Some teens view high school as a necessary evil, taking up their time and loading them with endless responsibilities; however, for teens who can see the bigger picture, they can appreciate why high school is so important and how to make the most of it. The time spent in high school can be viewed as the final “incubation period” in which teens can learn, explore, and prepare for the future higher education, professional career, and adulthood that is to follow. High school is the perfect opportunity to figure out your strengths and interests and set yourself up for a future of success, for those who use their time wisely.
Why Is High School Valuable?
High school is valuable for many reasons, but primarily, this is the last low-stakes time in a person’s life when they can learn, explore, and even dabble in a variety of subjects and activities, prior to stepping into the real world. In high school, students can attempt an activity or a subject and determine that it isn’t their favorite; however, once a student is pursuing a major in college or professional career, deciding the topic or industry is no longer of interest has greater consequences.
Additionally, the high school prepares students in areas far beyond the classroom curriculum. High school helps teach students to research, listen, collaborate, lead, be creative and innovative, and put forth consistent and prolonged time, effort, and hard work into activities, classes, and subjects that matter.
Future Career Goals
High school isn’t simply meant to teach students random, unimportant subjects that have no bearing on their life; on the contrary, the subjects and elective classes in high school are meant to help students explore their interests and develop potential career goals. Students who have an interest in math or excel in their math classes may be well-suited to a career in business, finance, or analytics.
Those who excel in the sciences may be well-suited to pursue a career in the medical field. Along those same lines, students who enjoy certain electives or extracurriculars may want to pursue those in a future career. Figuring out which potential career areas may be of interest can also help a student determine which colleges may be the best fit for them since certain colleges focus more heavily on specific departments.
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More College Options
While not every student is going to be a valedictorian or go to an Ivy League school, it’s still important that each student does the best they can throughout high school for one very simple reason: options. Whether you want to go to med school and become a brain surgeon or go to fashion school and start your own clothing line, the better you do in high school, the more options and opportunities you’ll have when it comes to both college and a career. The last thing you want is for certain opportunities to be closed off to you because you slacked off in high school and didn’t put your best foot forward. This is exactly why it’s important to try your best in every class, even if it isn’t your favorite subject or related to your future long-term career goals.
Important Life Skills
One thing students may not realize about high school is that they’re not just there to learn the core subjects and master the classroom curriculum. There are some other important life skills and soft skills you should be developing throughout your time in high school (and regardless of which classes you take). Throughout both your classes and your extracurricular involvement, and the contributions you make to both, you should be developing your problem-solving and analytical skills, critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership, among many others. Both college admissions officers and future employers will look back on your resume and probe to find those traits and skills throughout your prior experience, so it’s important to develop them now.
Make the Most of Your Time in High School
Making the most of your time in high school doesn’t just mean getting good grades, but that is one part of it. As we’ve mentioned, of course, you want to put your best foot forward and attempt to get the best grades you can, but equally as important is that you explore the subjects and activities that may be of interest to you.
When you choose your elective classes, think about which subjects may one day impact your future or career. Go out of your way to try your hand at a variety of extracurricular activities, clubs, and teams so you can determine which ones are your best fit. Beyond that, in the subjects or activities that do interest you, go above and beyond and seek out opportunities for further advanced learning, independent projects, or leadership positions. All of these actions will help you both make the most of your time in high school and stand out as a motivated, self-driven, intellectually curious person (all of which colleges are seeking).
High school shouldn’t be a walk in the park (academically), and if it is, you probably aren’t challenging yourself enough with your course load. In order to live up to your own potential, remain engaged, and impress colleges, it’s important to select the most rigorous course load that will challenge, but not overwhelm you. While you do want to be strategic about maintaining the highest GPA possible, that shouldn’t be done at the expense of a rigorous course load. Colleges want to see that applicants are intellectually curious, motivated individuals who enjoy learning and aren’t afraid of challenges, and this is exactly what a rigorous course load demonstrates.
Form Relationships with Teachers
Believe it or not, your high school teachers can be very important to your future, both for getting into college and beyond. Forming a positive relationship with your teachers is your first foray into networking, which will be increasingly important in college and in the professional world. In high school, your teachers do more than grade papers; they write college recommendation letters, nominate students for scholarships, and suggest valuable opportunities for high performers.
Getting these benefits out of your teachers starts with developing a positive relationship with them and differentiating yourself as a student who cares about the curriculum, goes above and beyond to do their best (even when they’re struggling), and cares to know the teacher personally. Students who do forge these positive relationships with their teachers will reap the benefits, from glowing recommendation letters to opportunities for extra credit assignments to bump them from a B+ to an A.
Join Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are not simply “resume boosters” used only to impress college admissions officers, but rather, they serve as opportunities for students to explore their interests, hobbies, and talents outside the classroom. Through extracurriculars, students may find their passion or call in life, which could lead them down a particular career path or towards a certain university. However, even if you don’t find your chosen career through your extracurriculars, you’re going to develop valuable skills through your involvement that may be just as important as the skills you develop in the classroom.
Extracurricular activities give students the opportunity to practice collaboration, teamwork, and leadership, as well as to offer innovative and creative solutions to impact the club or group’s mission. Students who make the most of their extracurricular involvement will bring something new to the table, via new ideas and projects, and may rise to leadership positions, as they spearhead their group’s activities.
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Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor can be incredibly helpful and inspiring for high school students, and it’s something too few students attempt. Your mentor doesn’t have to be someone you know – it could be a role model who’s achieved success in a field of interest. However, it could also be an upperclassman who got into Harvard or the leader of one of your extracurricular activities.
Whoever you choose as your mentor, you should either study and observe the actions they’ve taken to become successful, or better yet, if it’s someone you do know in person, ask them for their guidance and suggestions. Your mentor should be older and more successful and experienced than you, so they should be able to offer you a valuable perspective. Additionally, seeking out a mentor who has achieved the milestones and goals you hope to achieve in the future should give you a clear inspiration and blueprint from someone who has been in your shoes on the way from point A to point B.
High school is one of the most important and impactful times in a person’s life, and it can really set teens up for their future careers and adult lives. While high school might feel stressful or difficult, teens should realize that the challenge is there for a reason, and the stakes are much lower in high school than they will be in the real world. Given that, students shouldn’t be afraid to try different electives, attempt a rigorous course load, and get involved in a variety of activities that might be new and out of their comfort zone. The goal is to begin finding yourself and your future passions or interests, and you don’t have to be perfect every step of the way.
Related: How to Be Successful in High School