If you are an incoming freshman seeking advice from an upperclassman, you've come to the right place. High school may seem like the big, bad monster at first, and I won't deny it, because at times it really is. However, before you know it, you'll be navigating the schools like a pro. The start of high school may be exciting, yet scary, and it is a big adjustment. Every big change requires an adjustment period, and you can rely on upperclassmen to help you out (it's not like the movies, and we're not out to shove you in trash cans).
The first thing you should keep in mind is, obviously the intense workload. Whether you're taking AP or on-level classes, the rigor of high school itself is extreme, so make sure to sign up for classes you know you'll be successful in. From what I've experienced and observed, it is extremely common for students to load themselves with 6 AP classes because "it looks good on college apps," but that's no guarantee of success in said classes. In the long run, mental health is more important. Of course, there are nights you'll stay up until 1, 2, or even 3, but it is an unhealthy sacrifice for you to be making every night. I can't emphasize how important it is for you to choose classes to your own liking- it is for your own benefit!
However, this does not mean take easy classes and slack off, because college does matter. They'll be looking at your grades and extracurriculars from freshman year itself, so don't think junior year is the only year that matters. Start off strong in your classes, because these are the core classes that set you up for the AP's coming down the line. It is also common to be denied placement into higher level classes if you didn't do well your freshman year of high school, so don't catch senioritis three years early! It's also recommended to start extracurriculars as soon as you possibly can! I would definitely say this was one of my biggest regrets in high school. Around junior year, I realized how lacking my resume looked, and joined all sorts of activities. It's never too late, but if you're thinking about your application early, it looks much better to have continued an activity for three years than one, as it shows commitment and interest in what you do besides from school.
The next important thing to understand is that high school dynamics are just simply different than anything you most probably have experienced before. It's normal to grow out of old friends, and it's ok to make new friends. While it is important to stay in touch with past friends, don't be afraid to make new ones in your classes. When you approach sophomore year, you're more likely to have upperclassmen in your grade. I've made tons of friends one or two years older than me throughout my high school career in my classes, and I've found I have a lot to learn from them. Warning, it is heartbreaking when they graduate though.
High school is home to a plethora of opportunities for you to figure out your true passions and interests. It's extremely important to take interest in sports or clubs that may suit your interest. My school has a wide scope of clubs to choose from, ranging from fashion club, to chess club, car club, chinese yo-yo club, and many more unique ones. Joining these types of clubs can even encourage you to participate in school events such as talent show and encourages you to make new friends as well. It's always emphasized that we have to know what we're doing with our lives and what we want to be when we grow up in high school itself, and it's good to have a general idea of what we're interested in, but we do not need to have any definitive answers. If you're interested in medical professions, join HOSA; if you want to pursue marketing or business, join FBLA. Through these types of things, you can expand your knowledge and narrow down possibilities according to your interests.
Overall, high school is an amazing experience. Looking back, time really did fly by, so make sure you don't spend your weekends studying, studying, studying, and make sure to get out and have a little fun. Go to homecoming, prom, the football games, and let your stress free for a day. High school is nothing like the movies, but the challenges and ups to the rocky road are essentially worth it in the end.