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4 Things I Wish I Did Differently In High School

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

High school students cheering in the stands of a football stadium.

Now that I’m well into my second year of college, I’m able to look back on my high school experience and reflect upon the things that I did or didn’t do.

Although half of my time in high school was completely online, I think the lessons I’ve learned and the regrets I have are still applicable even with school returning to normal. 

With that being said, here are some things that, looking back, I wish I would have done while I was in high school.

College Applications Aren’t Everything

Everything I did in high school was for college apps. My club sport, the organizations I was involved in, learning a second language on the weekends, and my grades were all designed to help me boost my college applications.

While I was truly passionate about all of the extracurriculars I did, it was also exhausting to constantly have to think about how every aspect of my life “should” be contributing towards the applications. 

In hindsight, I should have left more time for things that had nothing to do with college apps. For instance, hanging out with my friends more and developing more of a social life.

Making time for this mental break would likely have prevented the burnout I felt during my junior year of high school and would have made my current friendships deeper. I prioritized my relationship with academics but I gave up my relationship with myself and others to do so.

Especially in terms of my relationship with myself, I struggled in several areas to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even though my lifestyle may have appeared healthy from the outside since I was actively doing a sport and eating relatively well, I was constantly exhausted with all the work I had to do.

I struggled with what I ate, I never got enough sleep, and I was fighting over issues with my body image. Again, this now proves to me that I should have never sacrificed my mental and physical health for school. 

You might have heard this comparison before, but it is commonly known that there are three things you can have as a college or high school student: sleep, social life, and academics.

While you might argue that you can only pick two in this triangle, I’ve now learned that it’s possible to balance all three, just not in an extreme manner. Aim for a moderate accommodation of the triangle, not for extreme points.

Talk to People More

I hardly talked to people. Although this was partly because I was so focused on my college apps, it was also because I was extremely shy and introverted.

While there isn’t anything wrong with being an introvert, it wasn’t what I wanted. I had a small but close group of friends and I always remember wanting someone to talk to in class or have a friend walk with me.

But, I was also very self-conscious and worried about what other people would think of me. Because I had always been the quiet girl, I was concerned that if I started acting in a way that differed from the common image of me, people would think I was weird.

In a way, I was chaining myself down and holding myself back based on this preconceived image I thought I had.

Even if my image was the shy and quiet girl, that shouldn’t have stopped me from making casual conversation and talking to someone new. I was afraid of getting outside my comfort zone and making a change. But I shouldn’t have been.

People don’t judge or talk about you nearly as often as you might think; in fact, they’re probably worrying about themselves. So, I now take my current advice to myself to heart as often as I can: to take the chance and talk to someone new because you never know how it might end up.

Funnily enough, I was intimidated to talk to people I had been going to school with since middle and elementary school, but once I came to college, I was actually excited to talk to absolute strangers. 

My Biggest Regrets from High School

Learn How to Plan

In freshman and sophomore years of high school, I never touched the planner that the school gave us. Although I never forgot to do an assignment because I always just “remembered everything,” I should have used the planner regardless to help develop that habit and instill it in me.

Instead, when my academics became more difficult and my schedule more packed, I had to begin figuring out how I wanted to use my planner. Each person uses their planner in a different way and I had to take the time to figure out what system worked for me rather than just falling back on a system that I had already taken the time to perfect.

Another thing I wished I would have done was learn how to block my time and utilize Google Calendar. I struggled with self-discipline, not just in an academic aspect but in a personal sense as well.

For instance, I would constantly pick up my phone and find myself scrolling when I was supposed to be doing homework. Or, I would go use my limited time between school and my club sport to go make a snack rather than study.

I use blocking now, and I’ve found that setting aside certain parts of my day to do a specific task helps me stay more focused and committed to that task. In this way, I would have been able to be more efficient with my time. In the same way, I would have practiced my self-discipline more and been able to follow through on tasks. 

Learn How to Actually Study

Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to get the grades I had without knowing any effective study techniques or developing good study habits. All throughout high school, my study method was just to review all the material for the test the night before.

If it was a final, then maybe I would give myself a couple more nights. Maybe. This last minute studying is one thing. But the other thing that made my studying ineffective were the strategies, or lack thereof, that I used.

I recall poring over my notes and trying to reread the textbook. Instead, I should have been using things such as active recall or doing practice problems to fully ingrain the concepts into my mind.

At the same time, I should have been reviewing the concepts over several days leading up to the test, rather than the night before. We’ve all been there where we’re done studying because all of the concepts look like “common sense.” But that’s the worst trap to fall in. 

In college, now I actually have to learn how to study because I never learned how to in high school and always relied on that “common sense” to pull through. It rarely did. What always pulls through for me now is consistent practice and meticulous study methods. 

Conclusion

It might be easy for me to say these things now, but I would likely have had a very difficult time implementing them. However, what would have helped the most in making the changes I suggested is by first starting with a change in mindset.

Until you change how you think, approach, and view the world, your actions likely won’t change. So, if nothing else, I would tell my younger high school self to change her mindset and step outside her limits. Seek discomfort. Get out of your zone.

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Author: Sophia

Sophia is a current college freshman at Pennsylvania State University with plans to major in marketing. When she's not studying or in the gym, you can find Sophia watching her favorite Youtube channels or streamers. In the future, she hopes to travel the world while developing her marketing skills and building her network.