As I wrap up my time in my hometown, I can’t help but write about my experience in high school as a whole.
Being the oldest, I had to learn almost everything myself. Oh, how I wished that I had an older sister to guide me through the jungles of high school, and how jealous I am of my two little sisters who have me :). After sitting with my sister, who is about to enter her Freshman year, for almost three hours, teaching her everything there is to know about getting by, I realized that I should share my experience with others who feel as lost as I once felt.
Here’s what I told my sister:
1. GRADES ARE EVERYTHING
Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING, but they’re definitely the most important component of your college application. When I first got to high school, so many people told me that it’s okay to take the hardest classes and not do as well because colleges admire that you tried. While this thought is nice, it’s completely untrue. Yes, universities want to make sure that you challenge yourself, but if it comprises your GPA, it’s not worth it. The number one thing you should make sure you have by the end of high school is a high GPA. A 4.0 would be ideal. It will open up doors for you such as scholarships, top-ranked universities, exclusive summer programs and valuable internships. I unfortunately only learned that grades were this important at the end of my Junior year, and at that point it was too late to raise them up significantly. In conclusion, only take courses that you know you can get an A in.
2. BE NICE TO EVERYONE
The pressures of stereotyping are real. It’s easy to just label this person as nerdy and that one as boring. I told my sister that everyone appreciates a genuinely nice person. One that doesn’t judge others and enjoys whatever company he or she is surrounded by. By judging people or talking behind their backs, you are putting a label on yourself that marks “gossiper” or “the mean one,” even though you probably aren’t. Don’t be the person people go to in order to get the latest gossip because while you get attention in the short run, people will not appreciate it in the long run and will have a hard time trusting you. Be nice to everyone you meet right off the bat and you’ll have a much better experience in school. You’ll be invited to more social events and others will truly want to be your friends because they know that you won’t judge them or talk about them later.
3. START STUDYING FOR STANDARDIZED EXAMS FRESHMAN YEAR
This piece of advice may sounds crazy but I believe it with all my heart. I used to be the girl who thought that those kids who studied for their SATs their freshman year were a little crazy. But the truth is they all got 2400s and are now in UPenn or Harvard. I think the best way to be well-prepared for standardized exams is to study a little freshman year, get accustomed to the test and know what you’re going to have to take. Then study intensely your sophomore year and take the first official test at the end of that year. That way you have enough time to retake it and get the scores you want, and you won’t be stressed to take it (like I was) during the first semester of your senior year.
4. SUCK UP TO YOUR JUNIOR YEAR TEACHERS
This is something I didn’t even know until I got to my senior year of high school: your junior year teachers are the ones who will be writing your recommendations for college. Make sure that you are involved in your junior year classes and that the at least two of the teachers know you on a personal level. Try to participate in class as much as possible, exchange emails with the teachers and go to their after-class hours if they have any. By sucking up, I don’t mean getting them coffee and donuts, I mean truly trying to learn their material and showing them that you care about your studies.
This was a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school graduate in the San Francisco Bay Area.