How to Survive High School 101

Article by Claire C., Concordia Applied Journalism

After four high school years, the graduating class of 2020 have acquired knowledge and wisdom obtained from countless learning experiences. They have finally finished their college applications, aced multiple AP exams, and embarked on four meaningful TrIBES trips. Whether you’re a junior who is struggling with the ACT or an incoming freshman who is nervous about starting high school, these departing seniors have provided insightful high school advice that could be useful to keep in mind.

If these six seniors could go back in time to the first day of high school, there is plenty they wish they could tell their freshman selves. Corey Z. reflects, “Go out and do new things so you don’t regret not joining earlier.” When students participate in different activities, they will get the opportunity to explore interests and passions they never knew they had. Extracurricular activities also show college aspects of your personality that grades and test scores can't. While Evelyn S. agrees that extracurriculars are important, she states, “I'd tell myself not to join a million extracurriculars, but rather to focus on improving my existing activities.” Aaron Y. encourages students to continue pursuing their dreams despite the challenges they may come across. “Don’t give up on a passion or interest because you think you’re not good at it,” he expresses. Aaron also advises students to create close, tight-knit friends during high school. “Instead of making a ton of friends, you should find a small group of people that mean the most to you and strengthen your relationship with them,” he adds. Furthermore, Bill Y. recommends students to extend friendship to teachers. “The relationships between students and teachers are invaluable, even if they seemed difficult to approach during freshman year,” Bill says.

Photos taken of Concordia students as freshmen and as seniors. (Left to right: Kelly W., Ryan W. and Aaron Y.) 

All students enter high school with certain expectations. Based on Hollywood movies, high school should be filled with over-the-top dance routines and crazy pep rallies. However, the overly dramatized version of high school that the media portrays is simply not reality. “High school was not what I expected it to be,” Ryan W. says, “With the way our HS curricular is set up, there is little freedom on what classes I took in freshman and sophomore year,” Ryan stresses that the freedom to choose classes changed his high school experience for the better. “Once I hit junior and senior year, a plethora of classes were opened to me and I loved school from then on,” he expresses. 

Concordia offers a broad base of subjects in all academic areas including AP and Applied Learning courses that prepare students to be successful in college. Kelly W. highly recommends AP Biology, AL Author Study, and Independent Research for high schoolers who want to challenge themselves. “I would recommend AP Biology for anyone who likes science because it's a well-structured course about a fascinating world. AL Author Study for anyone who likes to read and is interested in digging deep into an author's universe. Independent research for anyone who is stubbornly curious and likes to solve problems,” Kelly says. Ryan and Evelyn both strongly recommend International Relations, a social science elective that has changed their worldview. “I think it's really valuable to be able to discuss current events with people and understand the theories behind it,” Evelyn notes.

The unnecessary stress that college application season inflicts on you can be avoided if you follow the suggestions from these seniors. Corey advises, “I know it’s impossible to write all your essays during summer break, but at least get a full draft of your personal statement in and have a full college list decided.” Most of the seniors agreed that it would be smart if rising juniors started college preparation early in the summer. “On top of that, foster relationships with teachers who you enjoy studying with because the letters of recommendation do carry lots of significance in your college application,” Bill says. Ryan encourages rising juniors to have faith in themselves during the college process. “If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect your college to believe in you,” Ryan emphasizes.

Photos taken of Concordia students as freshmen and as seniors. (Left to right: Corey Z., Evelyn S. and Bill Y.) 

As time passes, these 6 seniors may forget the function of the mitochondria or the quadratic formula, but they will always remember the valuable life lessons high school has taught them. “High school taught me that you can forge any path that you want,” Evelyn says. “High school taught me that there is a lot more than school,” Ryan reflects, “In addition to getting the best grades, the relationships you make in school are what you ultimately remember in 20 years.”

High school goes by sooner than you think, so cherish all the memories and make the most out of it. Before you know it, you’ll be the one tossing your graduation cap in the air. Good luck!