Monday, March 3, 2014

To The Incoming Freshmen...

In school, we have been doing a cancer unit (I have no idea what the final product will be... oh well) and looked at a PSA on what people would say to their sixteen-year-old selves if they could go back. Now, I am not sixteen yet and won't be for awhile (I'm still not even old enough for my learners' permit). However, lately I have been remembering my *shudders* freshman year of high school.

Surely, ninth (and in some cases, tenth) grade shouldn't be that bad. But it was for me. Upcoming is a list of things I wish I knew when I was starting high school.

1. High school is not whatever you think it is. 

Believe me on this one. It's not. I thought high school would be this amazing experience. I thought it would be fun. I thought I would suddenly get pretty and my chest would inflate (for the record, it did not). I thought I would be a junior varsity cheerleader at my local high school. I thought I would be in every honors' class offered, with an A in every one of them. I thought I would get a super cute boyfriend and be on homecoming court. I thought I would be the all-around perfect high school student.

Here's what actually happened. It wasn't fun, first of all. I look the same as I did in elementary school. Cheerleading was inconvenient for my schedule. My school only offered two honors' courses for my grade, and I wasn't dumb enough to take honors' Algebra and Physics when those were my weakest subjects. I didn't get a 4.0. I was single the whole year (still single, but I don't care as much as I used to). I did manage to win for homecoming, but it was just a popularity thing... a waste, in my opinion.

On the contrary, high school is not the Netherworld, either. It can be great. This year, I almost kind of like it. But if you think it will be easy or perfect, you're wrong. Which leads me to my next point.

2. High school is NOT like middle school.

Obvious, huh? Actually, no. I had this delusion that since I pulled off near perfect grades in middle school, all I had to do was make a few tweaks and TA-DA! I would have a perfect GPA. But little did I know I needed to work a lot harder if I wanted to get good grades in high school. I've always been a hard-worker, but I didn't know what to expect, and I fell hard. I had to completely change the way I studied, and by the time I finally figured it out, one semester had already passed. Don't be like me. Start changing your study habits now.

3. If freshman year is bad, it's not the end.

My previous paragraph may have scared you, but it wasn't meant to. It is scary knowing colleges are going to look at your grades, but they understand that freshman year is a disaster for a lot of people. Many people don't get their act together until they're a sophomore or junior. There is a back-up plan-- show that the dip in grades was short-lived. For example...

As a freshman, I get a 3.0. (these are not my actual averages)
As a sophomore, I get a 3.2.
As a junior, I get a 3.6.
As a senior, I get a 3.8.

If I show that my grades are steadily increasing, the admissions officers will know that I am a hard-worker, and when my grades aren't great, it means I really am struggling. Also, see how the GPA dramatically gets higher as a junior? That shows that I finally learned how I work best, and when I go to college, they can expect me to perform at that range. And I got a 3.8 as a senior? For all they know, that might become a 4.0 in college.

Also, if you were sick (not like you had a two-week cold... I'm talking battling cancer, severe infections, surgery, etc.), your counselor can attach a note explaining what happened to your application. But if you mostly got As, and one year you got a few Bs, you'll be okay.

4. You're not that special.

Yikes. Sounds harsh. But let's nip this in the bud. It's easy to believe you may be more special than the next guy because you're planning on going to Yale University and you were on the Varsity softball team as a freshman and you placed first with your academic quiz team and you won the science fair and you speak three languages and you're in AP classes and you have a steady job (and boyfriend) and you do community service at your library and your first words were Sound of Music lyrics-- I get it. A whole lot of 'ands'.

But everyone is trying just as hard as you... for the most part, if not harder. So, you're no different. You're just at a different point on the same path. I wanna go to Northwestern University, but some of my friends try just as hard (and harder) as I do to get into our local university, which isn't competitive in the least.

So, don't put others down if they aren't in your AP Mandarin class. Don't think they're stupid because you want to be an engineer and they want to be an actor (very unstable, but they won't change their mind). Don't comment on how their dreams are unreasonable. You don't know them, you're not going to change their mind, and they will prove you wrong.

5. We are all cut out for different things.

It's okay if you aren't in AP Geometry (it's really okay... I'm not either). Don't force it. If you're into liberal arts, don't take extra difficult math classes just because it'll look good. If you're bad at it, it will show. And believe me, not taking that engineering elective will look much better than getting a D. Don't be sad if your friends are so-called smarter than you, either. This is (honestly) something I have struggled with. All of my friends have amazing abilities-- varsity swimming and softball, perfect grades, good communication skills, etc. Sometimes I would just be like, "Why do they even pay attention to me? I'm nothing special... rather embarrassing, really." I'm not cut out for math and science. Big deal. No one would actually shun me for that, even though my school specializes in that stuff. It was all in my head. This reminds me of Armin Arlert's Attack on Titan quote:

"It was just me convincing myself. Convincing myself that I was powerless and a burden... that thought never crossed their minds at all!"

No one's gonna judge you if you don't play any sports or take AP courses. If they do, you don't need them, anyway. Let the admissions officers judge you, because your peers love you for who you are. After all, we can't all be arms in a body.

6. You may find who you are.

Many people go into college not knowing their major, and that's okay. However, you can experiment in high school, too. Use your strengths. Do what you love. Take that creative writing class your friends don't want to take. Audition for the lead role in the school play. Join the anime club. If you're happy, you'll find that you might start to enjoy going to school.

7. Don't settle for less.

So, you want to play Simba in The Lion King but your dad wants you to join his law firm when you're older. That's a steady job. Why not? Do what you actually want to do. Being a lawyer will pay you much more than acting on Broadway for one season. But will you truly be happy working at a desk if you'd rather be on stage? Go after what you truly love. Have a back-up plan, but don't throw away your dreams, even if the world tells you to.

8. Don't be stupid.

I'm not talking getting a C in that Psychology class. I'm talking about all kinds of stupid. There's the I-don't-like-the-teacher-so-let's-fail-their-class kind of stupid (er, immature). There's the I-don't-wanna-do-my-homework-so-I-won't kind of stupid (again, immature). There's the let's-post-about-my-house-arrest-sentence-on-Facebook kind of stupid (yes, I've seen this one. Her posts were very entertaining, though). There's the let's-show-the-world-my-underage-drinking-problem kind of stupid (same girl... probably why she was on house arrest). If you'll regret it when it's time to apply, just don't.

9. Do not be absent.

Once you've gotten in the habit of skipping school over a case of the sniffles, there is no turning back. If you are miserable, stay home. But really-- all the make-up work is exhausting and kills your grades. Try your hardest to be at school.

10. It's all about your mindset.

You can do this. High school sounds scary, and the horror stories are endless. But if you truly believe, you can do anything you set your mind to. If you work hard, there will be results, even if they are small. It will be worth it, if you just believe. You've only got four years left-- go out with a bang!

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