High school can be a scary adventure. If you expect it to be like High School Musical, with singing and dance parties every day, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

I’m about to start my junior year, and I feel like I’ve learned enough in the past 12 months to give the inside scoop of what high school is really all about.

Below are three “subjects” (so to speak) that no amount of cramming or pre-A.P. classes could have prepared me for—and here’s how I ultimately mastered them to live my best high school life:

Popular People

When I first walked through the doors of my new high school during sophomore orientation, I knew right away which kids were going to be “popular.” Sometimes you can just tell—the athletes, the preps and the pretty girls. Just like I could tell which kids were likely headed for an elevated social status, I knew I probably wouldn’t be popular.

Mean Girls: Shopping at the mall wearing pink

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

Some people think that being popular is the only way to have fun and survive high school, but that’s not the case. In fact, here’s a secret I’ve learned about popular kids: They have the same insecurities and everyday worries as everyone else! Even if it may be hard to believe from the outside looking in, being popular won’t solve any of your problems overnight.
Every high school has a popular crowd, but don’t let them intimidate you.

They’re not scary, no matter how hard they may push your buttons.
The important thing here is finding a friend group that accepts you, no matter your social status. Look for peers who build you up instead of putting you down. Friends who’ll have your back—in good times and in bad—are worth more than any “in” crowd.



The most challenging subject in school is trying to understand the mind of a teenage boy. Spoiler alert: You may graduate without ever figuring it out! Sometimes a guy will send you a flirty signal, then give you an “I don’t even know who you are” signal five minutes later.

Cady and Aaron Mean Girls

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

I developed an enormous crush on this senior guy at the beginning of my sophomore year. He was probably the most confusing guy I had ever caught feelings for, because he would glance at me and smile, then he’d just straight-up ignore me.

When we finally started dating, it was awkward almost from the start. I never knew what he was thinking or feeling, because he would bounce between being expressive and open with me to ignoring me. I learned a couple of important lessons from him.

Regina and Aaron From Mean Girls

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

First, just because a guy is a senior doesn’t mean he’s mature. Second, if a guy ignores you, he’s not worth your time. Period! Every girl (and every guy, for that matter) deserves to be with someone who shows them how special and important they are, and if you don’t receive that treatment, then the person you like isn’t right for you.

Here’s another secret: It’s totally fine to go through your entire year of high school without a boyfriend or girlfriend. Plenty of pretty, smart, talented girls don’t date in high school, either because they’re not interested or don’t have the time. A relationship is 100% not required for a remarkable high school experience. I know many single girls who are just so positive, confident, and outgoing that they have plenty of fun without a guy in their life.


Gossip and Fake Friends

I went through my first year of high school surrounded by fakes. It sucks, but sometimes you’ve gotta get burned by someone before you see their true colors. Like most high schools, rumors and gossip spread like wildfire through the halls of mine. If drama came up between friends (especially popular friends), people were going to find out.
Some of the people I thought were friends would say mean things behind each other’s backs, and then act totally normal to their face. Meanwhile, people would chat about whatever the day’s juiciest gossip was, just to spice up their boring school days. I hated being around these people, because the effect could be contagious and it actually ruined some of my friendships.

Gretchen watching Jason on a date at the mall in Mean Girls

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

I’ve always been honest, and the truth would often hurt my friends because they couldn’t face reality. Instead of discussing their problems with me, they would often tell other people about our private situations, turning some against me.

Because I couldn’t really trust these people I called my friends, I had to let go of some of them because I knew that if I wanted to enjoy high school, I had to cut out the negative energy that got in my way.

Friends who toss their cruel comments about you to their peers are the ones you don’t want to associate with because they may cause your self esteem to drop. A real friend will confront you in person and be honest, because they’ll value your feelings instead of trying to start up some immature drama.

Mean Girls: Karen rolling her eyes on the phone

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

The “quality over quantity” rule is 100% accurate here: One true friend is worth more than 50 fake friends, because a true friend can help you overcome just about any obstacle high school throws at you. If high school was easy, it wouldn’t inspire so many movies, books, and TV shows!

Although it may seem like an eternity, high school is over in a few short years. Yes, certain things (especially those I listed above) can straight-up suck—but don’t let that bum you out too much. The best piece of advice I can offer is this: Be positive and focus on your own happiness
before you focus on others.

It’s like when you’re on an airplane, and they say to put on your mask before helping those around you. If you aren’t at your best, everything else
will seem harder, from studying to social situations. It’s not selfish to focus on your own happiness… it’s an important practice that will serve you well throughout your life.


One of the hardest parts of high school is being dissed by your peers. HERE’s our definitive ranking of most painful high school rejections.