Advice from one class to another

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© HAWKEYE Rodney Budden

The most common responses upperclasmen gave when asked what advice they’d tell to incoming freshmen.

By Maggie O'Hara and Rachel Davis

While students across the country prepare to return to their academics this September, some go up one step in the same school, and others take a larger step into a whole different experience. Freshman year is one of those transitions. It tends to be one of the most feared, with the unknown and harsh expectations creating a terrifying view of everything that could go wrong in someone’s first year. But for every worried freshman entering the halls of a brand new high school, there is an upperclassman who is willing to offer their best advice to make the transition just a little bit easier. 

No one is exempt from the difficulty of freshman year. Everyone has to either face the inevitable or already have. Those people have learned from what stuck with them the most, mistakes they made and opportunities they wish they’d taken advantage of. With that in mind, not everyone has to look back and wish they’d done things differently. For current MTHS freshmen, there’s no time like the present.

Section A: Join clubs, go to school events

The contrast between middle and high school when it comes to extracurriculars, activities, and other ways to get involved can be daunting to say the least. There’s a club for every niche interest you could imagine, constant sports games, regular spirit weeks, assemblies, concerts, dances, events; there’s so much that it can seem easier to just avoid it altogether. However, getting involved in the community by attending events and joining clubs can be immeasurably rewarding, even if it’s out of your comfort zone.

When she was a freshman, senior Ishah Musa didn’t know what to expect. Her only impression of high school was what she’d seen in classic teen movies, with cliques and freshmen getting shoved into lockers. While she wasn’t scared of socializing, the first football game she attended still made her nervous.

“At first, going to football games was so out of my comfort zone,” Musa said. “I remember my very first football game freshman year and I was so stressed to go. I was so uncomfortable I told my sister that I didn’t want to go and she told me, ‘No, you’re gonna go.’”

When Musa did eventually decide to go to the football game she was surprised to discover that it was actually really fun for her. Instead of thinking about being crowded into a group of screaming teenagers she was able to relax with her friends and cheer for her team.

 “Now I go to every single football game there is, and I go to basically all or most school events,” she said. “Because of that first football game, I now have created so many friendships through football games and through school events, so the experience definitely did come with a positive outcome.”

Since her freshman year, Musa has fully immersed herself in the Terrace community, joining Key Club, National Honor Society, the Class of ‘23 ASB, Interhigh, Connect, and Teens Against Tobacco Use. In the same way that going to school events does, participating in these clubs has made Musa’s high school experience memorable and helped her learn more about herself.

“They taught me who I am and what I advocate for, and again, they also introduced me to a bunch of amazing people who are all together as a community to make a difference,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to branch out, join different interesting clubs, talk to a bunch of people and go to different school events.”

Section B: Keep up with your work, but don’t let it control you

Procrastination is one of the biggest struggles for a high school student to face. The consequences also become greater as classes get more difficult and a permanent high school transcript follows your every action.

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© HAWKEYE Rodney Budden

Senior Davis Gonzaga transferred to MTHS in his sophomore year from Nevada and wanted to practice his social game. He ended up sacrificing his grades for relationships and found himself struggling.

“I made the mistake of focusing on people instead of my schoolwork,” Gonzaga said. “I was so overly obsessed and overwhelmed with the social aspect of high school that it was hard for me to keep my grades up.”

Even if it is over-repeated: grades are important. It is fine to mess around and have fun while you’re young, but it is important to find an equal balance between fun and work. Messing around in your freshman year may be fun at the moment, but it can hit you down the road, so be careful! There’s no shame in taking easier classes in order to keep up.

At the same time, schoolwork is a balance, and having an extreme focus on it can have a negative impact. While slacking on studies is harmful, so is revolving your entire life and self-worth on them. That balance is especially difficult to keep up with the emphasis schools put on grades.

When senior Elijah Facklam was a freshman, he came out of middle school with the mindset that anything below perfection wasn’t good enough.

“[I] spent all of my time on school and basically made sure I got 100% on everything,” Facklam said. “I stressed over getting 90% on a test and it didn’t give me a good mental space.”

Over time and his experience in classes, he grew to create a separation between him and his grades, and learned that it’s okay not to get a perfect grade on every single assignment.

“I know I can fail a few tests and still get an A. I now know I don’t have to be perfect,” he said. “Don’t worry about the little things.” 

Section C: no one is superior or inferior

It is no secret that new freshmen tend to be regarded as annoying at first, and while it’s not all warranted, there are a few points that can be taken away as actual advice from upperclassmen’s grievances.

There are the basic tidbits of advice that almost anyone will give: don’t block the hallways, don’t scream in the hallways, don’t be overly distracting during your classes. But one of the most important pieces of advice (for anyone honestly) is to be humble. No one is above or below anyone else in our school, regardless of how old or young one might be. There’s no excuse to treat someone else differently, and there’s no social hierarchy.

“Coming into high school, a lot of people think that it’s like the movies where there’s a popular group and everyone has to bow down to them, when in reality it’s not like that at all,” Musa said. “Everyone respects each other and there is no ‘popular category,’ we all are a community and it’s really amazing to see the things we can achieve when we realize that.”

The best way to not be targeted is to just stay in your lane. The upperclassmen probably don’t know what kind of a person you are yet and the only thing they know is that you’re new and inexperienced in high school. Go ahead and don’t draw too much attention to yourself, but reach out to those you feel could become good friends with.

Section D: Be yourself! 

Another one of the most reiterated pieces of advice is to never change yourself for anyone else. Freshmen tend to follow the trends in their high school in order to fit in more with the community, but that isn’t necessary. Everyone has a place that they can fit in without the need for changing. 

Even if changing yourself may seem necessary to make friends or socialize with a specific group, if you have to change yourself for them, they may not be the best people to hang out with anyway.

“I went into high school thinking about how all these other people will perceive me. In fact, it’s only natural to want to be liked and to stay out of the spotlight of embarrassment,” Gonzaga said. 

“There were many times in my freshman year where I made the mistake of choosing what made me look cool over my own morals. Personally speaking, peer pressure can be elusive; it’s jarring to realize all of a sudden that you aren’t you.”

The reality is, there is a place for you, whether or not you’ve found it yet. It may take a while to figure out, but no one has to change themselves for others.