What I wish I knew before high school


Azriel Badon

“Senioritis” a drawing in ink and watercolor.

Azriel Badon, Blog

As a freshman, I struggled with the sudden transition to high school. Now that my senior year is coming to a close, I thought I’d share some of my life-changing experiences, which taught me important skills that really would have helped me get through high school easier.

  • Embrace failure.

Especially as an impatient and headstrong person, setbacks can be difficult to overcome and accept. However, I’ve learned to look at each fall as a reason to get back up even stronger. One of my most memorable failures was when I applied for about ten different jobs over the summer of 2022, only to get rejected by every single one. Yikes. This was challenging for me to carry, especially after working hard on my applications and practicing for the interviews. For the next few weeks, I felt discouraged and embarrassed. It was a pathetic attempt at becoming independent, I thought. I was so buried with self-pity that I didn’t see a reason to try again or to improve. Regardless, my friends and family encouraged me to persist, and so I began and am currently volunteering to gain the experience that I need. Now in school, I’m able to tell myself that failure is another way to learn. There will always be room to grow and improve

  • Don’t feel embarrassed not to have fully prepared college plans.

College. Once I hit my junior year, it became the only thing anyone asks about. It’s always “so what university are you thinking about?” or “have you thought of blah blah blah as a major?” So it’s no surprise to feel the pressure of peers, parents, and teachers. If you are planning on going to college, you may feel anxious or hesitant about making fully-fledged decisions. Yet, one study showed that even college students change their plans. The U.S. Department of Education conducted a study where they found that about 30 percent of undergraduates had changed their major at least one time in 2011-2012, with one in nine changing twice. After finding how common it was for majors to change, I got less worried because it helped me recognize that there are many other people out there who don’t have their future fully planned, which is perfectly fine! Yes, you should of course consider your options and set aside a few ideas you’d be open to after high school, but still, college should be something that you consider and research about, not worry.

  • Start focusing on yourself.

Although easier said than done, focusing on yourself rather than others helps create a firm sense of self. The transition to high school was difficult mainly because I was so dependent on what others wanted to do. I wasn’t able to think freely for myself and had an “I’ll get whatever you get” mindset. Not only that, but I was easily intimidated. As a freshman, just the thought of being around upperclassmen scared the living hell out of me. I’d find myself panicked and anxiety-ridden when doing the simplest task. I’d think to myself, “I bet I look so stupid right now,” or “am I the only one who doesn’t understand this?” As this mindset persisted, I became a student who was more focused on what other people thought of me, and I began to neglect my grades, friends, family, and myself. After the pandemic hit, it was like a wave of isolation that tumbled down on me. I wanted to see other people. I wanted to talk, interact, and listen, the very thing I had sworn I despised. Yet, once we got back to school, it was the same story. I, a junior, was still terrified of school and of people. I was so tired of feeling miserable every day. To not ask for help when I needed it or to speak when I knew an answer. This started my journey to a positive mindset. It wasn’t a sudden change, however, but a small step every day. On one day, I’d choose to say hi to someone. On another, maybe I’d ask my teacher about an assignment. This exercise also helped me outside of my education. I was able to build strong relationships, do more of what I love versus what others want, and it taught me to deal with challenges and enjoy them even! Do I still worry about what others think? Honestly, yes! It’s an ongoing but more manageable struggle I and everyone face every day.

  • Manage your time and entertain your passions.

Senioritis is real, and it can be hard to get rid of. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the workload as you move toward graduation. As someone who frequently experiences burn-outs, I’ve learned that the best way to ease off my stress but still get my work done was to manage my time. It may seem like a mundane task, but it is a lifesaver. Most times, I set mandatory time aside after school for me to get my assignments completed and work on some early. With the remaining time, I’m able to relax and still maintain mental energy for upcoming work. Another important factor that I learned is to regularly pursue your passions, whether it be drawing, running, or playing an instrument. When I engage with my interests, I’m giving myself something to look forward to. I’m creating a balance between academics and life outside of school. That being said, you can also pursue your passions while in school, such as joining the volleyball team or being in a book club. I find that I’m able to express myself through my interests, and I can also create new friendships with those who share the same passions as me.

  • Give and accept criticism.

One of the hardest things to do is admit I am wrong, but it’s even harder to tell that to someone else. In high school, I found that one of the most powerful tools is communication and active listening among peers and teachers. When students are able to not only voice out but to hear and accept the ideas of each other, it introduces new and different perspectives. As a freshman, I used to find it challenging to give criticism because I felt that I might hurt someone’s feelings or discourage their creativity. One way I found that lets me share feedback better is first to describe the person’s strengths and then mention what they can improve on. I realized that feedback is something that should be appreciated and acknowledged.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning to high school can be a scary and unpredictable shift, but learning to embrace your mistakes, prevent college stress, focus on yourself and communicate feedback are all helpful skills to use in high school and in life.

Do you have any concerns about high school? Leave a comment and let me know!

Originally posted on Azriel Badon’s blog site.