High School Survival Guide

A Senior Offers Tips for Freshmen in Santa Barbara and Beyond

I am a proud survivor of high school. In fact, I have survived so successfully that the school asked me to spread my wisdom before I depart. And so I found myself speaking to room after room of freshmen, with several seniors by my side. I considered my last three years at Santa Barbara High. Did I make the right choices? Am I happy with my past? In some cases the answer is no, but those experiences were just as important as the good memories I have. It’s not that difficult to succeed in high school with the right formula, so memorize the basics and repeat again and again.

Go to class

This may seem obvious, but as the years progress, there will be more and more distractions keeping you from this goal. Ignore them. While an extra long lunch or a trip to the beach is enticing, the truancies are not worth picking up trash or a Saturday morning spent in detention. Not only will attending class give you participation points and gain the favor of the teacher, but you will be able to learn. Learning is, after all, the goal of education.


Homework and studying are not the same thing. Homework usually consists of answering questions or reading a story. As a freshman, most homework is worksheets due the following day. By senior year, homework is often reading the textbook, and assignments are due on test day or are not collected at all. Homework is assigned so you can practice understanding the material. In contrast, studying is reviewing the material until you understand it, and is self-paced. To succeed in high school and beyond, you must motivate yourself to learn on your own.

Join something

School sucks without friends. How do you make friends? Join something! The type of group doesn’t matter as long as your interest lies within it. It’s worth it to try something new, especially when you can still use your age as an excuse for your lack of skill. Branching out allows you to meet new people with similar interests and therefore new friends. Plus, extracurricular activities give you something to do in your free time and will help you in the future. Having interests and talents look great on resumes and on college applications , and can help you win scholarships.

Talk to adults

It may be daunting, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Teachers are the single greatest asset to education, and they’re conveniently placed in front of the classroom every morning for your personal use. Believe it or not, teachers want their students to succeed, but if you need help, it’s the student’s job to ask for it. Often teachers are willing to provide extra help at lunch and before and after school. Plus, it always helps to have a college letter of recommendation from a teacher who has seen your effort and knows you personally.

Further, counselors are the single greatest asset to getting into college. Stop by and chat with your counselor, whether it’s addressing an academic concern or just talking about your future. This is particularly important at SBHS, where each counselor takes care of over 300 students. Counselors can connect you to scholarships, awards, summer programs, and community involvement. The possibilities are available, but it’s the student’s job to start the conversation. Likewise, receiving a personal counselor recommendation is another advantage towards admittance at your college of choice.

Balance your life

I believe there are five different parts of every teenager’s life. These consist of family, work, academics, friends/relationships, and personal health. Everyone has their priorities, but a balance between the different pieces is necessary. Just as you cannot work 30 hours a week while attending class, sleeping, and having friends, you cannot party every night and expect to ace every test. Life needs balance, and in high school, this step is missing more often than not.


I shouldn’t have to include this section, but teenagers are known for making bad decisions. We hear the same message again and again, but it still hasn’t set in yet. If it had, we wouldn’t need police and ambulances to show up at school dances. Consume alcohol intelligently. Drive considerately. Choose your friends; don’t let them choose you. Consider your impact on everything around you and make a wise choice. Simply put, think before you act.


Finally, your future is up to you. In the end, it doesn’t matter what your parents want and it doesn’t matter what your friends say. Your life is your choice, so make sure you’re doing something that makes you happy and that you’ll be proud to look back upon. Keep track of time and follow deadlines. Find your passion, create your niche, and follow the right path for you. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you survive.


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