We asked and they answered. These college freshmen have been through the trenches of high school and they're ready to tell you how to make the most of your high school years.
1. Push yourself academically.
So you don’t have the time or skill to take AP Physics, but you do to make a 25-part Snap Story about the best ways to feed every household pet known to man? That’s what I thought. You might just be the next Einstein of molecular biology and we’d never know it. Do yourself a solid and see what can happen when you really challenge yourself academically.
“Don’t be afraid of AP classes. You can do them, and the level of preparation they provide for college is invaluable.”—Jared Sexton
2. Take notes.
Yeah, you might remember who won the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War and why they won. But you might not. And you know the teacher is going to ask about it later. Studies show writing things out the old–fashioned way (a.k.a. by hand) helps you understand new information better and faster.
“Take notes in every class. Learning to take successful notes will help in almost every class in college. Plus, now would be a good time to create your own shortcuts in taking notes so you can get more information on your paper with less writing (shorthand is a good one). There are lots of YouTube videos that can help with this.” —Austin Glubay
We asked Austin for the best YouTube videos on this and he recommends Thomas Frank’s YouTube Channel.
3. Get involved.
Try something new and you’ll learn something about yourself. Go on that optional trip, join a new organization. Do more than what you have to. You know you're up for it.
“Be involved in anything and everything that you can! Going on trips or being a part of group activities will be what you remember.”—Brianna Johnson
“Do as many things as possible. Go on trips, play sports, be in music groups, and make as many friends as you can.” —Zayne Browning
4. Do sports.
There’s nothing like a physical challenge to focus, clear your head, and just have fun. Maybe you’re all over it, playing on every team your school has. But maybe you’re not. Maybe you've never tried. Maybe you think you’re already behind. The best time to start is now. Learn your limits, and it may surprise you.
“Do sports, I know it’s scary and it’s possible you can be rejected, but always try.”—Rachel Barlow
5. But do more than sports.
It can be easy to stick to one kind of extracurricular activity. You gain confidence in that thing, know what to expect, and get to know the people who do it with you. But don’t limit yourself to one thing. Try getting involved in different things you might not usually do, like the debate team or chess club or the student association. It’ll help you build a variety of skills, learn more about what you like and don’t like, and challenge you in new ways. Can’t find something you’re interested in? Start something new!
“I wish that I had gotten involved in student government and clubs and other extracurriculars other than sports.”—Fred Goodman
6. Branch out with friends.
Maybe you already have a solid group of friends. Maybe you’re new to your school. Or maybe you're somewhere in between. It's easy to stick with who you know, fear rejection, or assume you won’t connect with someone based on how they look or what they do. But people are what make life interesting. And people will surprise you and stretch you. Try meeting some new ones.
“Get to know lots of people. Building relationships in high school with various people taught me how to better relate to people of different backgrounds and that has been so important here (in college) especially when trying to make new friends.”—Kelsey Turner
“Make a new friend. You never know how it will impact you and them."—Audrey Turner
7. Give yourself a break.
There’s a time to work really hard and a time to chill out. Life needs both. You need both. Study breaks can help you remember what you’ve learned and give you the energy to keep going.
“Besides taking every subject seriously and pushing yourself to do better (hint: time management skills work great, and there are apps like Tide that help), learn how to have fun. Learn how to take breaks in intervals so that you can study more effectively. Plus, learning to reward yourself after a day of studying will help boost your confidence in class as well as yourself. Life is too short to waste, use it to do what you love while still having fun!”—Austin Glubay
8. And find balance.
Every once in a while, take a step back. Get some perspective. See where you’re spending a lot of your time and what you might be neglecting.
“You need good grades to get scholarships for college. But if you strive too hard and don't have fun even once in a while, you’ll burn out and only have poor memories of school. Find the perfect balance between studying and keeping good grades and having fun and enjoying your teenage years.”—Ryan Pierce
9. Get help from others.
Ask for help and advice when you need it or even before you need it. It doesn’t show weakness. It shows that you care, that you’re growing, that you want to live your best life. And when others ask for help, don’t be afraid to share your story. Go the extra mile to help them.
“Find a mentor and be a mentor. Mentoring is one of the easiest ways to learn how to succeed in life. You will rarely encounter a problem that no one else has ever encountered. There's always someone more experienced than you. Use them to help yourself. A teacher, parent, or adult you trust in the church are great choices. But don't be greedy. Help out someone younger than you. You can often learn something from them, just as much as they can learn from you. Don't ever stop having a mentor and don't ever stop mentoring someone else.”—Ryan Pierce
10. Be your own person.
There’s only one of you, and you can’t do “you” wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. And it’s not an excuse to slack off or not care about others. It’s how you live, truly, authentically.
“I’m glad I found my own person. I didn’t change my personality to fit in. Because of this, I was able to feel more confident in making friends in college who like me for me.”—Hannah Chebeleu
11. Connect spiritually.
Gain perspective and wisdom by connecting with God. Remember that God has a plan and cares about you and your life. It’ll help you refresh, de-stress, and stay focused on what matters.
“Spend five minutes with God. It’s worth it. He’s changed my life, and if I didn’t start spending time with Him and surrendering to Him in high school, I guarantee that I would not be where I am today.”
12. Check your perspective.
Remember there’s always room to grow. You may feel like a hero on some days and not so much on others. You may be the best at memorizing equations and also be a slow reader. It’s all from your perspective, though. Challenge yourself, connect with others, get involved, have fun, and your perspective may change.
“Stay humble. By the time you’re a senior, you might think you’re pretty hot stuff—until you get to college, and you start over again. Practice the maturity to remember your past, and respect yourself enough to realize your amazing potential in years to come. You’ll find it’s a lot easier with a humble heart.” —Logan Seibold
13. Start now.
You have big dreams. Maybe you wish you started working toward them yesterday or last year. But you can start on them now. So do it!
“Nothing magically changes once you start college. If you want to become a better person, there’s no better time to start than now!”—Nico Belliard