High School is a brief time, but it’s filled with some of the highest highs and lowest lows you’ll ever experience. Here are ten things you can do to make the most of those four short years, and come out ready, willing and able to conquer the world:
1. Graduate. More than anything else, High School should be a time to focus on learning. This will be your last opportunity to learn in such a structured, self-contained environment, so you should make the most of it, and get as much education across as broad a range of subjects as possible.
2. Get a job. You’re going to have to work most of your life anyways, so now is the time to get used to the idea, rather than after four years of partying your way through college. Having a job means having a regular income, so you’ll be able to learn the fundamentals of budgeting and saving. You probably won’t have any large monthly bills just yet, so you can put more money into the things you love, as well as save for a major purchase or for the future, and you probably won’t be making enough to have to worry about paying income tax. But whatever you do, don’t borrow money, or let yourself get talked into getting a credit card – either could leave you with monthly payments that are too large for you to afford. Better to learn now what it takes to live within your means then when you’ve got two cars, a mortgage, huge tuition debts, and all of the sudden your kid needs braces.
3. Get your driver’s licence. Most teens are eager to learn to drive and want to get their licence right away, but even if you aren`t this is still the best time to get it. Being able to drive is an important skill – it opens up your employment options, it allows you greater mobility, and it frees your parents from the burden of getting you from A to B (after 16 years of driving you around they`re probably starting to get sick of it). You don`t need to have a car to have a licence, so even if you don`t plan on using it right away it’s still a good thing to get out of the way at this point in your life.
4. Volunteer. Some school districts now require students to complete a certain number of hours of community service in order to graduate, but even if they don`t you should still find the time to volunteer for something you believe in. It doesn`t have to be much – even just one afternoon every couple of months ushering for the symphony or walking dogs for the animal shelter will help to instill the volunteering spirit within you. In addition to looking great on your resume (and often volunteer situations can turn into employment opportunities down the road) volunteering for something you care about is guaranteed to make you feel great.
5. Learn to think critically. This isn`t a skill you`ll learn in the classroom. Far too many people graduate high school and still accept without question everything they read in a glossy magazine, and everything they see and hear on television. People lie! And understanding the difference between your needs and wants and what others tell you are your needs and wants is crucial to ensuring that you get the most out of what this world has to offer, rather than this world simply getting the most that it can out of you.
6. Make your career plans. Whatever you want to do with your life, now is the time to get it figured out. You need to think long and hard about this, and take the time to learn about as many different career paths as you can. It`s not a bad idea to actually have a written plan with all the necessary steps listed so that you know exactly what you have to do in order to reach your perfect career. Bear in mind that your plans will change over time, and you may enter high school thinking you want to do one thing only to leave wanting to do something completely different. Your plans will change again once you`re actually working, where you can expect to try your hand at as many as five different careers throughout your working life. Perhaps the most important plan you can make is how you plan to adapt to new opportunities and situations that will come your way.
7. Educate yourself about sex. If your school teaches “abstinence-only” sex education then it`s up to you to teach yourself what they will not. Learning about your body, your sexuality and the very practical mechanics and precautions necessary for a safe, fulfilling, guilt-free sex life is essential, even if you have no intention of having sex until marriage. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also very, very dangerous, and knowing all you need to know about safe sex could one day literally save your life, or the life of someone you love.
8. Cultivate a healthy lifestyle. It`s easy to form habits at this stage of your life, so why not form some good ones? Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, practising proper hygiene and generally taking care of your physical self are all important, and with the rise of obesity, heart disease and other medical conditions there’s no excuse not to. In addition to your physical well-being you should also form some habits that will help ensure good emotional well-being. Learn to effectively manage stress, anger and rejection, and learn to separate school and work from the rest of your life to achieve and maintain a healthy work/life balance. Treat others with respect and dignity, and they will most likely treat you the same. Be a good neighbour and a great friend, even to your parents and siblings.
9. Treat yourself like an adult. When you enter High School everyone thinks you are still a kid. By the time you leave High School everyone expects you to act like an adult. This change doesn’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen until you start thinking of yourself in an adult manner. It doesn’t simply mean doing what you want, when you want, with whomever you want, which is what a lot of kids think being an adult is all about. Treating yourself like an adult means accepting responsibilities, sticking at unpleasant tasks, and thinking of others, regardless of whether or not your parents have yet given you the freedom to come and go as you please. It means respecting your parents, and learning to talk to them, live with them and love them in a new way. It means being able to cook, clean and take care of yourself, do your part around the house, make good decisions, and when you make a bad decision being able to accept the consequences of your actions.
10. Fall in love. High School is the time when most kids experience their first serious relationship. Very, very few of those relationships wind up lasting forever, and most will fall apart in pain and misery. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Even if you actively resist it, chances are you’ll have a relationship at some point in high school, and even though you can be almost 100% certain that it will end badly, allowing yourself to fall in love is just as important a part of growing up as any other aspect of your high school experience.