10 things every girl should know before starting high school

Freaking out about that humongous leap from middle school to high school? We've got your back. High school can seem terrifying, crazy, amazing and exciting all at the same time, too much to even begin thinking about. Wherever you are in the process, read on for 10 things to know that will make high school 10 times more meaningful. (Psst! This applies to middle school too!)

Hard work always wins

It may seem like a cool thing to not care. Oh, to be that girl who is flawless without even trying. But, TBH, those girls don’t *actually* exist. Trust us, you won’t ever regret working hard. And yes, it’s not always fun. You might ask yourself if all the hours, all the energy, and all the effort is worth it, but we’re here to tell you that it is. Nothing can beat the feeling of hard work paying off, that immense pride of accomplishment. So get out your textbooks and pencils, tap into your inner fairy godmother, and go make all your dreams come true!

Grades aren’t everything

Let’s get this straight—grades are super important, and slacking off will do you no favors at all. Now that we have that out of the way, here’s the tea: those letters and numbers on your report card can only take you so far. There’s so much more to high school and life than homework, projects, and exams. A hyper fixation on grades can take over your life, and lead to general unhappiness and stress. Instead, prioritize learning and growing, and good grades will probs come naturally. Every so often, try to take some time for yourself and remember who you are.

Save the drama for reality tv shows

As iconic as the Kardashians are, their flair for the dramatic *might* be a bit heavy on the high school workload. The truth is, they’ll always be people you like and don’t like, and they’ll always be people who like and don’t like you. But, it’s important to try to not base your self-esteem on the opinions of other people. There are ways to be confident without being judgemental or hateful, and spreading rumors and gossip will do nothing but perpetuate a toxic cycle and mindset. Sitting at the “popular” table, laughing behind the “weird” kids’ backs, judging people based on how many Insta followers they have—all these things may give you the justification that you’re admired or cool at the moment, but is it really worth it if it hurts others? Best to leave the insults on the TV.

Not everyone dates

It’s totally normal to be single in high school. Besides, dating should be the least of your worries. If you *are* a lovebird, we’re rooting for you! But, don’t be pressured to find the perfect match you spend eternity with. The world is bigger than these walls, and you’ll have your fair share of fish to choose from. There’s no need to sweat the relationship, or rather the whole dating scene completely if it doesn’t end up working out. You’ll find the Troy to your Gabriella or the Toni to your Cheryl one day, but for now, just focus on nurturing the friendships and family you already have.

It’s not all for college 

Your teachers and parents are probs telling you how important college is, and they’re right. But, college *isn’t* everything. Joining a club or taking a class that you hate just because it looks good on your application will make you absolutely miserable. Instead, sit down with yourself and figure out your interests. Explore the activities and subjects you enjoy, and try to silence that voice that worries about how it "looks" to colleges or to other people. High school is all about discovering yourself and your passions, and you can’t do that if you’re constantly trying to impress colleges and stressing over if you’re good enough for them. Whatever your interests may be, we know this for sure: you *are* good enough.

Mental health is important 

Although hard work is important, don't push yourself *too* hard. We all have limits, and they’re all different, so there’s no need to feel frustrated when you feel tired or exhausted. Your mental health is just as important as physical health. If you need some beauty sleep after a really busy day, treat yourself to a face mask and a bubble bath. Balance is *key* to your happiness and success. Nourish your body, nourish your soul. Think of it this way—if you want to feel good and confident and fab, you have to be kind to yourself. How else will you take on the world? 

Find your people 

Friends are what make high school—and life—awesome. Finding the right people for you is not easy, and it won’t always work first try. First impressions can be super deceiving, so don’t judge people by looks, race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. Sometimes your best friends in freshman year won’t be your besties the next, and sometimes the one person you absolutely despise will become your total ride-or-die. Friend groups split up and people grow apart—that’s just life. Just remember that friendship is not an obligation but a gift, so don’t become friends with people just because you feel like you have to, or because you like the idea of being with them. For the nervous introverts out there: people are usually nicer and warmer than you think. Just say hi! You never know, the random girl you waved to in the hallway *could* be your BFF for life.

You do you, girl

“Be yourself.” You’ve probs heard this phrase a million times, and yes it’s cliche, but for good reason. Juggling one life is hard enough—juggling multiple personalities and masks must be near impossible. Why make life harder than it actually is? If you’re afraid that your friends won’t like you if they find out your true personality, perhaps you should consider changing up your squad rather than your being. On the other hand, don’t worry if you’re not sure who you are yet— that’s what high school’s all about. In fact, being “yourself” all the time could also be super exhausting, especially if you’re going through a tough situation, and you don’t want to act anxious or annoyed. So yeah, deep inside, be yourself, but don’t feel limited to your own perceived version of yourself—just, be you. It’s best not to slap any labels on it. 

Ditch the comfort zone 

The familiar may feel cozy and nice, but staying in the comfort zone for too long can seriously hold you back. Choose the challenging class instead of going for the easy A. Befriend an upperclassman to teach you the ins and outs of freshman year at your school. Reach out to your teachers and develop open communication between them. Dress to impress (yourself ofc) and explore your fashion style. Just don’t push *too* far—alcohol, drugs, cheating or anything else of the sort may get you suspended, expelled or worse. You don’t have to do any of that to have a high school experience, so make smart choices and have fun!

It’s not like the movies

Don’t get us wrong—teen movies are absolute gold. However, high school is pretty different on the other side of the camera. Unlike Mean Girls, your school won’t be ruled by Plastics. Your little sis probs won’t mail all the letters you wrote to your crushes like in TATBILB. You might not even be like the popular Beverly Hills matchmaker from Clueless. High school is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it’s not going to be a fairy tale of drama, success and romance. Everybody’s journey is different, but that doesn’t make it any less unique or special. Next time you’re watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, enjoy it as a coming-of-age masterpiece, and not a manual to your high-school life.

Do you have any high school tips? Tell us on Instagram @girlslifemag!

All GIFS via GIPHY | Slider image: | Infographics made using photos from @y2kfitspo

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by Sophia Zhang | 2/26/2021