Advice from a Graduating Senior
High school is such an important part of your life and can have a large impact on your future. Every year of high school is different and each one is important in its own way. I have provided advice for each grade of high school aside from senior year and have broken it down by focusing on what I think the most important aspects of each year are. I hope this helps you in your journey through high school.
Freshman Year: Freshman year is a very monumental time in your high school career. It is the beginning and depending on how you treat it, it can define your life in high school. This is not to say that you can’t recover from a subpar freshman year, but it is definitely difficult. I recommend that you get the highest GPA you can your first year. This will set you up for future years of high school and provide a little cushion to a lower grade you might receive in a harder class further down the line. My biggest piece of advice is to get involved in anything you have an interest in. Try as many clubs as you want, try out for a sport that you have always wanted to play. You never know: doing this might help you find your passion. I think many freshmen are unaware of all of the clubs and activities, so make sure you pay attention to when the meetings and tryouts are. When you join an organization as a freshman, it makes it much easier to become involved and possibly obtain a leadership position as you get older.
Sophomore Year: I have often heard sophomore year referred to as the “in-between year.” You aren’t a freshman anymore, and you are fairly familiar with the school. However, you aren’t testing yet and you aren’t quite ready to start thinking about college (although it is never too early). Even though a lot of people might feel like that, I think that is the beauty of sophomore year. You should enjoy this time and really try to find your passion and things you like because before you know it, you too will be preparing for the ACTs and the SATs and you’ll be looking for colleges. Another piece of advice I have for sophomores is to start at least looking for colleges that you might be interested in applying to so that the list is easier to generate when it starts to become time to apply. Sophomore year is a great time to sign up for one or even two AP classes if you have an interest in continuing to take APs through the rest of high school. By taking one during the beginning of your high school career, you can get a feel for how you handle that classwork. This will make it easier for you to manage more of these classes later on. It is also super important to develop relationships with teachers and staff members because at the end of your junior year, you may need to start asking your teachers for letters of recommendations for college, if that is required in your application.
Junior Year: As you are getting ready to apply for college, the stress of standardized tests becomes real. One thing that is very important to remember is that everyone is a different type of test taker. There are some students who can take the ACT and/or SAT once and get the score that is acceptable for them. For others, it takes months of tutoring and many long Saturdays of testing. You have to remember that no matter what process you take, it doesn’t reflect you as a student. Some students can get perfect scores on their standardized tests and get less-than-adequate grades, while others can get straight A’s and test scores that aren’t suitable to them. No matter what score you get, there is a school, trade or profession that is suitable for you, and it is possible to work past one bad test score. Along the lines of test taking, during the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year, it is time to apply for college. For many students, it is very overwhelming because there are so many schools that you can choose from. It’s very important to take college visits during your junior year and the summer before your senior year. Another tip that I have for students applying to college is only apply to schools that you can realistically attend financially. This does not mean to never apply for “reach” schools or schools that might be on the harder side to get in to. However, I know quite a few seniors who applied to schools that were their reach schools and they got in, but some of these students did not receive money and the tuition was way more than they could afford, and they will not be able to attend there next year. In my experience, this has crushed some students because now they have to settle for a more realistic college and as a result, they are not happy or excited about their decision. This is upsetting to me because college is way too expensive to be spending that much money on a decision you don’t love. I also recommend that if you are between schools and you have the ability, as well as the resources, you should visit both! I think that this helps because you are able to visualize yourself living on the campus. I also think it is super important to trust your gut feeling. For me personally, I was between two schools, so I went to go visit during the fall. I knew immediately when I went to one of my top two schools that it was the school for me; I just had a gut feeling that it was right. That made my final decision so much easier.