How to Survive High School


Ah, High School… that age old nemesis. That cruel mistress who we must all defeat in order to enter into “adulthood” and officially climb onto the ladder that leads to “freedom”.  It would appear that nothing short of superpowers could help us get through the turmoil that is teenage-hood, but alas we do not have that luxury. For those of you who simply wish to get by unscathed and in more or less one piece, read on as we share with you the top ten tips for surviving your high school experience.

Take Your Studies Seriously:
Let us get this pesky piece of advice out of the way first. We know the very idea of surviving high school while maintaining good grades appears to be an insurmountable task, yet it can in fact be done. Yes, you may well have to endure unduly trials and tribulations on a daily basis, what with spots and the sudden onset of your raging hormones, but you still need to realize that in order for you to escape the clutches of high school you have to actually pass high school. When it comes to homework, tests and exams… Study. Do your work. Prepare. Find a ‘study buddy’ (one that is not too good looking as you need to remain focused) and put in the hours as it is essentially your ticket out of the crazy universe that is high school. Remember that although you may not know what you want to do with your life just yet, and there is nothing wrong with that, you want as many options as you can get. Some of us only realise in our late twenties, or thirties even, what our passion truly is and would it not be nice to have the freedom of choice when that time comes.

Choose Your Friend Group Wisely:
We all inherently wish to be part of the “popular” group in high school, but is it really that important? Will it make that much of a difference to hang around with the ‘cool kids”? Ask yourself this: would you rather spend time with a bunch of people who have to constantly keep up with everything that is happening or would you rather spend time with others who get your quirky sense of humour and who you can open up to when you need to talk? Don’t get us wrong, we are not ‘slamming’ the popular kids, we are merely pointing out that by entering into this group you will endure a lot more pressure as you will have to continuously conform to a group’s opinion and manner of doing things. Yes, it may be fun to have parties to go to every single weekend, but do you really wish to survive in a “herd” with drama each day? Why not spend time with those who will not force you to be anything other than yourself? Take the time to approach those who perhaps do not look so ‘cool’, they might bring you the most happiness and stability throughout your teenage years.

Grow Your own Self-confidence:
It is an extremely difficult task to find out who You are in your teenage years and we all go through various phases in order to realise this. Most of us look back on high school and cringe at that “trendy” hairstyle we just had to have or that obscene pair of pants we insisted on wearing everywhere we went. But, that is a crucial part of discovering yourself. You need to be less critical and be more kind to You. Rather than looking to others for approval, take a good look at yourself and actually see your positive attributes. True self-confidence comes from within and you deserve to feel good about yourself, even if you have to fake it a little at first. Those of us who turn to our peers to feel good about ourselves, never do. And those of us who make the effort to like ourselves and acknowledge our strengths, leave high school with a much better sense of self.

Listen to Your Parents (occasionally):
The above heading alone will make some of you want to stop reading, but wait a minute! Bear with us as we share with you a little secret that may provide you with the guidance you need at a critical time. This may sound utterly ridiculous, but that old fossil you call ‘mom’ has in fact been where you have been. She too, has been heartbroken, moody, unhappy, stressed and felt like her world is ending on a daily basis. It is rather sad that the majority of us only become ‘friends’ with our parents in our adult years, while our teenage experience is filled with outbursts of “you don’t understand!” Sound familiar? Take a minute and consider the old battle axe for who she is: a person. Someone who has walked the path you are currently on and survived it. Our parents may not know exactly what we are dealing with, but we guarantee you they will be able to advise. You do not have to follow their direction on every little issue. You need to discover things on your own as well. You have to make mistakes and learn from them in order to grow. However, when you are in the midst of a great struggle perhaps you should sit down with your mom or dad and just let your emotions out. Apart from the benefit of a sounding board to vent to, they may surprise you with a sense of understanding that you cannot always get from your friends.

Learn to Prioritize and make “me” time:
Amongst all the homework, extra curricular activities, tests and exams as well as the social events you have to attend, it often appears virtually impossible to get a decent night’s sleep let alone have time to relax. Many of us work exceptionally hard at high school and try to maintain an all round balance, but we simply cannot always burn the candle at both ends. Yes, you have projects due and on top of that your mother keeps insisting that you tidy your room, when you know that your disorganised mess is actually part of an intricate system that you have been perfecting for years. We have so many issues to deal with on a daily basis and as you grow older you are forced to take on more responsibilities, but you have to also make time for yourself. You need to breathe in order to cope with life and the trauma that comes with being a teenager.  Grab a pen right now and underline this sentence to show your mom next time she is on your back: You need time to chill out and be a teenager. You have a lot to do, but half an hour spent watching your favourite sitcom will provide you with the sense of calm you need in order to sustain that healthy balance.  

