I remember it as clear as day … there I stood, a fourteen-year-old girl like a deer in headlights, about to take the first steps of my high school career. With a petrified expression on my face, I opened the lobby door and muttered to myself, “Well, I’m here. Now what?” Not knowing what to do or where to go, I decided that finding my homeroom would be the best option, and it only took me 20 minutes!
I am going to start my senior year of high school next week, and looking back over the last three years, it’s hard to believe that I was so terrified on my first day, because in reality, high school is not nearly that scary.
By now, I would say that I know the ins and outs of high school pretty well. As an only child, I didn’t have an older sibling to help pave the way and clue me into some of the challenges that I would encounter. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my advice and experience to other incoming and current high school students.
Like many kids, I experienced rejection in high school, and at the time, it wasn’t fun. During middle school, I was involved in the choir department, so I assumed that things would continue to be the same once I started high school. I entered with the preconceived notion that I would automatically be a part of my school’s spring musicals all four years, until I didn’t get a part in the musical when I auditioned my freshman year. I was devastated.
I remember coming home, crying, and thinking, “My life is over! I don’t know what to do now!” Little did I know that not getting into the musical that year was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It led me to discover one of my greatest passions: journalism. Had I been busy with the musical, I might not have started to write for the school newspaper that spring, and later would probably not have become news editor, and this year, co-editor in chief.
Through my high school newspaper, I earned leadership roles, strengthened my writing skills, developed a passion, and even met two of my best friends. I believe that getting rejected from the musical led me down another path, one through which I discovered a huge part of myself.
Throughout high school, I have developed strong relationships with my teachers. I did this by asking questions whenever I had one and talking to my teachers before and after class. They really got to know me and I got to know them, and I strongly encourage other high school students to do this. Teachers love when their students are inquisitive and genuinely want to learn. If you have a question about something you are learning about in biology or that you are discussing in American history, just ask your teacher!
Finally, I wish I knew, before I started high school, that I should just be myself. It is common for high school students to feel that in order to make friends, and fit in, they must conform to certain molds, whether that means wearing a certain style of clothes or participating in a particular activity. This could not be more false. I learned that you should wear what you like to wear (within reason, of course), share your interests, and express your personality and humor. Tell people about yourself and let them get to know the real you.
Once you do this, the other students will recognize how comfortable you are in your own skin and they will be drawn to you. This won’t happen overnight; it will occur naturally and when you least expect it. It took me time to learn about myself, my interests, and my passions.
It is important to remember that you can’t learn how to drive a car without getting behind the wheel … experience is essential, and you will make mistakes along the way, just as I still do. It’s okay to feel scared or lost on the first day of school — you definitely won’t be the only one. Just remember that it is only the beginning, and you will find your way.
Elise Sullivan will be starting her senior year of high school this fall. She is an editorial intern for HAN this summer, and will be the co-editor-in-chief for her school newspaper.