High School Survival Guide
May 2, 2018
Incoming Freshmen (class of 2022)
1. Get involved
I know that this is probably the most cliché thing people say to incoming freshmen, but that being said, if you keep hearing it, it’s probably for a reason. No matter what your hobbies or interests are, you will find a club at GCHS where you’ll fit perfectly. Joining clubs is a quick and awesome way to make new connections to all sorts of people you may have not met otherwise, and in a new environment like high school, it can really help you to have friends who have already been through what you’re going through for advice and guidance. Whether you decide to hit the field in a football uniform or with an instrument, or decide to stay inside and watch anime and talk shop about your favorite comic books, there is something out there for everyone if you’re willing to look.
- Don’t get too involved
I really wish someone had given me this advice as a freshman. Although it is great to become a part of student groups, remember that you also need time to focus on your education and other things. Keep your mind open and be willing to take a step back from some things if you feel like it’s getting in the way of what is really important.
- Don’t be afraid of upperclassmen
High school really isn’t like you see it in the movies all of the time. Sure, you’ll have a few seniors who think its funny to pick on the underdog, but most upperclassmen are more than happy to make friends with younger people and help guide them in the new environment. We may be older, but we don’t bite. (And yes, this is possible. Some of my best friendships my freshman year were with juniors and seniors, and the advice they gave me was awesome and really helped me find my path. Remember guys, we are here and willing to help you.)
- Form relationships with your teachers and staff
This one was really helpful for me. The staff are not only there to help teach you, but they’re more than happy to be there for you when you need it if you put in the time to get to know them.
Forming relationships with them will give you more options for a support system, and you never know when you may need to go ask Mrs. Miller for help on the term paper you have coming up, or ask Mrs. Heath for a letter of recommendation to try to get into the college of your dreams.
- Don’t be surprised if some of your friends go their separate ways
High school really is the place where a lot of people start finding themselves and figuring out who they are. With that in mind, don’t go crazy if you don’t hang out with or see your old friends as often. When you become involved in things, you will make new friendships with all sorts of people. But, don’t worry about losing them either. You’d be surprised how easy it is to cross paths with long lost friends as time goes on.
Bonus tip! To avoid hazing on your first day, try to look like you know where you’re going. You’re more likely to get picked on if you look like a stray puppy wandering around the halls. The Renaissance club, student council, and NHS hold several events over the summer to make new upperclassmen friends and become familiar with the layout of the building. I strongly encourage you to go to these events! Also, there are black plates on the walls everywhere that tell you what direction to go for classroom numbers. Use them wisely, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Soon-to-be Sophomores (class of 2021)
1. Stay involved
Alright, you guys survived your freshman year! Hopefully, you’ve made great friendships along the way and have found a place in a few student groups and clubs. Make sure you stay involved in those clubs, and don’t be afraid to try out new things that you think are interesting.
- Keep in touch with your old teachers and make relationships with your new ones
Just because you don’t have your teachers from freshman year anymore, that doesn’t mean you’re forbidden from ever seeing them again. There’s always time before and after school that you can go in every once in a while and catch up. Also, don’t be afraid to say hi to them if you pass them in the hallways. A familiar face can brighten both of your days.
- Go talk to your guidance counselor
This is definitely the latest point I would recommend going in and seeing your guidance counselor. If you take the time to get to know them, they are very helpful and willing to sit down and talk about what classes you should be taking and help with any other problems you may have. I promise, they are there for more than just dealing with your schedule.
- Start thinking about your after graduation plans
It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after graduation. Whether you’re planning on going to a 2 year college, a 4 year university, going to a trade school, joining the military, or going directly into the workforce, now is a good a time as any to start looking into your options. You can always change your mind later, but looking into it now will give you plenty of time to consider your options as you decide what you want to do with your life. Your guidance counselor is a great resource for this.
- Get involved in your community
I know what you’re thinking, this one isn’t directly related to school, but hear me out. Going out and donating your time can not only help build your college application resumé, but it can also help you get into organizations like NHS at the end of your junior year. Also, you never know who you may meet while volunteering. You may meet someone who does what you’re interested in doing after high school, and he/she can be invaluable in helping you take the right steps and building connections for your future.
Bonus tip! Here at GCHS, we have a program called Running Start in which you go off campus to classes at SWIC for junior and senior year and earn your 2 year degree by the time you finish high school. If you think it’s something you’d be interested in, talk to your guidance counselor.
Soon-to-be Juniors (class of 2020)
1. Look deeper into your after graduation plans
Hopefully at this point, you’ve already been exploring your options and found a few things you think may work for you. If you plan to go to college, go take a few tours of the places you think you may want to go. Everyone wants a different college experience, so touring places will give you a better understanding of the environment you’re aiming for.
2. Don’t act high and mighty
Although you’re an upperclassman, don’t parade yourself around the school like you own it and the rules don’t apply to you. I promise you, you do not own the school, and neither do the seniors. You should still be respectful to your teachers and staff, and don’t treat freshmen and sophomores like they are lesser than you. They are people too. Think back to when you were a freshman. Did you want juniors to treat you like crap, or did you want them to treat you like actual human beings? That’s what I thought.
