There’s no doubt that high school is a special time in many students’ life. You’re becoming more independent, getting to know yourself, preparing for your future, and making lifelong memories.

 

At the same time, though, high school can be a stressful period. Branching out on your own is always a little intimidating, and beginning to plan your future comes with plenty of weight on your shoulders. You’re simultaneously involved with a variety of extracurricular and academic commitments, and you might have a job or family commitments too.

 

High school is both a time to relish your newfound independence and to work hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose sight of what’s most important.

 

If you’re a high school student currently riding the wave towards college, there are some key things that you should remember along the way. Here, we’ve compiled our top 10 things that high school students need to remember to stay sane, make the most of these important years, and come out of them prepared for a successful future.

 

Don’t Struggle Alone. 

 

The high school years will not always be easy. There will be times when you are overwhelmed with the amount of academic work you’re undertaking or when you feel bogged down by your social life or extracurriculars. Undoubtedly, from time to time you will feel like you’re reaching your breaking point.

 

During these times, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to struggle alone. The challenges you are facing are typical of many high school students, and there are lots of resources in place to support you.

 

CollegeVine’s Zen is an online community dedicated to your mental health. It’s a great place to gather support in the form of stories, insights, and humor from college students who have been in your shoes.

 

There’s always real life support available too, in the form of friends, teachers, mentors, or family. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s always worth speaking up for yourself. Even if someone can’t help to relieve your burden, often just talking about your concerns will lighten your load.

 

Find Balance.  

 

To get into a good college, you need to challenge yourself. But there’s a fine line between challenging yourself and overwhelming yourself. Work hard to strike this balance. It’s important not just for your mental health, but for your physical health as well. Stress takes its toll on a body, and when you’re less stressed, you’ll be more apt to perform at the top of your ability.

 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your advanced coursework, check out CollegeVine’s Should I Drop an AP, IB, or Honors Class? before making any hasty decisions.

 

Also, be sure to read our guides for selecting classes before you register for next year:

 

If it’s extracurricular or other commitments that are stressing you out, you might find these posts helpful:

 

Consider Your Career Path Carefully.

 

High school is the time when most students start to ponder what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. The possibilities are essentially endless, so the process of narrowing them down can be fairly involved.

 

You’ve probably heard the advice to follow your passions or to do what makes you happy. This is great advice to get started. You need to recognize the kind of work that makes you feel fulfilled because ultimately, if you aren’t fulfilled by your work, it may not sustainable emotionally in the long term.

 

But this isn’t the only factor to consider. You also need to consider the financial side of your career choices. If you intend to live simply, you can afford a lower-earning profession. If you want to live lavishly, obviously you’ll need a much higher salary to support this.

 

Also think about debt and its implications on your earnings. For example, you may be content with a low-earning career, but you’ll need to be careful not to amass such large student loans that you can’t earn enough to pay them back.

 

If you’re struggling to settle on a career path, or you think you’d benefit from insights into more options, consider CollegeVines Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 




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Beware of Tunnel Vision.  

 

For some students, choosing a college, a major, and a possible career is a painstakingly long process, filled with second-guesses and reevaluations. For others, they know early in their high school career exactly what they want to do.

 

If you’re the latter, that’s great. You’ve taken care of a lot of the stressful decision-making early on. But don’t be afraid to reevaluate as you go.

 

High school is typically a time of immense personal growth. You will learn more about yourself, your dreams, and your strengths and weaknesses during these four years than during most other times in your life. You’ll grow and change in ways that you could never have anticipated.

 

Allow your dreams and ambitions to grow and change with you. Some students have a tendency to put their heads down and work hard towards a goal without coming up for air. While the work ethic is admirable, you need to think critically about your goals throughout high school.

 

It may be that your new self still holds the same ambitions dear, or it may be that you end up making a new plan. Either way, it’s important to take a step back everyone once in a while. Also check out these posts for some more perspective:

 

 

You Are More Than a Number. 

