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High School Advice: 18 Tips for Incoming Freshmen

Now that Shane McKeon is looking back on high school, he wants to share several truths he wishes he’d known earlier. Turning 18 gave him new wisdom. Take stock of his 18 high school tips and share these with your teens.

High School Advice for Incoming Freshmen

1. Don’t worry so much.

There are lots of these pre-freshman-years lists, so many that it can seem like high school is a rickety bridge hung over lava, so treacherous that we must advise you on everything, lest you slip and become human fondue. (I watched Shrek yesterday. I’m also hungry.) But it’s not that. Relax. There are no dragons in high school.

2. High school is a game of inches.

But there are finals. Let me introduce you to your new least favorite number: 89. (So close, and yet so far away.) Come finals week, the difference between an A and a B might be less than half a percentage point. This 4th-and-goal scenario happens often. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

3. Play small ball.

Over a semester, small actions pile up. Always do the extra credit assignments. Always correct a test or essay when offered. And always dress up as Jay Gatsby or Sydney Carton or Gimley or whoever your teacher asks you to. Your grade will improve and, just as importantly, your teacher will see your effort and may “bump you up” at the end of the semester if you need it.

4. The French got something right.

There’s a concept in cooking called mise-en-place, basically French for “put in place.” Some chefs spend more time preparing their station than they do cooking. I find this inspiring and uber-applicable. (I’m also still hungry.) Find a way to organize your life that works for you. Always be preparing and prioritizing; use 10 minutes after a test or two hours before a practice. Don’t waste it. Chip away at homework now, and your future self will thank you when you want to watch Teen Wolf.

5. Enjoy Bill Nye while you still can.

Nothing lasts forever. FACT: High school isn’t all about grades.

6. If conflicted between staying in and going out, choose the latter.

Your fondest high school memories won’t be made in your room. (At least the PG ones.) Go to the big game. Go to the big dance. Even go to the small hangout. Never turn down a chance to make a connection.

7. Dress up on spirit days.

8. Don’t worry what other people think about you, because they don’t.

Consider the following: If everybody thinks about themselves as much as you think about yourself, then they have little time to agonize over you or your outfit or your tweets or your romantic life. They’re too concerned with themselves. The lesson? Don’t sweat. Be yourself. Etc.

9. Ask questions.

And just as important…

10. Find someone who can answer.

It needn’t be a student. Knowing a teacher, guidance counselor or administrator outside the classroom pays dividends. And when they answer, listen; they’ll be some of the wisest people you’ll ever meet.

11. Read the school paper.

12. Worry less about the people in the phone and more about those in the flesh.

Your close friends and family, not your Twitter followers, will help when you need it. Treat them well.

13. Don’t block up the hallway.

It’s annoying as hell. Talk during lunch. Go to class.

14. Find a healthy outlet for stress.

You’ll get stressed. That’s normal. Take a break from homework and take a walk, or a run, or a dancing break. Shake it off and clear your mind.

15. Be kind to everyone.

I just graduated. There’s a list of people I’m glad to never see again. Don’t be one of them. Be nice. To everyone.

16. Sparknote only in dire circumstances.

17. Be the best.

Best athlete, best student, best behavior. Everything you do, try your best at it. And, if you can, find the one thing you’re the best at.

18. Keep calm and do great.

Deep breath. Look down. There’s no lava.

Shane McKeon was the Print Editor in Chief of The Shakerite, Shaker Heights High School’s student-run news source.

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