Dear current AMS 8th graders,
Our entire lives people have told us that we’ve been preparing for something. It started in elementary school when they told us that we would go to three teachers a day to prepare for the monumental switch to middle school. The constant refrain of our teachers at AMS was that we needed to do our work to be ready for high school. I walked into AHS a year and a half ago as a shrimpy freshman, scared and confused about what really was different about high school. I roamed the halls with my pink schedule0 clutched between nervous fingers, glancing in doorways, anxiously trying to find my classes. I probably looked like a stray, lost dwarf that you could barely see through towering giants—the seniors.
You’ve probably been thinking about high school a lot more lately. It gets brought up in your classes; you’ve thought about what courses you are going to take, and your teachers insist you must be prepared. It can be scary. Going to high school is seen by some as a rite of passage, the gateway to the rest of your life.
I’ve spent 1,900 hours in this building, and those hours have been filled with some good memories along with some bad. You probably couldn’t call me an expert, but I do have a few insider tips on how to make the transition as painless as possible. So from me to you, here are the six ways to make high school as enjoyable as it can be.
I cannot stress this more. In order to have a good high school experience, you have to seize your opportunity and truly delve into it. As a freshman, I made a plan to gradually get involved. I slowly dipped my toe into more sports, clubs, and even running for student office. However, now I find myself wishing that I’d got more involved earlier. Joining different clubs and sports, participating in school activities, and trying to make the most of your time at AHS will give you advantages that others don’t have. Sometimes it will even let you skip class, so that’s a bonus. Trying new things can also create connections with new people. The reason I’m friends with upperclassmen is because I’m involved in activities with them. Participating in activities like Homecoming week or Tigerhawk will help you get into the school spirit and will fill your time in high school with more fun and more friends.
Do Prioritize, Don’t Procrastinate
I would consider myself a student with a fairly strenuous schedule. I often take honors and AP classes, which means I have a lot of homework to juggle. One thing I failed to do as a freshman was to manage my time. I would often find myself slaving away on 32 pages of AP Human Geography notes at 1 AM, cursing myself for wasting my time earlier. Take my word for it: don’t procrastinate! If you stay on top of all your work, it will be much easier and you’ll probably end up with better grades and more sleep rather than taking abysmal notes that won’t help you when you’re studying for a test. Along with this, make sure you aren’t taking classes that literally kill you. These will insidiously drag you down until you are running on three hours of sleep and you have nothing to show for it but a grade you’re unhappy with and the suitcase-sized bags under your eyes. Make sure you’re in a class you can handle; don’t push yourself too hard. Remember that you’re only a freshman, you don’t need to wear yourself out on your first year. As well, even if you’re in a class that is the right fit for you, remember that if you don’t do your work, you will fall behind, and you’ll end up passionately resenting your earlier decisions that made your life this miserable. Make sure you do things in the order they need to be done. Do you really need to check your Snapchat before you finish your essay due at midnight tonight? Probably not. Always keep your priorities in check. And remember that Wednesday you only need to have the homework for your even classes done!
As you move to high school, your class load often gets harder. This isn’t always the case, but it’s definitely a possibility. It makes it easy to get lost or confused on what you’re even learning in all seven of your courses. Many times, I’d ask my fellow students for help, only to find that they were even more lost and bewildered than I was. Don’t use your confusion as an excuse to not do your homework. Trust me, I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. Your teachers are a great resource and they want to help you; you just have to ask and advocate for yourself. Going in before or after school and maintaining a relationship with them is very useful. You’re going to need letters of recommendation eventually, so it’s important to get to know your teachers and establish positive relationships. While it can be easier to just ask your friends for help on your math problems, it’s often better to go in to ask the teacher to make sure you are getting all the right information and understanding well.
In middle school we were always told that things would change in high school. Being foolish, I insisted that this was pish posh and that we were “friends for life.” This worked swell for the first two weeks of high school. Then we slowly started to drift apart. I’m still friends with most of them, but high school definitely does shift and change things. There’s a lot more people, a lot more classes, and a lot more opportunity to get to know others. This doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends with the people from your middle school lunch table, but it is definitely a good idea to get to know others. I’ve learned from experience that expanding your circle of friends can reduce friend group drama by a LOT. High school offers you a time to branch out and find people who enjoy the same things as you. Signing up for classes and activities that interest you means you will get to know people who have similar interests. Don’t plan to take every single class with your best friend. While this can seem fun on the surface, you’re probably not their mirror image, and won’t enjoy everything they do. It also doesn’t allow for much meeting other people. Another cool aspect of high school is that there are foreign exchange students. Getting to know them is a great idea because you can experience their funny accents and quirks from their countries, widen your world perspective, and also have an excuse to visit them in their country later!
Oh, the joys of finals week. This is a very stressful time for everyone, especially the first time you experience it. Students are constantly checking their grades, trying to find or fix their GPA, checking the syllabus one last time to see if the teacher would round up their final grade. Finals week can be a make it or break it sort of situation, so it’s important to stay on top of it. One important piece of advice that I’ve heard echoed over and over is to “make sure you get lots of sleep during finals week.” This is critical to doing well, along with not shrugging off your work until the last second. Try to begin memorizing all the important information a few weeks in advance, so you aren’t left the weekend or the night before finals cramming four and a half months worth of information into two days or two hours. Not a very good idea. If you spread your studying out, you’ll have better grades as well as full nights of sleep to show for it. Try to get a friend to study with you; that way you can keep each other on task instead of trying to study your vocab turns but somehow always ending up on Instagram like I do. Try to take advantage of the library’s early opening times and the teachers available to help. Getting some last minute studying in can help you remember those few history dates you always seem to forget. Once you get through your first finals week, juggling its weird schedule and conquering its at times overwhelming pressure, you’ll be prepared for the next one.
And A Few Last Minute Words of Advice
There were a few random things that don’t exactly fit in a category. One of these is don’t ruin friendships over some boyfriend or something like that. It’s dumb and it’s highly unlikely it will work out in the end. Don’t cause drama over something that won’t benefit anyone in the long run. Don’t stress too hard, it’s just your freshman year—not to scare you, but high school will get harder. Take advantage of your time in class so you don’t have a backbreaking load of homework. Join things that you are interested in, regardless of whether your friends do or not. Make sure to get lots of sleep. And a word of advice from us—don’t walk slow in the hallways or be stuck in a huge clump. It’s annoying. Instead, take the time and seize the courage to step out of your comfort zone and encounter the myriad possibilities that high school provides.