 

So much of what you do during high school gets boiled down into just a few numbers. Your GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores might seem all-consuming.

 

Remember that your worth is not determined by a number. These statistics might give an admissions committee some insight into how successful you were academically, but they by no means give any complete picture of who you are as a person.

 

It’s important to see beyond these numbers, whether they’re “good enough” or not. Find your true value in how hard you work, how generous you are in time and energy, and how much kindness you extend to others.

 

People Change. 

 

You’re going to change, like it or not. As you grow older and gain more independence, your life experiences will shape who you become. Not only that, but your friends and love interests are going to change, too.

 

For this reason, you should be cautious of basing decisions about your future on what your high school friends or romantic interests are doing. While the idea of going to the same college together may seem fun in theory, odds are that you are going to grow and change in different ways. What fits for one of you, probably doesn’t fit for all of you. And who knows whether you’ll still be best friends four years down the road.

 

Instead of thinking about what your friends are doing, be independent and make the choices that are right for you. If you’re just getting started, consider our post, 10 Considerations For Making Your College List. Here you’ll find some perspective about the factors that should matter most as you narrow down the list of schools you’re interested in attending.

 

Safety Schools Are Okay. 

 

If you’re making a college list, you’re probably familiar with the terms safety, target, and reach schools. Safety schools are the ones that you’re most likely to get accepted to, and they’re called safety schools because they provide you with a bit of a safety net for the scenario in which you don’t get into the other schools on your list. Many students think of them as a back-up plan.

 

Ultimately, though, safety schools shouldn’t just be your last resort. You should spend enough time making your list that you select schools you’d happily attend, and which you’d consider seriously whether or not other options existed.

 

This way, even if you are only accepted to your safety schools, they’re still colleges that you’re excited about attending. For more perspective, read The College List, Decoded: Safety, Target, and Reach Schools.

 

Master the Basics. 

 

For many students, college marks the first time that they live independently. While the dorm experience can certainly provide a buffer between your parents’ house and the real world, there are still some basic life skills that you should master before you leave for college.

 

For starters, know how to do your own laundry (including ironing!), cook a few meals, and manage your own finances before you branch out on your own. These might seem like no-brainers to some students, but most high schools no longer provide this kind of instruction, so it’s no surprise that many college students don’t have much experience with these simple life skills.  

 

Of course, there are lots of other life skills that you should also be learning along the way, but if you can get started with these three, you’ll be off to a good start. For more about the level of maturity expected in college, check out our post Do Colleges Consider Me a Child or Adult When I Apply?

 

Never Burn Bridges. 

 

You don’t have to like everyone you go to school with. You don’t even have to be their friend. But you should at least be friendly and extend good will to every one of your peers.

 

Of course, you’ll always have disagreements with people here and there, but if you give your classmates the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that everyone is facing their own unique challenges, you’ll come out a step ahead. Be cautious to not burn any bridges with your high school teachers or classmates.

 

You never know when these people will resurface later in your life. Imagine going to an important job interview only to find out that the person doing the hiring is the one you couldn’t stand in high school. How he or she remembers you will rely largely on the impression you left behind. Will it be one of kindness or ill will?

Have Some Fun. 

 

You know all those sappy books and Netflix originals that refer to high school as “the time of your life”? Well, there’s a reason that the same clichés come up time and time again when we talk about the high school experience.

 

Yes, there is often undue drama, you might be stressed beyond belief about grades and test scores, and you sometimes feel like you can never get caught up on all your extracurricular commitments. But beneath all of that, the high school experience is a hugely social one. It will be rare that you experience these levels of friendship and the camaraderie later in life. Make sure that you take the time to enjoy it while you can.

 

High school can be a wild ride. There are milestones, social events, clubs, and sports. On top of all that, you’ll be juggling class work, test prep, and college applications. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the things that are truly important when it sometimes feels like you’re running full speed on a treadmill that never stops.

 

If you need some outside perspective, contact the CollegeVine Mentorship Program, where we drive significant personal and professional development through a unique combination of mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses.

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist