We have all heard it: these are supposedly the best four years of our life.
But are these years we spend monstrously walking the halls of high school really the best years we will ever live? Or will we look back on these four years with a sense of regret?
The best way to ensure we graduate high school regret-free is to step outside the bubble we live in and to step outside of the classrooms we are trapped in. Gaining a sense of the greater picture -- of how these years affect our future -- will ground us in the decisions we make during these four years. When we are receiving our diploma at graduation, what will we wish we had done differently?
When we base our thinking on this imagery, suddenly our perspective will be a little more focused. But more than that, we will ensure that we can look back on the four years with a positive note.
Of course, it is always difficult to obtain complete regret-free status just by, well, thinking about what we will regret in the future. Fortunately, here is a list of how to prevent some of the most common regrets:
1. Try out for your favorite sport (or the musical, or the band, or Student Council, etc.).
So many people want to be an athletic superstar in high school, and the reality is that very few ever will be. But that does not mean you will never play on varsity. If you are even vaguely considering trying out for something, do it, even if you do not think you will make it. It is much better to try out for a team and not make than it is to constantly wonder in the future if you would have made it. And if you do not make it, keep trying out for other sports or activities (or try out for the team next year) until you find one that is meant to be.
But this also leads into the next one...
2. Do not try out for the sport (or activity) the next year if you do not enjoy it.
If you make the team and find out it is not all you thought it would be, do not keep playing in the future. Even if you are the star player on varsity. If it is not worth your time, if you are not being treated fairly, if it is causing more harm than good, or if you simply are tired of it, just finish up the season and do not try out again. If it is something you can fix by talking to a coach or taking a break, then by all means do that before quitting -- because you do not want to regret quitting, either. But ultimately do what is best for you, and you will not regret it in the future.
3. Listen to the cliché advice of joining clubs... but do not join too many.
High school is all about absorbing every opportunity you have. Join clubs. Be involved. Be proud of the school you attend. Take a stand against injustice, learn new things, and meet new people.
But do not go overboard. If you are in every single club your school offers -- or close to that -- you will never find what you are really passionate about.
And you will not even have space to list all your clubs on the Common Application for college anyway.
4. Get to know every single person in your grade. Do not set limits on who you can be friends with, and do not judge people.
I guarantee one of your biggest regrets could be going to a class reunion, speaking with someone, and thinking to yourself, "Who are they?" (even after they have introduced themselves). Sure, there are a ton of people in high school. But each person has a unique story and personality that is worth getting to know. It is impossible to know who you could end up being friends with, so do not take the risk of missing out on a great friendship. Get to know everyone.
5. Get to know your teachers.
Teachers would not come to school unless they wanted to teach you and help you. So no matter how crazy or evil they may seem, get to know them. They will teach you more than you could ever expect. And if you think you will never regret not getting to know your teachers, wait until you are a senior and cannot find a teacher to write you a good letter of recommendation for college.
6. Have fun, but do not have too much fun. Stay true to yourself.
You will probably regret spending every Friday night at home alone (unless that is just your personality), so go out there and have some fun. But do not have too much fun; you will regret that MIP that is on your permanent record. You do not have to engage in illegal activities to have fun. And do not think you will regret your decision to not drink or partake in other illegal or immoral activities -- because you will not. Society makes it seem like in order for high school to be high school, you have to drink or partake in similar activities. But you do not. Stay true to who you are and the ideals you live by. Do not change who you are just for the approval of others.
If you want to be the high school superstar that has a perfect academic record, is the star of the varsity team, has the greatest social life, and is president of Student Council -- you are not going to get any sleep. And in return, you will probably not have much fun either. It is impossible to do everything and be perfect at everything and get sleep at the same time. Choose what is most important to you, and do not stress out about everything else. Keep your academics at the forefront of your priorities, but do not go overboard. Maintain a proper balance. If you are getting less than two hours of sleep -- or less than six for that matter -- you need to realize that you are going to regret being tired every day of your life more than you will regret getting a 95 instead of a 100 on a test.
8. Go to school events.
Do not be afraid of asking someone to prom. Do not miss out on Friday night football games. Do not forget to go all-out on school spirit days. Do not get too caught up in the stress of high school to forget that this is your chance to get involved -- and the chance to make this four of the greatest years of your life.