With less than a week left in my high school career, I’ve been beginning to look back and reflect upon my experience. As I walk through the hallways, I’ve found myself taking everything in. After next week I won’t see most of these people ever again. It’s crazy to think about that considering I have grown and developed alongside my peers for quite a long time. Now, I’m about to walk across that field and receive my diploma, and as I look back, I realize how grateful I am for all of the lessons I have learned throughout my four years. By looking back at my experience, I have compiled a list of the most important things I have been taught throughout high school.

1. It’s great to have “teacher friends”

Some of the most important and special connections that I have made have been with teachers. It’s nice to be able to have an adult to talk to who can trust and respect you equally. Plus, if you ever need somewhere to go or you’re looking for a nice recommendation, you’re in luck.

2. Get involved

I participated in more clubs than I can count on my fingers, and I’m glad that I did. The amount of people I have become friends with is amazing, and the experience I have gained is irreplaceable.

3. Stay away from drama

Some people are always looking to start problems, so try your best to avoid them. I discovered that when I no longer was friends with these types of people, I enjoyed everything a lot more.

4. Schoolwork shouldn’t consume your life

I can respect brainiacs who devoted all of their time to having a 4.5 GPA, but the amount of stress that comes along with that is unbearable. I managed to be academically successful while still going out on school nights. Sure, I didn’t finish with a 4.5, but my grades were still high enough that I was recognized for academic achievement. I was able to maintain good grades while having fun throughout high school - it was the best of both worlds.

5. Quality over Quantity

I’m a very social person, and I do have many great friends. When I first started high school, I was aiming to have as many friends as possible, but I have learned that quality is better than quantity. Now, I am surrounded by amazing people who do nothing but enhance my life and make me a better person. Once I went into the mindset of quality of quantity, I soon discovered that my life became a lot better.

6. Be yourself

During freshman year, there are bound to be cliques. Most people are unsure of themselves and would do anything to fit in. By junior and senior year, people are much more confident and comfortable embracing who they truly are.

7. Procrastination will ruin you

The amount of nights that I found myself up at three a.m. doing homework is ridiculous. I would much rather stare at a wall than write a research paper. One of my worst enemies during high school was myself and my procrastination. I always ended up getting things done, but at what cost?

8. Crushes can crush you

Crushes are pretty much inevitable in high school. When you are trapped in the same building every day, it’s very easy to acquire feelings for someone else. Just make sure that your happiness always comes first and that you are treated well.

9. Everyone is going through something

Not to make your problems seem insignificant, but just remember that everyone has their own troubles. You assign value to certain things, just as anyone else would do. Don’t be too quick to judge or denounce someone, because you never know what they’re going through.

10. PET ALL THE DOGS

Okay, maybe this one is just for me. I’ve probably asked owners if I could pet their dogs over 1,000 times, and I have no regrets. Dogs are my favorite - live, love, dogs. On a serious note though, dogs have the ability to make you happy, so never miss out on an opportunity such as petting a cute pup.

11. It’ll be over before you know it

I still cannot believe that I’m done with high school. I remember walking into school the first day of my freshman year, scared of all of the upperclassman roaming the halls. Although I have always been one of those people who's ready to move on, I really am going to miss it. Looking back now, it all went by so quickly.

12. Not all people have good intentions

I love to see the best in people, but I have occasionally seen the worst. I have been hurt pretty badly by some people, and it has taught me that not everyone is to be trusted. While I still do see the best in both people and in situations, I am now more aware of reality.

13. Spontaneous moments are the best moments

Whether it's taking a turn down a random road, going on a date, or randomly deciding to go on a road trip, spontaneous moments are the best moments. I often call my friends out of the blue and tell them that I’ll be picking them up in five minutes. Many of my favorite memories have been made this way. High school has taught me that diving into something without a plan or step-by-step itinerary isn’t always a bad thing.

14. Ex-anythings are unavoidable

There’s only so many alternate routes throughout a school building. Rather than avoiding someone, I’ve learned to just live my life normally without all of the added stress. I’ve mended relationships and I’ve left some un-mended, but in doing so I have accepted the fact that I will see these people quite often, as there is no true way to avoid them forever.

15. Listen more and talk less

People have a lot to say, and it makes them happy to be heard. Whether it's allowing a friend to vent to you or showing respect during a lecture, it’s very important to listen to what people have to say.

16. A simple compliment goes a long way

I’d much rather give a compliment than receive one. There’s something about the way a person responds when they are given a compliment that makes it all worthwhile. I’ve also discovered that a compliment regarding the character of a person is sometimes better than a physical compliment. For instance, say “you’re such a great person to be around” rather than “you’re pretty." The physical compliments are nice, but typical.

17. Treat people the way you want to be treated

We’ve been taught this since day one, and for good reason. What you give is what you get, especially in regards to how you are treated. Always be a decent person, not because you want something in return, but because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s been a great four years. I’ve had many ups and downs, many mistakes and many successes. All in all, high school has been an experience that has helped to shape me into the person I am today. The lessons I have learned within my four years will be used throughout my entire life.