Keep the End Goal in mind:
When you are in the middle of one of those unbearable periods in your life where you feel there is just no way to get through what you are currently suffering, take a minute. Step back and look at your problem for what it is. Whether you are facing a huge concern or a small one, such as your clothes suddenly feeling way too tight today, keep one thing in mind: you will get through this. You will come out on the other side. You may feel as if there is no solution and no reason to even get out of bed the next day, however, you need to realise that this is merely part of the right of passage that you have to experience while growing up. There is in fact that age old light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a life after high school and it’s a pretty good one too. When you are caught right in the middle of the vortex that is a teenage crisis, take a breather and remind yourself that the issue you are having can be fixed and you will get through these tough years.

Control those Hormones (it’s possible!):
You would think that at the ripe old age of 26 I would no longer have to deal with such atrocities as spots. Nope. From time to time I wake up and have a spot or two and feel the urge to give old Mother Nature a swift kick in the stomach. For teenagers, things are a whole lot worse. Between the ages of 12 and 18 life is not that great. Teenagers have to contend with school, spots, hair growing out all over and then not to even speak of what those horrid hormones do to our brains. Hormones seem to take over our bodies and turn us into aliens for more or less five years of torture. There are, however, ways to make this immense suffering slightly easier.

As much as we love those McDonalds burgers and KFC buckets of fried chicken with a large Coke, they do nothing for our bodies. The amount of oils and fats that we consume with sweets, fatty foods and copious amounts of carbs only add to our mood swings and acne ridden complexions. Although it is the less fun option, make the choice to eat fruit each day, drink water and get enough sleep. This can greatly aid you in the fight against temper tantrums and mood swings. Both males and females suffer from hormonal changes on their journey to becoming adults and a simple change in diet as well as getting some exercise will help to manage these difficulties.

Be Kind to others:
Ok, so there’s this rumour going around about the new kid and it’s simply too hilarious to not pass along. Completely understandable, when you’re a teenager trying desperately to fit in with those giggling around you. However, no matter which way you look at this there is no justification for ridiculing each other. Bullying and making fun of our peers begins at a very young age and we all fall victim to it at some point. Whether our older brother is making fun of us or our friends laugh at our choice of new sneakers, which our mom promised us was cool; there is no excuse for passing this behaviour on. As a high school student, nobody expects of you to run around defending those being made fun of. But, you do have the choice to keep quiet rather than adding fuel to the fire. Should you feel daring, perhaps you could even offer a kind word or smile to that poor soul when you pass them in the hallway. You do not have to go around smiling at all of your classmates each day, but when the choice arises between being cruel and keeping quite: choose to be quiet. At times offer some kindness to those around you, as you never know what they are going through in their own lives. Smile, be patient and care about others. You never know when you may need someone to do the same for you.

Don’t shy away from your teachers:
Let’s face it: nobody wants to ask a question in the middle of a Maths lessons where the teacher is already irritated due to the class clown having pulled some joke yet again. Why would we draw attention to ourselves when our classmates have a full view of the massacre that is sure to be the result of you raising your hand at this most inopportune of moments?

Should you not feel comfortable to ask questions in class make a note of your current issue and speak to your teacher after the lesson. Not only will you be out of the line of fire, but you will be able to get a personalised answer and you may even build a good work rapport with your teacher. Keep in mind that throughout the turbulence of high school you still need to understand your work so that you may leave one day and enter into the afterlife that is adulthood.

What Truly Matters:
This is perhaps the most vital piece of wisdom that I can share with you. As a teenager, we all feel that we are being continuously monitored and evaluated by our friends and peers. However, this simply is not the case. Yes, we have to consider what to wear on casual days and how we perform both academically and on the sports field. But, and this is the shocking part, we are not actually under some “Hunger Games” telescopic dome where our every move is being judged. Nobody really cares whether or not you tripped while running on the hockey field or dropped all your books outside of your locker, rather than in it. The reality is that when we make the choice to live our lives as individuals we afford ourselves the freedom to enjoy our experiences and learn from them as we grow up.

I hope that by sharing these tips we have been able to impart some wisdom to those of you reading this article. I hope it has offered you some form of comfort and even a tool or two to add to your survival kit for teenage life. If there is one final bit of advice I can add it will be something that I learnt only after my teenage years, which I wish I had realised sooner. Be true to yourself. Look at who you are and stand up for what you feel. There is a life after the abyss and it is the most satisfying of feelings to have found yourself. I wish for all of you to find yourselves soon, but remember to enjoy the path that gets you there.

- written by Carla Van Staden

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