’ll just look at the assignment later.” This mindset, however, will eventually lead you to a buildup of assignments and things to learn right before the tests. It’s better to pay attention in class and grasp the knowledge while the teacher is teaching it. That way, after class, if you don’t understand something, you can ask the teacher about it. Paying attention in class will help you practice good habits and is simply more efficient.

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  1. Be kind and understanding to yourself and others.

When entering high school, it can be extremely hard to adjust to the flow of things. You might have a few days where you don’t have a clue what you’re doing or where you’re going. Don’t worry; that’s completely normal. It’s actually quite common. Because of this, it’s good to keep in mind that others are most likely experiencing the same conflicts. Being kind to everyone can help you feel good about yourself, it’ll help others feel good as well, and it’ll help you make friends with the right people.

  1. Stay out of drama.

It’s good to keep a clean slate when starting fresh anywhere but especially in high school. Making enemies is the wrong move. Instead, like stated in No. 5, make sure to be kind to everyone. One thing the movies are right about is that news tends to spread fast in high school. If you’re rude to the wrong person, it could spread around and seriously affect your social life. If that were to happen, you would survive it, but it would be hard to deal with. It’s happened to me, but because I am kind to people, they usually come to me about it. They also tend to give me the benefit of the doubt because they know that I’m a good person.

  1. Try your best.

It’s clear that grades matter, and they do affect your life and career, but try not to stress so much about them. The truth is that you only get one time to be young. If you’re trying your best in school, and you’re enjoying your youth, that’s the best scenario. You don’t have to be perfect. Having good grades is important, and they’re definitely something to feel proud about, but they aren’t something that you must perfect. Having all that pressure on your shoulders will drag you down, make you feel tired, and stress you out. A good mindset consists of trying your best — not beating yourself up. For me, I know that so long as I try my best, I can be proud of the grade that I get. If a grade I end up getting is not what I wanted, I will study harder to ensure I do better next time.

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  1. Get involved.

It’s important to show your interest in the things that you’re passionate about. Maybe that’s music, sports or politics. Join a club that will help you practice those skills so that when college comes, you’ll have involved yourself in things that show that you’re truly passionate about the career path you want to take. Show your interest. Not only is this good for college, but also in general. By joining clubs or getting involved with your school’s community, you’ll meet people that have similar interests as you and make friends. Getting involved is a great thing to do when entering high school. I joined choir, like I mentioned, because I love singing and that could be a possible career path for me. This year, I plan to join a club that involves law or finance. I wish I would have done that in freshman year, because I would have been more familiar with it by now. So take my advice and do it as early as possible.

  1. Utilize your resources.

It’s common to feel lost when entering high school. That’s why it’s good to take advice from a trusted adult. Counselors, teachers and even club leaders are great people to reach out to when looking for advice. Counselors can help you plan steps to achieve your goals and set you up for your future. They’re great people to talk to about complicated, personal things and things that are simpler. Teachers are good to talk to about grades or even to bond with over certain topics and subjects. Club leaders can help you with clubs, give you advice or simply be someone you look up to. Utilize these people; they’re there for a reason: to help you. I talk to my counselor for guidance with college planning, and I talk to my teachers during their office hours for help with homework or to discuss grades.

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  1. Prioritize yourself.

To help others, you must first help yourself. High school is very fast and can be a bit overwhelming at times. It’s good to build habits of looking after yourself and putting yourself first. This, however, is very different from putting yourself above others. Putting yourself first is setting healthy boundaries, taking care of your mental health, and being kind to yourself. Putting yourself above others is being selfish, only looking out for yourself, and treating others as if you are better than them. Make sure that you do not put yourself above others but that you put yourself first. Take good care of yourself, and you’ll be able to take good care of others. You cannot help others if you cannot help yourself. I wish I would’ve had that advice going into high school, but now that I know this, it has helped me so much. I feel much more calm and happy with myself. I’m more confident and have less anxious tendencies.

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