14 Things I Wish I Had Known in High School

The other day I got an e-mail from a girl going into her freshman year of high school. She mentioned that she was nervous and didn’t know what to expect and truthfully she was just hoping it would be better than middle school. She continued on to say that she had read my post for incoming college freshmen, but was wondering if I could write a post for my readers that are in high school, especially since she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life at that point and was already stressing about what she wanted to major in at the college level.

That’s what stuck out to me. Just going into her freshman year of high school she was feeling the stress of trying to figure her life out and know what her college major should be. I quickly e-mailed her back and asked if she would be okay with me mentioning her e-mail in my post (she said yes) and if a post with my advice for high school students would be okay with her. Because honestly, after experiences of being a camp counselor and being a small group leader in high school, it wasn’t the first time I had heard concerns very similar to her.

Today I’m sharing what I wished I had known going into, and even in, high school. If I’m being completely honest, many of these things I didn’t appreciate and acknowledge as something important until well into my second semester of college. If anything, I hope at least one of these things helps you out.


A relationship doesn’t define you.

There is so much pressure in high school that being in a relationship is what defines you and completes you as a person. Definitely not the case. I promise, even though it’s hard to see others in relationships, being in a relationship is not what makes you complete. It’s completely fine to not be the girl bouncing from relationship to relationship.

Explore your true passions.

If you do have in mind a career you think you might want to pursue, contact someone that you know who works in that field. Typically, people are more than willing to show off what they do at work on a typical day and what the job entails. And if you aren’t interested in exploring a possible career just yet, explore things that you are interested in or already involved in even more! If you have always loved horses, look into taking horseback riding lessons, if you are already involved on your dance team and want to do more involving dance, look into opportunities to teach dance.

Concentrate on your GPA, learning how to study, and how to use a planner.

I’ve had several people ask me about what they should work on in their early years of high school. While it’s great to start thinking about what kind of career you would like to have, it’s nowhere near time for you to start deciding on exactly what you want to do. Instead, at this point, concentrate on having and maintaining a good GPA, learning study techniques that work for you (I have a post about my favorite study techniques here if you wanna check it out) and learn how to use a planner. These are skills that will not only help you in high school, but give you a huge advantage when you get to the college level.

Look into opportunities to volunteer.

For those of you that are freshmen or not quite old enough to get a job, look into opportunities to volunteer. Especially if you are wanting to have something to build your resume for when you do start applying for your first high school job and start filling out scholarship applications, it’s a great thing to have to reference. Having actively volunteered gives you a leg up for your first job, especially since every company seems to be looking for prior experience.

Find yourself.

I know it’s the typical cliché go-to-answer on what to do in high school, but finding yourself is truly important. High school is the time where you can explore many opportunities given to you, such as clubs and organizations through your school, sports, volunteer opportunities, and so much more. Find what you love and what clicks for you, whether it’s on or off campus.

Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you.

I struggled immensely with many insecurities in middle school and in my early high school years. While yes, there are still things I am insecure about, my insecurities truly got the best of me at ages 15 and 16. I still had braces, didn’t have all of my adult teeth yet (yes, awkward, I know), was super pale, felt too tall for my own good, hated my nose, wished for darker hair, wanted smaller feet, and felt that my long build made me look too stringy. And while those insecurities still come creeping back to this day (aside from the teeth stuff, that’s all good now), it no longer cripples me with fear that my insecurities are the only thing the person I am talking to is noticing. Never allow your insecurities to keep you from feeling confident and meeting other people.

You lose friends and you gain friends

While thankfully I never personally experienced a falling out with a friend, I did learn that some people really do just come into your life for a season. Those friendships are something that you should appreciate just like the friends that you are already planning to ask to be a bridesmaid in your wedding. Everyone comes into your life for a reason, even if things didn’t end well. In the end of it all, you have learned and grown more as a person.

Your “status” in high school doesn’t matter after graduation.