- Stay organized
By this point, your teachers are going to expect you to behave like a young adult and not like a child anymore. A lot of the responsibility is going to be pushed onto you to complete assignments and study for tests, and the teachers aren’t going to baby you like they did your freshman and sophomore year. Because of this, it is important to stay organized and rely on yourself to ensure that you get things done. If you’re old enough to drive a car, you’re old enough to take responsibility for your own education. *mic drop*
- Do the job shadow program
Whether or not you’ll be going to college, the job shadow program is a great resource for juniors and seniors to go out for a day and experience what different jobs are actually like. This way, you can get a better understanding if it’s something you think you’d actually like doing. Although it may seem like a lot of work, all students that I know that participated in this program loved it and says it really helped them all in finding their path.
- Start taking classes that you think will help you in your future
Up to this point in your high school carer, your schedule has been pretty much made for you. Once you hit your junior year, however, the options for you become a lot less limited. Talk to your guidance counselor and trusted teachers for advice on what classes you should choose to take for you last two remaining years.
Bonus tip! It is possible to graduate early. If you think that’s something that would be good for you, talk to your guidance counselor about getting your schedule set up for that now.
Soon-to-be Seniors (class of 2019)
Make friends with underclassmen
Don’t be afraid to make friends with incoming freshmen and sophomores. They are probably going to look to you for advice and guidance, and a friendly upperclassman face to help them along the way is going to be great for them. I promise you, if anyone is going to make fun of you for having younger friends, they’re not worth your time. As a senior, my friendships with underclassmen are probably the most rewarding friendships I’ve had in my whole four years. Watching it all come full circle and using the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years to help others has been one of the best parts of my whole high school experience.
- Work on your ACT/SAT scores
This one really applies to people wanting to go to college after graduating. Not only will higher test scores make it easier to get into the college you want, but a lot of scholarships will base part of their decision on test scores. You may have to take the test more than once, but if you study and can raise your score, it can be well worth it in the long run.
- Apply to colleges early
Once again, this applies to people planning on attending college (obviously). Early applications are an extremely useful tool for you to use if you have a few places you’re really wanting to get into. It avoids the surge of people who wait until last minute to apply, and you usually find out where you’ve been accepted to before Thanksgiving. However, it’s rather hard to do this unless you started looking at colleges during your sophomore or junior year.
- Apply for scholarships and use the scholarship bulletin provided by the guidance office
Many of the scholarships that are provided have very few applicants or none at all, so it is great for you to look into what is offered and throw your hat in the ring. There are no bad side effects if you don’t get them, and if you do, hey, it’s free money, people. Can’t go wrong with that.
- Enjoy it while it lasts
I know how it feels to be a senior, ready and waiting to finally move on to a new chapter in your life. With that being said, don’t be so quick to wish it all away. The time really does fly past you like nothing. As someone who is basically less than a month away from graduation, I feel like I was a freshman yesterday. Enjoy this time while you can, because you’ll never get to experience this part of life again when it’s over.
Bonus tip! There is a really awesome program called CEO offered to seniors as an option for your last year. Talk to your guidance counselor and get more information about it if you’re interested from the sponsor.
Graduating seniors (class of 2018)
- Don’t freak out if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your life yet
Well folks, we made it, and graduation is right on our doorstep. We know where we are going to college, we’ve already done our acceptance into the armed forces, and we’ve looked into trade schools or jobs to get after we finally walk across the stage. I know that it all can seem overwhelming that we are finally here, but don’t flip out if you’re not 100% sure you know what you’re going to do. The beauty of life is that if you decide to change your mind later on, it is always an option for you. Many people change their mind at least once in their adult life about what they want to do, and it’s okay for you to as well. Just be sure to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of change.
- It’s okay to ask for help
With the start of our adult lives right around the corner, it can be really scary and confusing. Don’t be afraid to use the support system of people you have created throughout your four years here. After all, this is ultimately what you made them for. These people have been teaching and helping kids for many years with the same problems you’re having right now, and I think you’d be surprised how helpful they can be.
- Don’t stop looking for scholarships
Although our senior year has come and gone, there are still plenty of scholarships to be had. Many four year or even two year universities offer additional scholarships to their students within different areas of study. Free money is there if you’re willing to look for it.
- Don’t blow off your future
Even though you’ve made it through high school, the hard part isn’t over yet. Keep working hard to make your dreams a reality. All of the freedom you will gain is also matched with a lot more responsibility. It is up to you to make sure you’re doing everything you need to be successful in life.
- Be open to whatever life may throw at you
When you graduate high school, one door opens and it reveals the entire world to you, with endless possibilities. You never know when something may come your way that can change your life, so try to make the best of it. You’ll make new friendships, new connections, and slowly you’ll start to build your own happiness. It’s scary, but also one of the best parts of being alive. From here on out, you choose your future and what will be in it. Make the best of it.
Graduating high school is no minor feat. Take some time to celebrate all of the hard work and perseverance you’ve had to get you this far in life. Remember that every once in a while, its okay to kick your feet up and relax. And finally, I wish you all the best in your lives. I am so very honored to be able to walk across the stage with each and every one of you.
“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”