When I was a new freshman, jumping at shadows and trying to sink through the bottom of my chair in the back of the room, there was a senior who pulled me aside and taught me a few things that made a lot of difference in how I approached being in high school.
Now that I've graduated, I can see how true the things she told me are, plus there are a few things I've learned myself during the past four years. So, in the spirit of helping the new kids out there, here's my list of 10 Things I Wish I'd Known As a Freshman.
Whether you're a new student entering high school, middle school or college, or just a student starting another school year, these tips can help ensure a better, more confident year.
1. Ignore the cheerleaders and popul-atzzi, but learn from them too
The only reason these students are so far above the rest of society is because they have all the self-confidence in the world. Underneath the hairspray, cologne and name brands, they're the same as anyone; they just have confidence in themselves and the places they're going. Ignore their high-and-mighty act, but follow their lead and try to be a little more confident yourself.
2. Decide to make the most of things
We've all been to those school dances where the person that brought you is not, by any means, the person you wanted to bring you, your clothes aren't what you'd hoped them to be, and there is a serious lack of dancing skills on everyone's part. Something I didn't realize till it was far too late is that none of that matters! If a good time is wanted, those outside factors aren't important. Just cut loose and be yourself and everything else will fall into place.
3. Challenge yourself as often as you can
When the school counselors say it the day everyone is signing up for next year's classes, it just seems like one of those things adults say to teenagers. But really, the classes that are the hardest classes are the ones that make you grow the most! The hard academics prepare students for college; also, the more difficult social situations or a group of unfamiliar people can improve conversation skills and provide the path to new friendships.
4. Be a friend to everyone
I'm not saying that it's necessary to become bosom friends with the one person that you most despise or the really awkward kid that never talks, but try smiling at the new kid and introducing yourself. If you're nice first, most people will be drawn in by that kindness. Teachers will notice it too, and appreciate the fact that having you in their class makes their job just a smidgen easier.
5. Be the 'Thankful Theodore'
The one surefire way to earn brownie points with any adult is to thank them for anything they do for you. But make sure when being appreciative to them about their sacrifice for you that it's always 100 percent sincere because there's nothing more offensive or rude than an insincere expression of gratitude. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
6. Avoid trauma-drama
Unless you're involved in the theater club and you're talking about the newest play the group is putting on, it's just easiest for everyone to avoid drama like the plague. Really, being ornery with someone or a group of people gets everyone nowhere but too deep into a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Just be nice -- even if others are rude first. Walk away. Don't look back. Leave them alone.
7. Be part of the solution
It's easy to complain about how bad the morning announcements stink, but they're always going to stink unless someone gets up and changes them. And there are a lot of perks to being involved in student government and other clubs and organizations, so give it a try. Leadership positions look great on scholarships and it's a wonderful way to make new friends. Not to mention, these activities are super fun!
8. Know your boundaries
There's always going to be that date that pushes your comfort zone a little bit, the maybe-more friend that makes your heart race, the situation that makes you super vulnerable. Embrace the excitement of being young and silly, but don't get stupid and do something regrettable. Before a date, review your standards in your head. Know exactly what you will and won't do ahead of time so when it's the moment of truth, you already know the answer.
9. Stay positive
We all know that one friend who makes everything as painful as possible because they're just that negative. No one ever wants to hang out with them or invite them for Jamba or take them on the spontaneous shopping trips. So even if something isn't perfect, put on a smile and enjoy it as best as possible. People will appreciate your smile and attitude, and the positive effect it will have.
10. People are who they are -- enjoy them
There's no reason to be mean or ornery at someone for being different than you. Embrace the fact that every member of the human race is special in their own special way and that there's something to be learned from everyone you meet. Love the fact that if we were all carbon copies of each other, we'd be so bored we'd die from lack of brain activity.
Besides, being nice to someone a little different than yourself can enrich your life and provide new opportunities.
Abby Payne recently graduated from Bear River High School. When she's not singing, writing or talking a million miles an hour, you can always find her reading. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.