Cartoon by Lucinda Drake

The first two years of high school can be rough. Your classes are getting progressively harder. Teachers seem to be out to get you with tough grading policies. You may be preoccupied with balancing an influx of schoolwork with a burgeoning social life, all while transitioning from middle school to high school. Wow! That is a lot to be dealing with. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some advice from someone who’s gone through the exact same thing? Underclassmen, you’re in luck, because juniors have some advice to share.

During freshman and sophomore year, the amount and variety of schoolwork assigned to you is sometimes a shock to the system. It’s hard to prioritize homework over, say, talking with your friends. Clearly more fun!

When asked if she felt like she was struggling with procrastinating on assignments, Ruby Taylor (9) says, “Yeah, really bad. It’s definitely something I struggle with.” Procrastination seems to be something that all grade levels engage in, from freshman to senior year. The difference is that upperclassmen have learned, through trial and error and maybe some sound advice, to manage it a little better.

Jillian Dixon (11) says that getting things done up front is important when it comes to managing the academic aspects of high school. When asked about procrastination, Dixon says, “I do it a bunch and I get super stressed about it, so I’d say it’s not super healthy.” She manages this by getting the hard work out of the way first and then doing the easier work. “I’m more motivated to keep going that way.” Schoolwork is something that can feel incredibly daunting to students with less practice, and at times that is unavoidable, but it’s good to keep in mind that there are ways to avoid the stress that comes with heaps of last minute homework. Get it done early. Cross it off your list.

One of the most overwhelming parts of transitioning from middle school to high school is the social anarchy that you face the moment you step into this oversized building. You may be used to a middle school where you knew everyone, and you’re going to have to acclimate to a school filled with people you don’t know, and even some people you don’t like.

Of course, there are always ways to manage this. In order to feel more at home at school, it is helpful to expand your horizons socially, even if it’s scary and nerve wracking. “I wish I could go back and tell myself that I didn’t have to hang around the group that I was friends with in middle school,” says Dixon. “I think freshman year I missed a lot of opportunities because I felt I couldn’t leave my friend group.” Take the step of talking to someone you might not normally talk to and don’t be scared to grow your social circle. Maybe it’s just making a new acquaintance or a new best friend, but reaching out and making connections with your peers can make your high school experience vastly easier.

One way to make those connections could be extracurricular activities. Join a club, do a sport, or get involved in theatre. “Having a part of your life that isn’t 100% school related is so beneficial,” says Dixon. Put yourself out there, you won’t regret it.

Managing the academic and social aspects of high school can be taxing and exhausting, so remembering to take care of yourself is crucial. Dixon says to remember to sleep, and that your sleep is much more important than any school work, even if it means occasionally turning an assignment in late. “Having a healthy mental state is key to performing well in school, and sleep plays a big role in that,” states Dixon.

Another good way to stay mentally stable throughout high school is to balance out the classes you need in order to graduate. Try and balance the basics—like math and science—with classes that have a high interest for you. Sign up for electives that make going to school feel energizing. Don’t overload yourself with classes that cause excess stress and suck the fun out of learning. Going to school may feel unnecessarily daunting if you have nothing to look forward to.

High school won’t be easy, but you can take some steps to get the most out of the challenges you will face. Try to make the most out of the short four years you’re given. Manage your time wisely, make as many friends as possible, and take care of yourself. Take this advice and use it, twist it how you need to so that it fits your personality.

If there’s one last piece of advice I would give to freshman and sophomores: Don’t stress too much about making the wrong decisions, thinking it will “ruin” your high school career. Use your support system and ask questions. Don’t beat yourself up about anything too much and make sure to do what works for you, not simply what you think is expected of a high school student.