April 30, 2012

High School Survival Guide

On my side of the family, I have a niece and a nephew who've both graduated from high school and a niece and a nephew who are still in high school. To say that high school is or was a struggle for them is an understatement. Some of that is due to the school work and some of that is due to the drama that comes from student or teacher conflicts. To my niece and nephew still in school I find myself offering up advice on how to survive. Advice that, while I know it's sound, I also know I never would've taken at that age. After all, what do adults know, right?

Oh, but we do know. I want them to know that I understand where they are coming from. I want to help them survive. I want to help them succeed. Not just for their own sakes, but because if I can say anything that will help them through it, maybe I'll be that much more prepared to help my own kids who aren't that far off from high school themselves.

So for my niece and nephew, let me share my wisdom, limited though it may be. High school sucks. Not all the time but when it does, it sucks in a big way. I realize you are well aware of this and are probably rolling your eyes at such an obvious statement, but I just want you to know that my picture of high school isn't all rosy and filled with perky cheerleaders and sparkly prom dresses. But I want to let you in on a little secret. High school is not the end all/be all of life. Right now, it's everything--most of your life is centered around that 8 hour a day, 5 day a week chore that you only barely manage to endure because the alternative is listening to your parents scream at you for not making it to class. But this is not your life. This is just a testing ground. This is the place where you will only start to discover who you are and the kind of person you want to be. High school isn't real life, it just feels like it right now.

About those grades that you keep getting hounded about. Straight A's aren't everything but yes, colleges do care what your GPA is. I know what you're thinking: There's no way you're going to college after putting up with high school. But let me tell you that college is a whole new ballgame. The teachers won't hound you if you don't show up for class. For the most part, if you want to show up to class in your pajamas, they won't care. But they also won't hold your hand like high school teachers. There is no "I couldn't find a pencil" or "My mom forgot to bring my homework up to school" excuses. You are solely responsible for everything you turn in and there are no passes for late work. So why go to college? It's not a life requirement but I have to tell you that I have missed out on a lot of job interviews simply because I lack even a 2 year degree. After being unemployed for 5 months, those missed interviews hurt.

College may not even be on your radar right now. I get it. Why would you put yourself through more of that when you are barely surviving high school? But take my advice--survive it. Do whatever it takes to get through each day. Turn in the work, ignore the other students (I realize it's easier said than done), brush off the teacher's idiotic remarks--but get that diploma! You want to get out on your own and be an adult? Great. But you'll need a job. Many employers frown at a GED but it's next to impossible to get a job when you are a high school dropout. As a potential employer, why would I hire you if you couldn't even be counted on to go to school every day? That diploma is your magic ticket away. It's your first step to being able to get out on your own and run your own life.

You want your life to start already? Get through high school. That's when the fun really begins. That's when you get to make your own decisions and figure out who you really are. High school is a world built inside a self-contained bubble that doesn't reflect what your grown up life will be like. As a grown up, you won't spend all day with people your own age. As a grown up, you won't have mandatory PE, 6-8 classes a day or finals. As a grown up, you can choose how you're going to spend those 8 hours a day.

But on the other hand, as a grown up you won't have extra credit or tutors or study hall. As a grown up, you won't have parents to give you lunch money or help you finish that big project. As a grown up, you won't have the chances to enjoy things like sleepovers with friends, passing notes in class and having few responsibilities.

For some, high school can actually be fun, but for others it is a necessary evil. And this is what is important for you to know: It IS necessary. No matter how much you may hate it, it is absolutely necessary. While it does not mirror life as an adult, it will teach you some very valuable things. There is a lot of stuff you'll learn while you're there that you will never use again but there is just as much stuff that you'll need every day. But you won't know until you get older which information is going to be the stuff you use all the time. High school teaches you that there will always be expectations of you--either through work, family or even just friends. You will have deadlines, unhappy bosses or unreasonable clients, chores that you just have to grit your teeth to complete. There will always be mean people. There will always be people who are better off than you, but there will also always be people who have it worse.

The best advice I can give you? Stick with it. Give it your best. Try not to take it so seriously. Find one thing you like about high school and cling to that. It will be over before you know it. 

(Look for my next High School Survival post coming soon...)


  1. Stephani McDanielsApril 30, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    While I agree with you on most everything I will argue the GED. I have yet to find a job that won't hire someone based on that. And it hasn't held me back from working or furthering my education.

  2. Eh, I hated high school. Truthfully, I don't remember much other than I hated it. But college, I loved it. So, chins up buttercups, cause that is where it all is.

  3. I probably should've phrased it differently in regards to a GED. While I have worked for people who frown on it, I also know lots of people who've gone onto college and done just fine having a GED as opposed to a diploma.