Art Insider's Guide to High School Top

Four steps to high school success

Author Lucy Tobier on her first day of school as a high school freshman.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. – As I approach the moment I walk across a stage and receive my high school diploma, I’ve been thinking a lot about the last three years. I entered high school quivering and clammy in 2018, without knowing anyone or how to find my homeroom, and have since grown to love high school.

It’s been a bit complicated with a pandemic, but high school allowed me to find my people, purpose and feel more confident in an academic setting. 

High school allowed me to find my people, purpose and feel more confident.

In middle school, I tried my hardest to slip into the shadows, hiding behind a book, but in high school, I wanted things to be different. I learned how to put myself out there by running for leadership positions in student government, answering questions in classes and joining new groups. 

There are definitely a few things I may have done differently in freshman year looking back that I’m happy to share.

Join a group in your first few months – I wish I had sat down with the first club that caught my eye in September. I was too scared to say the wrong thing, appear weird, etc. But in reality, no one cares and clubs are more than happy to have you. Anytime is a great time to get involved, but especially on the first day when everyone is new. It’s a great way to find a friend group, explore new interests and start getting more involved with the school. 

High school offers a variety of school clubs and activities. (Lucy Tobier/YJI)

Participate in class (if you’re comfortable) – I hesitated to raise my hand or contribute to a debate for the first year of school, worried that I would say the wrong thing or appear as a “know it all.” But I wish I had asked more questions and volunteered more answers. When the pandemic started, I realized I should have taken full advantage of in-person classes and – I know it seems crazy right now – but high school goes too quickly to hide in the shadows. If you don’t feel comfortable in front of a big group, find other ways to get involved, like talking with the teacher after class. 

Life should be a balance of work and play. (Lucy Tobier/YJI)

Find a balance – For the first few years of school, I struggled with having a good work-play ratio and wish I had figured out a rule or gotten advice from someone starting off. It was much harder to cope with stress and feelings of perfectionism without a good rule for when enough was enough. I would recommend asking an older student or trusted adult for some guidance on how to manage your time, or figure out a way to know when to work and relax while being easy on yourself. Also remember that teachers and counselors are there for you if you have any mental health, academic or other concerns that you can’t talk to a parent or guardian about. What worked for me personally was making lists of groups or classes I typically have work for and running through it to make sure I was caught up in each. 

Discover what you love – School is a lot more fun when you focus on the things you like to do in the classroom and find a way to do those. For example, asking if you can draw a cell model for science if you love art or writing a song for English if you love music. I’ve found teachers are usually willing to accommodate you if you have a different form for a project and it makes school a lot more fun and engaging. 

Lucy Tobier is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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