Everything I Wish I Knew Before High School

Oh, high school.

To paraphrase a quote from Charles Dickens, it's the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand, it's one of the major rites of passage while growing up—a super important transitional period of life where you get to branch out and discover things for yourself. On the other hand, it's stressful, exhausting and sometimes just plain unpleasant.

Rory confused on her first day of school

(Gilmore Girls via The CW)

I had a very strange high school experience, mostly due to the fact that I moved schools (and states) right before my junior year. Despite my unconventional path, however, I didn't despise my high school experience. Still, there were many things that could have made me better prepared.

If you're wondering exactly what this new period of life might have in store for you, keep scrolling for everything I wish I knew before high school.

1. Change Is Inevitable

In general, change is often used in a negative connotation. We've all had arguments with friends where they've thrown out the casual "you've changed" between gritted teeth, as if you're expected to be the same person your entire life. You're supposed to change as you grow up, and no matter who you are when you start, you're going to be a much different person by the end of high school.

Going into high school, I was terribly insecure and self-conscious, which I covered up by going to the other extreme and really putting myself out there. If I was making fun of myself then no one else could really make fun of me, right? I wore neon pants, had bangs that were cut terribly and was often loud and obnoxious amongst my friends—basically I was the stereotypical annoying middle schooler and I totally embraced it.

Cady standing with The Plastics

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

High school really helped me find myself. I developed a much better fashion sense (thankfully), discovered what I liked and didn't like and learned to speak up for myself. I maintained many aspects of my personality—I'm still stubborn, annoyingly opinionated and cursed with a terrible sense of humor—but I also became more tolerant, much more patient and increasingly open to new experiences.

The person who walked into high school on the first day of my freshman year would never have gotten along with the person who walked across that graduation stage and I'm perfectly okay with that. Change is natural. In fact, if you don'change during high school, you should probably be concerned. You don't want to be your middle school self forever. Embrace the change and let yourself transform—you'll be happy you did.


2. Friendships Will Come and Go

It's nice to imagine that you'll maintain one set of friends for your entire life, but you've probably already realized that isn't the case. While some people do maintain the same friends they met when they first entered preschool, the majority of people find that friendships change as you grow.

I was forced to change friend groups in high school—I moved to a new state, after all—but even in the two years I spent at each high school, all my friendships went through ups and downs. People who I considered my best friends when I went into freshman year didn't even wave in passing by the time sophomore year ended, and my entire friend group through all of junior and senior year was constantly influx.

Blair, Serena and friend sitting at lunch

(Gossip Girl via The CW)

Don't limit yourself to a certain set of people just because you're afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. If you do maintain your friends throughout all of high school,  you can count yourself lucky, but if you find that you're constantly losing friends and gaining new ones, it's not a bad thing. It just means you're still on the hunt for your tribe, and finding people who you fit in with will make you a much happier person than sticking by friends just because you've known them for a longer amount of time.


3. Your Grades Matter (for the First Time)

It's one of the less fun aspects of high school, but it definitely needs to be said. School takes up tons of time in your life, and by the time you start high school, you might already feel the beginnings of burnout that can cause you to totally give up on your grades. The annoying thing, however, is that high school is the first time your grades actually start to matter. As someone who spent all her elementary and middle school years striving for straight As, you can imagine my frustration.

It's incredibly infuriating to know that nothing you did before high school really matters, but it's also the truth. However, you should still try your best before you enter high school because that will help you develop study habits that can make the transition a little easier.

Gabriella in class

(High School Musical via Disney Channel)

It's also important to say that you don't have to get straight As to be successful. I didn't ace every class, and I still got into a good college, graduated and got a job in the field I wanted. Getting all As doesn't have to be the goal—the important thing is trying your best and not allowing the stress of school to overwhelm you and cause you to quit. Whether you're headed for college or you want to enter the workforce right out of high school, your grades are going to be taken into account, so keep pushing yourself to do better, even when giving up feels like the better option.


4. Take Care of Yourself First

High school can be a confusing and scary time, filled with many more responsibilities than you're used to dealing with. From your schoolwork to your extracurricular activities to your friendships to your family, there will be a lot of commitments competing for attention in your brain. Learning how to balance them is a different experience for everyone, but the important thing to remember is that you need to put yourself first.

Rachel crying in Glee

(Glee via FOX)

Managing your mental, physical and emotional well-being is crucial to your success in all areas of your life. I'm not saying you should be completely selfish—there are still going to be moments when your immediate desires take a backseat to another obligation—but when looking at your life from a holistic perspective, you have to make sure you're managing your own well-being.

You know what you need better than anyone, and you have to learn to stand up for yourself and make sure you're taken care of. No one can do it better than you, and now's the time to learn that skill so you can effectively manage your own life, and help the people you care about at the same time.


If you're just entering your high school years, click HERE for eight critical things you have to do during freshman year.