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5 Things I Learned in High School that Prepared Me for College


For most people––including myself––there were so many moments in high school that felt completely useless to my future. Algebra? No thank you. But now, as a current sophomore in college, there are a few things that happened in high school that prepared me for life at college––even if I definitely did not realize it at the time.

1. It’s okay to be alone

When you are in high school, you are constantly surrounded by people all the time during the day. But for most of you, you went to school and then at the end of the day you went home without your friends. This meant that you got pretty used to spending even just a few minutes by yourself and embracing that.

When you get to college, it is pretty likely that you will have roommates (especially your first year). High school really taught me to take advantage of those moments of peace and quiet. This independence is super important in college. Personally, in college, I was already prepared for an independent lifestyle because of high school. So, whether it means going on spring break or even just grabbing coffee alone, because of high school, I can be independent with no worries. 

Sarah, a sophomore at Cornell University, agrees that high school taught her the importance of spending some time alone. “I was always super busy during the day and weekends with sports and clubs so when I got stressed out, I would go for a walk with my dog or just watch some TV," she says. "I realized that I needed alone time to decompress after a long week of socializing and when I got to college, I was easily able to find that again.” Sarah has the right idea!

2. Slow and steady wins the race

There are always going to be people in life who move at a faster pace than you do. For example, someone may get a better grade on a test than you and you find yourself comparing yourself to them––it all goes downhill from there.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” says Alexa, a senior at Mount Holyoke College. “Don't compare yourself to your friends because everyone moves at a different pace and will go in different directions. If you have to be a late bloomer, so be it, it'll pay off if you take your time—that goes for schoolwork, extracurricular, careers, relationships, everything.” Focus on yourself, because you are most important.

One of the biggest moments in a high school student’s life is when they find out where they are going to college. But, if you spend too much time looking at those around you and wondering why you didn’t get into that school that your friend did, you are going to waste a lot of time that could be spent developing your own skills and talents. College is all about individual growth and while competition is important, no good comes from dwelling too much on that.

3. Go with the flow

For me, high school was anything but organized. I was always running late because of car pools, joining new clubs and dealing with last minute plans and it stressed me out. However, looking back at it, the chaos of the drama, the grades (and everything else), all prepared me for the life of being a college student.

Bad days may have felt awful at the time, but now you must be so glad that you experienced them. Rachel, a junior at James Madison University, agrees. She says, “In high school, I learned that things aren't always going to go your way, and that's okay! Life is all about going with the flow, and that's [especially] important in college.” Things may not always go according to plan and the better you are with dealing with those kinds of situations, the happier you will be.

Related: 4 Things I Would've Done Differently During My College Search

4. Be tough

Do you remember ever having a terrible day where someone upset you and you went home and got a nice pep talk from your mom? She would say things like, “Ten years from now those people aren’t going to matter.” Well, she was right.  

Looking back at high school, everyone went through a bit of a tough time at some point, even if they didn’t show it. The bullying, the teasing and the being pushed down helped each of us grow up and prepare for the real world. Sydnee, a first-year graduate student at Florida Atlantic University, thinks the same. She says, “High school was more about growing up (maturing emotionally and mentally) than it was about college-prep academics.” Yes, the social studies and math classes were fundamental in preparing you for the life of college academics, but the bigger lessons were learned in the hallways. People can be mean, but as long as you hold your head up and remember that things will get better, everything is going to be okay.

5. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best

When I was a little kid I always saw the big kids, a.k.a. college students, at the local Jewish community center talking about how stressed out they were from school. Whenever I would wait until last minute to study for an exam, my parents always warned me that my “kind of work ethic" wasn’t going to fly in college. My parents' goal was not to scare me (I hope), but it was to make sure I knew that college was going to be harder than high school.

Olivia, a senior at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says, “I feel like [high school] teachers always said that you couldn't get away with things in college that you could in high school, even for silly things like not stapling your essay.” Olivia explains how the teachers made college seem a lot more daunting than it actually was, just as my parents did.

However, Olivia does have one piece of advice for high school students. “I would tell current high schoolers not to stress over it, because you get used to college pretty quickly,” she says. By having some of our teachers tell us that college would be WAY worse than it actually is, most of us were slightly surprised with how college actually turned out. By preparing for the worst­––a.k.a. 10 hours of homework a night––when you find out it actually is not that bad, I bet you will thank your teachers back home.

Although most people don’t use Beowulf or have to say all the states capitals on a day-to-day basis, there are some things all collegiettes definitely took away from high school. The experiences, the friendships, the growing up, all of it allowed us to become the students we are today, wherever we are. So, even if you look back at those four years of your life and wonder when you are ever going to need to use the Pythagorean theorem, try and remember all of the other important things that you learned instead. It will make your high school experience seem a lot more valuable than you may have originally thought.

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