High School: An Introduction

Tips for you or your kids to succeed in high school. The beginning of a series.

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High school: known by many as either the best or worst time of their life. To help tilt the scales towards, “best” I’ve decided to compile tips to use for a person going through high school. If you’ve already completed high school, you can use these tips to help kids or family members who are having trouble. I will work to provide the most beneficial list of tips for kids going through high school. Let’s start out with some of the more general tips, a list of maxims I have called “The Five Truths of High School”.

5 Truths of High School:

  1.  You’re probably not going to use what you learn when you get older, but there really isn’t much you can do about that.

High schools offer and require classes in History, Art, Music, and Foreign Language. A lot of these classes will become obsolete in the future. This leads a lot of students to feel that “school isn’t worth it” and that nothing we learn is truly important later in life. While some of the things we cover will be important to later careers, those doubting students are right to a degree. But high school (and college) are worthy investments once you look at how much money you’ll make later. School is a system and to succeed you need to succeed within the system. Finish high school for the future pay increase, not to develop any on-the-job talents.

In short: you’re probably not going to use what you learn when you get older, but you have to go to high school anyways.

2. Cramming is okay sometimes.

I hesitate to say this because cramming can often lead to stress and ultimately failure. But it can also minimize the time spent on a project or test. When you decide to “cram”, give yourself enough time the night before so that you don’t have to stay up too late studying. Otherwise, you’ll sleep less and your performance tomorrow will be impaired.

Now, you’ve probably heard that when you cram for a test, you usually forget most of what you learn a few days later. That’s true. But if you remember the previous point, truth #1, you’ll remember that you don’t need to remember a lot of what you learn in school, you just need to pass a test. That’s why cramming can work so well. There are a few rules, however. If there’s a cumulative final at the end of the term, don’t cram for tests in that class. Cumulative means you’ll need to know the subject later. If you want to work in the field the class is about, don’t cram. If it’s math (if your later classes will build upon your current knowledge), don’t cram. Cramming math causes you to have trouble later down the line. But if you’re taking a class and you’ll never need to know any of this again, feel free to cram the night before.

In short: you can cram for a test, but do so responsibly.

3. Beware the first test; they are often the hardest.

It’s a story I’ve heard again and again and lived myself: a student doesn’t do well on their first test and spends the rest of the semester trying to make up for it. It may feel like the hardest test should be the last one and not the first and sometimes this is true. But often the hardest tests are the first ones. Students aren’t as sure of a teacher’s grading style, their standards or how their tests are formatted. These factors can make or break a test grade. It’s best to study long and hard for the first test so you know the material well and don’t spend the rest of the term playing catch-up.

In short: Study for the first tests, since they kill your grade at the beginning of a term.

4. Don’t overload yourself with hobbies and extracurriculars. 

I personally made this mistake. It can be very stressful if you get yourself into clubs that conflict and feel a commitment all of them. Though being in a club can be a fun experience, you really should have the utmost caution, especially in clubs with huge time commitments. Are you really passionate about music? Are you going into a music-related field? If the answers to those questions are no, you probably shouldn’t spend hours playing the violin in orchestra club or singing in a choir. You have to think about the cost of it in terms of time: Is what I’m gaining and the fun I’m having worth hours every week?  If the answer is yes, join the club. If the answer is no, it’s a bad idea.

So you might be asking: What about getting into college? My answer is that colleges will not be impressed if you’re in six clubs but are getting Cs because you don’t have enough time to study. Clubs can cause burnout and stress. Clubs are supposed to be fun, keep it that way. Overloading on clubs won’t come across as impressive. Anyone can join the orchestra. Have some clubs that relate to your passion and what you want to do. Nothing more is needed.

In short: careful not to join too many clubs, otherwise you’ll quickly get overwhelmed.

5.  Smile and wave at teachers in the hallway.

This probably seems oddly specific. But your grades will depend heavily on how much your teachers like you in most classes. Even the most impassive of teachers have their biases. You don’t need to go talk to a teacher or try and “butter up” to them. The easiest, most time-effective way to get them to like you is to smile and wave at them when you see them in the hallway or enter their classroom. After all, who wouldn’t like someone who smiles and waves at every meeting? This meager display of friendliness can reap many benefits. Teachers are people. Teachers are biased. Let that fact help you rather than hurt you.

In short: Smiling and waving at teachers will make them like you better.

High school can be rough. It can be hard to make friends, get good grades, and balance out your life. To do a little better, follow the tips and pay attention to even more tips coming out in the future.






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