5 Ways to REALLY Make High School the Best Time of Your Life

According to adults of a certain age, and innumerable popular movies, high school is when the best years of our lives happen. It's full of fun, friends, football, and prom. At least, according to American tradition. 

Times are changing though. The challenges of being a twenty-first-century high schooler are stacking up, and now include heavy things like avoiding cyber bullying. Competition for college admissions appears to get more and more intense each year, and the cost of college rises every year to add stress to the mix. It's easy to spend your four years in high school just being an AP-class machine and comparing yourself to your peers. It can feel like the period of time from ninth through twelfth grade is more of a phase of giant responsibility than it ever has been in the past. 

Big Bad Brainery - 5 Ways to REALLY Make High School the Best Time of Your Life

While I can't argue with that, I also know that it doesn't have to feel this way. There are practical tricks for lessening your anxiety and turning high school into the best part of your life so far. Here are five of my favorites: 

  1. Lighten your course load. Surprising though it may seem, you will make it through high school without taking loads of honors and AP courses. It's tough to say no, to go against the grain, and even fight some of the advice coming from your teachers or guidance counselors. Make advanced classes something you reserve for the subjects you love. Allow yourself to breathe and not take on so much. Think about how to maximize the benefits of the classes you do want to take. Implement the "quality-over-quantity" idea, to save your sanity and avoid regret.

  2. Build in moments for gratitude. You don't have to become a yogi to be grateful. Take notice of the things that make you happy every day. High school can be challenging, and it's easy to forget what's great about it. Appreciate the little things: time spent with friends in between classes, sports practices, and funny teachers. When you stop and notice what's going on right here and now, everything gets better. The best part? You can do this in your mind, without anyone else knowing.

  3. Focus on quality friendships, not social follows. There's no replacement for face-to-face relationships. Other people are what makes any time in our lives memorable. It doesn't matter if you choose to pass the time with your friends playing video games or running around town as soon as one of you gets a driver's license. Fond memories are built on solid relationships. So, step away from Instagram and evaluate whether those people checking out your Stories are people you can reach out to in real life. If you make an effort to be present and enjoy the friends you love, high school will become a whole new adventure.

  4. Give your time, regularly. And I don't mean simply checking off required volunteer hours. Find a cause to contribute to in a way that is significant to you. That could mean participating in traditional charitable activities, like serving food at a local soup kitchen. It could also mean writing letters to a lonely relative, or taking your grandma to the grocery store every week. Taking the focus off school and your immediate circle gives you a depth of perspective that generally doesn't arrive until much later in life. You'll feel grounded and less laser-focused on grades and high school drama.

  5. Stop thinking about college. You don't have to waste your high school years prepping for or worrying about college. If you think that's the opposite of the advice you generally get, you're right. We're programmed to believe that being forward-thinking is the key. In fact, the less you focus on the future during high school, the more likely you are to succeed at the things that really light you up.

This is because the only way to recognize how amazing those nights with friends, after-school clubs, first dates, and sports practices are is to focus on them right now. Make today the only thing that matters. Living as though you're preparing for some moment down the road, no matter how close or far, prevents you from seeing what's before you. 

So what's the 'how' here? A few ideas for implementing this suggestion: 

  • Temporarily stop following college pages on social media. Hide notifications, and give yourself a break.

  • Gently change the subject when friends start comparing test scores or when an adult asks you where you're planning to go to college.

  • Say no to packing your schedule with activities because you think they'll look good on a college application. Ask yourself what you really want to participate in, and do that.

Instead of letting high school pass you by, you can create the experience you want. It doesn't have to be what everyone tells you it is, and it may not even end up being the "best time of your life" when you look back. However, consciously choosing the way you want it to go will make it enjoyable at the very least.

As you become a young adult, one of the most valuable skills you can learn is how to stop living for tomorrow. Make high school the best by just recognizing that it's your 'now,' and no one else's. 

Not sure how to implement these tips? That’s what I’m here for! 

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High SchoolChelsea Torres