Insider's Guide to High School

High School Advice: Don’t Brace Yourself

Buried in textbooks, Katherine McGuire, 14, is a freshman at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. (Gillian McGuire/YJI)
SHARON, Conn., U.S.A. – The summer before my freshman year of high school, every adult I came in contact with would tell me how difficult it was going to be: “You’ll need to work extremely hard,” they would say. “High school’s a lot different from middle school.”
This wasn’t news to me – I was already nervous. The constant reminders of my impending misery frustrated me. I quickly learned to nod knowingly and say something like “I’ve heard – but I’m looking forward to the change.” Then I’d try to change the subject.
I didn’t want to hear any more.
Throughout middle school, my teachers emphasized the fact that everything we did – every rule and every assignment – was in preparation for high school, where things would be different.
Apparently, the high school teachers would readily hand out zeros, research papers would be assigned each quarter, and there would be no reminders of due dates. Those middle school teachers were just trying to prepare my classmates and me for the change that would inevitably come, and maybe they did a good job, but they, and all those adults who thought they were doing me a favor, psyched me out.
I went into high school praying it would go by fast. I wanted it to be a blur – I’d get the good grades and get out. It would be difficult, the classes would be challenging, but I’d work really hard and push through and hopefully get into a good college.
I didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities besides sports, as I didn’t think I’d have the time. I went home on the bus every day at the same time. I was just trying to survive.
Then, the summer after that year, which went surprisingly okay, I looked back, thought about my experience and realized that there is nothing so torturous about high school.
Academically, it’s really not bad. It’s different from middle school, but in a good way. There are fewer nightly homework assignments and more long-term projects. This does allow more room for procrastination, and sometimes panic, but once you learn to manage your schedule, you can find the time to do some really great things outside of classes that you probably didn’t have the opportunity to in middle school.
“Get involved” is something you probably hear way too often, but it’s good advice.
Play a sport – there are so many more options! – join a club or two, or start your own organization.
Take an active role at your high school and your experience will be so much more enjoyable. I returned my sophomore year and participated in things that really interested me.
Now I even have a leadership position.
If you, like I once was, are nervous about entering high school, know that there is little to worry about It is a change, but one you are qualified for. You’ll do great in high school as long as you don’t go in with the weird mindset I did.
The academic transition isn’t as difficult as you might think, and all the extracurricular opportunities that come should be a welcome change.
Be open, enthusiastic, and positive. Don’t be blinded by fear. High school will be fine.
It’s not something to be endured, but something to be relished.
Gillian McGuire is a Junior Reporter in Connecticut for Youth Journalism International.