My days in Savannah are limited at this point. As I continue to get ready to move up to Emory, my mind has been trying to pull together every bit of high school wisdom to leave with my brother who just started his freshman year last week. I know he will have a very different high school experience than I did since there is no universal high school experience. So, Will (and the rest of the class of 2021), here is the best advice that I can give to you.
Freshman year winter dance
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Let's just go ahead and get this one out of the way. Ask for help. You aren't expected to know everything right off the bat. That would be an unrealistic expectation.
2. Worry about actually learning, not about your class rank.
I did not graduate as valedictorian or salutatorian. Those things aren't as important as they seem. Getting an education and learning is what's important. If I had been solely focused on maintaining the highest GPA in my school I would have missed out on many different opportunities throughout high school. Take the extra class or the class that might really challenge you. It'll be worth it.
3. Don't give up the things you love just to take more academic classes.
If I had dropped music to take more academic classes I would have been miserable. Continuing what you are passionate about is more important than one extra science class, and colleges will agree. They want to see commitment in the things outside of the classroom. You will find a balance between your passions and classwork. It will work, I promise.
4. Form lasting relationships with your teachers.
Obviously, this one is pretty important to me (see my article "Why My High School Teachers Were My Best Friends Senior Year"). Not only will they become your friends, but they will also be the ones writing your college recommendation letters senior year. Just important things to be thinking about.
5. Not all friendships last and that's OK.
I lost many friendships throughout high school, and they broke my heart. To me, one of the worst feelings is having someone that you were so close with and shared so much of your time with, and then realizing you don't have that anymore. It happens. My advice, though, is to cherish your friendships while you have them. Love people well. And if the friendship doesn't last remember the memories fondly and go find different friends.
6. Make friends outside of school.
Now, this isn't always the case, but with my friends, the people that stuck with me for all four years were people outside of school. Most of my friends were from church and from youth orchestra. So find friends outside of your school or your classes. It'll be worth it.
7. It's never too early to start thinking about college, but don't obsess over it.
Find what you like in a school, and what you don't like. You don't have to know exactly where you want to go to school until very late into your senior year, but go ahead and get your feet wet. I went to an honor band at a very large public university my freshman year, and while I had a great time I knew large universities like that were not for me!
8. Take care of yourself.
Whatever that means to you. Mental health, physical health, whatever. You're important and you need to stay healthy. Get sleep, see a doctor, eat good food. Do what you need to do. For me, it was running and seeing two specialists for mental health. Don't be afraid!
9. Take lots of pictures!
And back them up somewhere so you don't use all your storage on your phone. No matter what happens you'll be able to look back at pictures and remember the good memories.
Seeing one of the Marvel movies freshman year
10. Spend time with your family.
They are your biggest support through high school and through everything you're going through. Make sure you spend some time with them. Have dinner with your family, call your grandmother, snapchat your cousins. It'll mean a lot to them, and you'll be glad you took the time to do it.
11. There is no telling what will happen in the next four years.
High school was a whirlwind for me. From family health problems to crumbling friendships, to a relationship that shattered right before senior year. There is no telling what your experience will be. The important thing to remember is that no matter how hard it gets there will always be people around you that love you and that will support you in everything that you do. No matter what, you will make it through.
And then just like that you're on the other side and headed for bigger and better things in college!