By Varshini Suresh  

In two weeks, I graduate. In two weeks, I get down off the rollercoaster ride that is high school, the twists and turns and thrills coming to a screeching halt. High school is yours to treasure. Your experience is what you make of it. There is no set formula to high school, no one right answer. Your four years will be shaped entirely by you and your actions.  

The years leading up to freshman year, my idea of high school consisted of Mean Girls and High School Musical. I had no clue what I would do or what character I would most closely resemble. But now, I realize that high school was not what I had made it out to be. It isn’t about living in another’s shoes; it’s about discovering who you are and being true to yourself.  

Entering high school is a huge step and it is terrifying — the thought of going from a familiar middle school that you’ve known for three years to a new public school where you are once again given a blank piece of paper to create an image for yourself. On the first day of high school, as you walk through the doors for the first time, remember that nothing can spoil this experience for you. Walk in with the confidence that you will succeed.  

Yep! You’ve gotten through that first barrier. Now to the part about being living the high school life. First, grades. Everyone wants to keep up their grades, to achieve academically in high school. As a struggling test taker, I can say that the most important part of grades is asking for help. Email or talk to your teachers if you feel that a new concept is difficult. If this doesn’t fit your needs, online resources are the go-to. I spent about half my time on websites like Khan Academy. Well before any test or quiz, go through YouTube videos and practice aspects that you don’t seem to understand. Learning everything the night before the test adds unnecessary stress.  

Now, on to extracurriculars! Think about what makes you, YOU? What do you do or enjoy that sets you apart from others? Do you paint? Do you sing? Play an instrument? Part of high school is allowing your creativity to flourish. I play the violin, so the first thing I did was sign up for orchestra. 

And your hobby doesn’t have to be so cutanddried, either. Do you love watching Netflix? Start a movie club. Hone in on what you’ve enjoyed doing throughout your life and take it to new heights in high school. 

Whatever your hobby, find a way to tie it to the various parts of high school — especially volunteering. Volunteering as a high schooler shows that you have set aside the time and have the dedication to support others. Bouncing off the movie idea, you could email a senior center and ask if you can show movies there every Friday and then host a discussion afterward. If you sing, try holding concerts to raise money for charity. The possibilities are endless.  

So clubs, getting good grades and continuing extracurriculars might seem like the perfect recipe for success in high school. But the hard truth is that your organization skills could make or break your plans. Right now, as you get ready to begin, the most beneficial thing that you can do is start a planner. As you begin high school, think about how much time and importance you want to put into each activity. Maybe you want to set aside two hours for homework, one for volunteering and another for your extracurricular activities. Set your time frames and allow yourself to fit with that schedule. 

But be sure that you are not overworking. That is the single most dangerous part of high school. Yes, to succeed you need to work hard. You have to put in the effort to watch your plans come into fruition. But if you overwork yourself, misuse the fact that there are 24 hours in a day and try to complete everything within that time, you would be doing yourself a disservice. All that does is pile on unhealthy amounts of stress, preventing you from enjoying high school. 

With that said, set aside time for leisure activities, and spending time with family. Take breaks between long stretches of working. Don’t allow yourself to think about school — you and your mental health deserve it. When you are ready to return to working, you will be more refreshed than ever. And remember: Don’t procrastinate. Choosing to do work at the moment rather than hanging out with friends may seem like a daunting choice, but remember, doing work now gives you so much more time to hang out later on. High school means making these difficult choices, but in the end, it will all work out.  

To all the incoming freshmen or current high schoolers, remember that high school is your mold. You shape it to fit your needs and wants to become the best version of yourself. These four years of high school are yours to cherish. So don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Grades and hobbies aside, make sure that you always find the time to hang out with friends. Participate in school events like spirit week or homecoming. These are the memories that you will most treasure, and the friendships you make in high school will shape who you become as a person.  

Now, go out there and conquer high school. Be the amazing person you already are and take on high school by storm. Good luck. I cannot wait to see how you thrive!