Column: Things I wish I had known my freshman year


Photo courtesy of Emma Pierce

Author as a freshman

Being a high-schooler is a struggle. Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is staring down at you, expecting you to succeed and be as perfect as you can. Whether it be grades, family life, or social life, there seems to be always something to worry about, and at least if you are like me, it can get very overwhelming. Especially for incoming freshman or new sophomores, high school can seem like a nightmare waiting to happen. When I was a freshman and continuing throughout my underclassmen years, my high school experience could be described by struggling to make As and Bs and jumping between high school soccer when in season to club soccer after school. Now as a senior not much of that has changed, I am just doing it mostly from home. Going into Carnegie, everybody told me about how hard it would be and the academic struggles that I would go through. They were absolutely right, so I wish I had the chance to give myself a little advice beforehand. Here are some things I wish I had known. 

There’s a certain weight in your heart when you open up your gradebook to see that you got a 30 on a test… true story. That feeling can linger throughout the day and make you feel like you aren’t good enough or not smart enough. The truth is, as I am sure you have heard by now, that grades do not matter or define you all that much. Try not to let your grades affect your mood too much. While somewhat important to maintaining a good standard as a student, it does not define who you are and whether or not you will succeed in life. A couple bad grades, or many if you go to Carnegie, does not define your success or whether you will get into college. Most colleges these days are looking at who you are as a person and how you can thrive at their school. If you get a bad grade, try not to think too much about it because grades are always fixable and all you can do is look towards the next opportunity to do better next time. Not that you should completely let yourself go, but I have multiple Cs on my transcript and still got into the college I wanted to go to with a scholarship. The fact that Carnegie is an extremely hard work load is also taken into consideration, so if you get a bad grade it is likely that you are still better off than most high-schoolers. Work hard during high school and do your best to maintain good grades, but a few bad ones aren’t the end of the world. 

Plan everything. Some say the most important way to succeed is managing your time well, and there are multiple techniques and methods to do so, but the easiest thing you can do to manage your time is to write things down and plan them out. At the beginning of the year Carnegie gives you a planner with a full calendar and other resources in it. At the start of freshman year, I used this relentlessly everyday, and wrote down each assignment as they came after every class. Of course I was eager to start off on the right foot and do the best I could in my new high school. However, I quickly got tired of this and started to try to remember all the assignments in my head and use other people as a resource when I couldn’t think of one — that was a mistake. Shortly after, I realized that my pea sized brain couldn’t remember all the assignments being thrown at me. With the endless homework assignment, projects, quizzes, and tests galore, it is extremely easy to lose track of minor and major assignments. Keeping a physical note, even if it is just a simple check/ to do list, of what needs to be done and when makes keeping track of your assignments 10 times easier, with only 2 times more effort. Writing down and planning out when you need to do things makes them a lot more tangible as it can get very stressful at times trying to list all of them in your head. For people that get overwhelmed with assignments piling up, even a simple checklist makes it less stressful as you can check off assignments as you do them. This makes them seem easier to do, and less like a big blob of impossible tasks. “I use a really detailed planner with all my assignments and like tests coming up because I know that, you know, I used to miss stuff earlier on, and maybe get zeros in the gradebook so that definitely helps with organizing my time,” said senior Logan George, who is also Lieutenant Governor of Texas JSA and the head of student/alumni reach for diversifying our narrative amongst many other titles.

There is a time where everybody looks back at their lives before the pandemic and thinks about all the things they did and the things they could be doing if the world wasn’t where it is right now. For me this happens all the time, and it can feel like my life is flashing before my eyes in front of me. Especially as I am about to leave my senior year behind and move across the country to go to college, I wish I had a little more of high school left to enjoy. Surprising, right?  Whether you are a social person or not, take part in as many activities and school events that you can, while you can. As a senior, and especially as a senior during the pandemic, I wish I had taken every opportunity to make memories with my friends and make the best out of the time I had as a high- schooler. This is something that is often taken for granted. Showing up to events like school dances, international festivals, club events, etc., are the exciting things that you will miss when high school is over, so try to make the best of them. Becoming an adult is exciting, but the times that you had while you are young in high school is something you will always look back on.

When I was a freshman it took me a while to figure this out but, there is no one to impress. If you were to imagine me when I started high school I would be sitting  in a corner with a group of people that aren’t really my friends yet, nervously eating my food and thinking about my every action, so that I wouldn’t do something dumb and could fit in. No one cares!  Try not to focus on what other people think about you, or how to impress other people too much because most people are not paying as much attention, as you think they are. Everybody is so focused on themselves and their grades, so they are not worried about what you wear to school or how you said good morning. While you remember the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done, your probably can’t remember every embarrassing moment that has happened to your peers or friends. That’s because people are much less judgmental than you think. The truth is-you will find people who make you feel comfortable and those people will be your true friends. “I think the thing that really helped me was realizing like no one’s really thinking about me; they’re all thinking about themselves. So why should I be self conscious if no one’s thinking about me?” said senior Miriam Yampuler.

AP Human Geography is probably one of my least favorite classes. Sorry Ms. Schmidt. It’s not because of the teacher or the subject matter, but because of the 20 pages of reading you have every week. So, my advice is to read! This may come as a shocker because the main way we learn is by reading, but if you have had any experience with a Carnegie social studies class, you will know how hard it is to keep reading pages on end about the demographic transition model and maintain focus. It can get exhausting to read lengthy pieces on seemingly boring topics but it will benefit you in the end because if you become complacent with reading, your knowledge in the class and your grades will follow.