Thoughts on Not Only Surviving High School, but Thriving

Some words of un-solicited advice to those may or may not need it


As another summer comes to an end, another school year kicks off, fraught with the familiar terrors of grades, deadlines, and college essays. Last week in Mr. Jent’s AP Research class, an embodiment of the magnet experience occurred. He began the period upset because only seven people had turned in the homework assignment when he had checked it earlier in the morning. When he pulled up the Google Classroom page to show the class his source of ire, his expression starkly changed. 20 people had turned it in. The vast majority of the class had completed and turned in the homework assignment the day it was due, between the hours of 8:30 and 11:40 AM. Why would these high achieving students choose to put their grade at the mercy of their early morning classes? Had their previous teachers made them victims of a lengthy pop quiz, group project, or  time sensitive assignment, 13 of 20 assignments would not have been completed. Surely there must be a better way to survive this school. So to find out what that might be, I sat down with some current and former Raptors, drawing upon cumulative decades of high school veterancy. 


Procrastination, near and dear to the hearts of many, was cited as public enemy number one. Class of 2017 alumni Olivia Norman summed it up eloquently, “Even though we all have numerous out of school time commitments, sports, work, community service, etc. Ultimately we are our own worst enemy when it comes to preventing school work being done.” Time management was routinely declared as the most important thing to success at THE Academic Magnet, #2 school in the nation. Time management looks different for everyone of course. Senior Mebron Cayabyab implores those struggling with organization to “get an agenda, day planner, calendar, whatever you wanna call it, if you do nothing else.” That suggestion seems to be so well received that even the school district feels it, handing out agendas at the start of every year to aid student organizational skills. As many teachers are eager to let their students know, writing things down has been empirically proven to increase memory retention, “it is so important just to write down your responsibilities and come up with at least a preliminary mental plan of how to tackle them, writing it down starts the first step of figuring out approximately how much time things will actually take.” Always over-estimate rather than under. Kiss forgetting to do homework goodbye and say hello to consciously choosing not to do it! 


Senior Aaron Causey recommends setting aside time each day specifically dedicated to homework, first coming home to “relax, wind down, you know just calm down from all that stress which gets you worked up during the day” and then starting homework. “Installing good habits is key, definitely. It doesn’t happen all at once but it gets easier through repetition for sure,” he says. As an old Chinese proverb says: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  While some find it most beneficial to meticulously plan out each minute of each day, breaks included, taking a looser approach can be equally effectiv;, it really just depends on the person. Try things out and figure out what would be most helpful for your specific needs and situation.


These simple things, choosing to try and make a positive change, are the root of it all. Personally, I’ve found it really helpful to try and just focus on one area of my day the night before and come up with a vague plan of how to do it better than I’ve done in the past. I don’t mean exclusively academically focused either; something I’ve found a lot of enjoyment in recently has been cooking. I mean, who doesn’t feel good munchin’ on warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven? (Amateur tip: brown the butter) Taking care of your mental health is supremely important for trying to manage your academic health. It becomes infinitely more difficult to analyze centuries old texts written by wealthy plantation owners who never had to work a day in their life defending their core values of liberty and freedom, write essays espousing your own personal virtue to determine the backdrop of the next four years of your life, or grinding out mind numbing frequency analysis of the NFL salary cap, when even existing can seem like a challenge at times. 


Taking time to reset, relax, and just calm down, even sometimes at the expense of the occasional grade or two, will pay dividends. Find some time to inhale the aroma of seasonally scented candles and just take it one second at a time. Whether it be playing the guitar, drawing, or performing retrospective political meta-analysis just for the fun of it, finding a hobby which brings about passion was a consistent idea expressed by the raptor kettle. (Kettle is the technical word for a group of Raptors. See, learning can be fun!) Hobbies can provide an avenue for picking up helpful interdisciplinary skills. Those voluntary pursuits can also open up a worldview from a potentially different angle, such as appreciating the complexity of something as surface level dull as the growth of grass from an artistic point of view. 


Performing the minimal level of acceptable work is probably a good tip too. Maybe not generally, but in school for sure. At the end of the day, what you get out of highschool are grades. Grades which impact what college you will go to, if you decide to go, and how much it will cost you. That’s it. There is no point in working extraneously hard on something for no benefit. Writing 12 paragraphs for a required 3 paragraph completion grade assignment is just choosing a more difficult path. If it is something you are very interested in or have free time on your hands, by all means go for it. However, it is important to consider the opportunity cost of every action. Extra work means time not spent doing something else. Brain Drain for no gain. So by all means, do the minimum and no more. Utilize other student’s quizlets, take advantage of google slides templates, search those homework questions and find someone else’s worksheet, make it easy not hard.


Looking at school simply as an exchange of time for college entrance and a cheaper university education is one perspective for sure, but it also ignores a big part of what makes high school such a unique time in life; Socialization. The coming of age story is one as old as time, and it is a major part of the highschool experience. Making friends, learning how to have conversations, exploring humor, discovering interests, is all extremely important. Join clubs, participate in class discussions, don’t interrupt a fun off-topic teacher tangent to ask about homework. Discuss your daily horoscope with friends. Enjoy these simple interruptions to the monotonous school day; that’s what makes high school special. You will regret the times you didn’t take a social risk much more than the times you did. Do not be afraid of going to lunch club meetings and just trying to meet new people. Those club meetings exist for a reason. The leaders could easily choose just to eat lunch with their friends, without extending an invitation to join, but that’s the point of the club meetings, to meet new people. The vast majority of high school kids are nice, and they have no reason to dislike a stranger unless given one.


Current 12th grader John O’Neill recommends the occasional reductionist perspective to help, just to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Inspired by Aristotle, he finds “taking the emotion out of your actions, just do it, even if you don’t want to” to help him manage his school life. At the end of the day, the vast majority of people don’t appreciate your intentions or mental state at the time, only the actions and end result. It can be a precariously difficult balance, but one begets the other.

As any student can tell you, it is extremely stressful to be behind, infecting every thought. The best way to not be behind, is to adopt practices which make it easier to stay up to date. Duh right? I mean it though. Preventive steps significantly ease the action itself, settling into routine makes the right practices second nature instead of contrived and arduous challenges. All-in-all, the most important tip is to find what works for you. The approach sets up success or failure for the most part. Try and try and try, until you find a good approach.