Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known As a High School Freshman

Right before graduation, I asked my friends and classmates and reflected on these past four years in high school. Here is the wisdom to share with you. 

I wish I could go back in time and tell my freshman self these 20 things. (Twenty20 @5byseven)

20 things I wish I could tell my freshmen self

  1. Always say hi to people in the hallways, especially your teachers. That face-to-name connection is crucial.
  2. Put yourself out there. Clubs, sports, robotics, try school stuff, whatever it is — pour your heart into it. It’s easiest to find friends when you share the same interests.
  3. Talk to your teachers and take advantage of office hours. I cannot emphasize how much time I saved after school just by working on homework with my peers or teachers by my side.
  4. Friend groups fluctuate throughout high school, and that is entirely normal. Some of my friends today are those I have been tight with since middle school, and some I recently became friends with. Either way, I’m grateful that they are present in my life.
  5. Grades are important, but high school is four short years that fly by; remember to live a little.
  6. Please go to dances. It might seem embarrassing or weird sometimes, but please go even if you don’t have a date. One of my biggest regrets is not taking advantage of the school dances. If you are ever questioning going, remember that Maggie O’Brien, class of 2021, said to go. Do it for me.
  7. Your mental health should always be a priority. Life happens. Teachers are understanding — ask for that extension, and contact your counselor if you need extra help.
  8. Make friends with people from other schools. It’s super helpful to have people to talk to who aren’t connected to the school.
  9. If you pay attention in class and work hard to understand concepts, you probably won’t need to study much for final exams. Just a little review. It’s easier to put consistent effort into learning rather than last-minute cramming.
  10. Organize your Google Drive and your email inbox.  
  11. Take photos and videos — lots of them. My Snapchat memories are filled, my camera roll storage is dissipated, and I spend too much money on my film camera. But it’s worth it because I can look back on these days sometime in the future and remember the happy memories.
  12. Find one thing you like doing and stick with it for a few years. For me, that was ambassadors. I started as a shadow host and classroom visit girl, and now I am president of the ambassador board. I have evolved into leadership roles through the years.
  13. It’s ok not to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. I came into school thinking I wanted to study biology, to become a doctor, and now I will attend my dream school to major in data science because I fell in love with math. Math, of all subjects…unbelievable.  
  14. Become friends with upperclassmen. Whether this is your link crew leader, your sports teammate, or someone in your class — be their friend! They have advice on stuff you wouldn’t even think about. A solid number of my friends graduated last year and the year prior, and they helped me through the entire college admissions process and toured me on their campuses!  
  15. The more involved you become, the more you will enjoy your time at school. But don’t spread yourself too thin — make time for yourself. Those two statements might contradict, so find that balance and what works for you.
  16. Time management is the key to being successful. Try to put your phone away for when you are doing your homework, or at least for me; I have timers on each of my apps (especially TikTok) so that I don’t watch 3 hours go by when I should be doing differential calculus.
  17. Have school spirit! It might be cringey at first, but I promise you, you are cool for being spirited and lame for not standing at rallies or cheering on your classmates. 
  18. And on that note, go to sporting events and school-hosted activities! And I would highly recommend branching out and doing different activities.
  19. COVID took so much away from us in the past year or so. Remember this feeling, and treat every day like it’s your last because for me, Friday, March 6th of 2020, was my last “real” day of high school. Please take advantage of all the opportunities and events handed to you — it will be worth it!
  20. And last but not least, you will hear this many times tonight and for the next four years. High school flies by. It was truly just yesterday I was in your shoes in the cafeteria, eating pasta with my soon-to-be classmates and listening to how homerooms would be set up for my freshmen year. Now, here I am four years later, 3 inches taller, and I am booking my flights to college and planning how to say goodbye to my best friends and family when I leave this September. Please make the most of your time in high school. Find your bridesmaids, find yourself, and find a fabulous education. Please do not waste these four years.   

About Maggie O'Brien

Maggie O’Brien is a recently graduated senior from high school in the SF Bay Area. She will be attending the University of Washington - Seattle to study data science or neuroscience. Maggie is passionate about the environment, social justice issues, and good music. She hopes to continue her leadership of being her high school’s Ambassador Board co-president and become involved in UW’s tour guide team.

Read more posts by Maggie

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