The thing that I’ve watched my fellow colleagues struggle with the most is the transition from their high school self to their college self. It truly is a shock to come to college when no one knows, or really cares, who you are. You have a blank slate and are no longer the nerdy girl or the super athletic guy. And it’s your choice in how you go about “painting” that slate. Get involved in a sorority, find a group for engineers, volunteer with Puppies for a Purpose, or even start a campaign to bring more awareness to mental health and wellness on campus. I promise, things get so much better after high school.

You don’t have to know what you want to do with your life

Having attended a very small school that had preschool-12th grade, it’s amazed me to realize how many of the girls that were younger than me looked up to me and remembered me after graduation. One of the girls approached me the other day and mentioned that she was going into her freshman year of high school and still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. And the truth is, even in college and beyond we don’t know what we want to do with our lives. In fact, many college students stay undecided for a year or more before they choose a path they want. Whether you are a sophomore, junior, or even a senior, you don’t have to know exactly what major you want and have your life plan ready to go. At this point in time, just focus on looking into careers that match your personal interests and passions.

Don’t rush to grow up and be a “college girl”.

Maybe it was just me, but there were points where I couldn’t wait to get out of the beige hallways of my high school and out into the real world of being a “college girl”. I craved the independence, dorm life, a full schedule, and the nights out with friends. And while all of those things are great and I’ve already created many amazing memories, don’t wish away your high school experience. You will miss the days of not having to pay for all of your groceries or not being the one to sit on the phone with the maintenance company for 2 hours to have someone come fix your shower. You miss the familiarity of friends, family, and neighbors from home that have always been around. You miss the free time that you had that you didn’t realize was there. Whatever point you are at in your life right now, just enjoy it and don’t wish it away.

Find mentors in the people you look up to.

I never comprehended how much I would appreciate my former high school teachers, dance teachers, and other adults in my life until after I graduated from high school. When first semester was a shock and I wasn’t sure how I would balance the things I wanted to do on top of my demanding course load, I immediately knew to message my high school English teacher. She had managed to teach 5 different English classes, get her master’s degree, hand back graded assignments the day after we turned them in, helped her two kids with her homework, husband was away for months at a time doing military training, was actively involved in organizations outside of our school, and still found time to watch a little Downton Abbey. Honestly, even with that list I probably missed several things. I am forever thankful that I had her to go to for advice.

Sometimes mom and dad’s advice is right. And it’s important to listen.

If I had taken the time to write a post like this in high school, this point wouldn’t have been on it. It wasn’t until I got to college that I truly started appreciating what my parents had to say. While maybe I only had that eye opening moment because I was homesick and desperately called my mom for advice, believe it or not, your parents were teenagers at one point as well. And they get it. Your first break-up, a falling out with a friend, doing poorly on a test, the first time you drink too much, and so much more. While they have raised you to do your best and be responsible, we all have those moments. Yes they will be upset, yes you might get in trouble, but in the end, they have been there and are more than happy to give advice.

Your ACT/SAT doesn’t matter once you’ve gotten to college.

In high school, all I wanted was another point on my ACT. That one point was what would lead me to 1,500 more dollars in scholarships. And if I could obtain another point above that, I could get up to 2,700 more dollars in scholarships. It was always just one more point. I spent so much time stressing, taking practice tests, and even attending ACT workshops on the weekends just to raise my score. It always felt like a competition of who had the highest score and even a competition as to who got the best score from taking the ACT the fewest times. And while it does matter in high school if you plan on furthering your education, once you walk into your first lecture in college, your ACT/SAT score no longer matters. That in itself should be relieving!

It’s okay to take a gap year, not go to college, etc.

Yes, I just said that. Sorry to all of the parents, educators, and those that value higher education reading this that are contemplating whether or not my advice is something that they should continue to read, but it’s true. If you want to take a year off and explore more of your interests and save up some money, do it. If you want to start or even complete your education at a community college, that’s wonderful. If you feel that college isn’t for you and you want to pursue real estate and be an agent, more power to you. You don’t have to take the traditional route and go to a four year education. Just find what works for you.

Are you in high school? Do any of these tips apply to you in particular? If you are out of high school, which of these tips do you support and what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.