10 Things I Wish I’d Known in High School
Sometimes high school seems like a necessary evil, that step between childhood and the structure of elementary school and adulthood and the freedom of college. I remember feeling like I was just ready to be done – and that was only the beginning of sophomore year. Now at the end of my college journey, I know that while I did well in high school, there are some things in particular that made high school and college easier for me. And there are still more things I could have done to make my high school experience more fun, more manageable, and more beneficial.
- Stretch your brain. Take a class that scares you at least once during high school. Don’t let preconceptions about the class or the teacher sway you from taking a class that you know you can do well in. Maybe you’ll decide to take an honors class instead of going the regular route; maybe you’ll opt for Chemistry AP when you’re done with your science requirement. The experience will definitely make you a stronger student and prepare you for future academic challenges. If you can face those challenges, if you can bring them on yourself and enjoy them, you will succeed.
- Don’t sweat your grades too much. Getting a B here and there is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s kind of a good thing. I started college at a top university with straight A’s since seventh grade, and it was hard to deal with not being able to repeat that. I shied away from taking some harder courses I might have done well in because I was afraid of doing poorly. Now, I can fully accept that if I try my hardest in a class and get a B+, that is still something to be proud of.
- Ask for help. Learn how to forge relationships with teachers and guidance counselors. Ask for help on a concept you’re trying to grasp after class, meet with your English teacher to talk about an upcoming essay. Getting comfortable with talking to teachers will help once you get to college. You will need help outside of class sometimes, and you have to be able to ask for it and interact with your professors. Relationships with them may help you get a job or get into grad school. Of course, your high school teachers will also likely write your college recommendations; it doesn’t hurt to get to know them early so they can have good things to say about you.
- Find your own de-stress routine. Another essential skill to begin building in high school is how to manage work and stress. In college, you will not have homework to turn in every day, making sure you’re on track with what you’re supposed to be learning. A good deal of the learning will be up to you to complete on your own time. Inevitably, you will get behind and stressed out sometimes; knowing how to deal with that stress can make all the difference. Maybe you deal with stress by going for a run, or taking a break to watch a silly sitcom. Talk with a friend for a while or play with your dog. Find out what relaxes you and take short breaks from amounts of work that seem unmanageable to de-stress. You’ll find that it will be easily manageable.
- Do something good. Volunteer. Not every day, not to fulfill a class requirement, not because you can use it on applications. Volunteer because it makes you feel good, and because you’re a lot luckier than a lot of people out there. Make a once a month commitment at a daycare center; be an organizer for the annual holiday pageant at the Women’s Shelter. Find time to give back. It’ll put everything else into perspective and it’s a good habit to get into when you’re young.
- Spend your summers wisely. Don’t take on a full-time job the first summer you decide to work – forty hours a week will be a huge shock and you’ll have plenty of time for that in the future. Do find something to do that will make the ten weeks worthwhile. Look into programs that take you to interesting places, internships that will be good experience and connections, or a job that will give you insight into something you think you might be interested in. Don’t not take something just because it’s unpaid or a volunteer position if you sincerely think you will enjoy yourself or learn something important.
- Don’t focus too much on popularity. While the idea of the clique is definitely high school specific, there are still loose groups in college. Fortunately these are not based on the vague idea of “popularity” and instead on things you actually have in common – your fraternity or sorority, where you live, classes, sports, clubs and activities. You do have to be active about making friends, especially at a larger school, but those friends may be much more of a reflection of your values than kids you hung out with in high school because they were your group. Everyone wants to be popular in high school, but don’t waste too much time worrying about it. In four years, you’ll be in a completely new situation, and no one will care what clique you were in in high school.
- Join a club/team/activity… Extracurriculars are what make your time in high school worthwhile. A lot of what you learn you will forget or have to learn again in college, but the experience of being on a team or president of a club or writing for the newspaper is what you will remember. You’ll learn a whole lot about dealing with others, and about yourself and your own limits. If there’s something you’re interested in but your high school has no team or club, start one. So what if you and your best friend are the only members for the first year. If you’re passionate about it, do it; others will follow. And if you find something you really love, do not give it up when you get to college. There will be an outlet. Basically, find something you like doing and pursue it – it doesn’t have to be what you want to do with your life, just something you want to do right now. Be passionate about something.
- …but do it for fun! Don’t do things just to put them on your applications and please, please don’t make it too serious! High school sports and clubs should be fun, not a competition to get the most awards to put on your applications. Don’t join the yearbook staff because you want to be the editor next year to make your resume look better; don’t join the four sports teams just to win Athlete of the Year. Take part in activities and sports and clubs because you like them, and because the experience will make you a better, stronger, more well-rounded person. You will get into college, so don’t spend your time trying too hard.
- Accept that you may get rejected. In terms of a ‘top choice’ college: just because you don’t get into yours doesn’t mean you won’t have a completely fulfilling experience at whatever school you do choose to attend. Don’t be too dramatic – one friend threatened to go to community college until she could transfer to her top choice. But she went to her second choice and is very happy there. Just make sure you try to make the most of it.
Finally, remember to have fun. Your life does not depend on high school – not on the academics and not on the popularity aspect. Do your best, but leave time for fun with friends. You will have plenty of time to work hard in college and beyond. Be prepared, but don’t stress out too much about it. If you can make your high school experience fun, you will have no problem doing the same for your life in college and beyond.
About the author
Mackenzie Cooper is a senior English major at Stanford University. Her best memories from high school are from her water polo team, her calculus study group, and working on the school newspaper. In college, she’s been involved in peer tutoring, student government and the student-run newspaper and studied abroad in Florence, Italy. She likes writing (especially fiction), swimming, cooking, and travel.
We’re been discussing satire and irony this week so I would like to visit Judy Syfer’s “Why I Want a Wife” essay. The authors tone is that of satire and irony. When you read through this, consider what makes it satirical and ironic. What is the author trying to express? Explore the concept of “double standards” and how they play out in this piece.
Why I Want a Wife
By Judy Syfers
I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am a Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene from the Midwest fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is obviously looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I, too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to school, so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain and loss of time from school. I want a wife to go along when our family takes a vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and a change of scene.
I want a wife who will take care of details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the babysitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to certain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about the things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d’oeuvres, that they helping of the food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night to myself.
I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who assumes the complete responsibility for birth control, because I do not want more children. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies. And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When I am through with school and have acquired a job, I want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.
My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?
“I Want a Wife” made its debut on Aug 26, 1970 and was delivered aloud in San Francisco at a rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S. (obtained in 1920). Shortly after this, the piece was published in Ms. Magazine.