My Parting Advice for Every Year of High School

How to Survive High School written on lined paper with a beach scene

Photo courtesy of Girls ask Guys

How to Survive High School written on lined paper with a beach scene

Sirianna Blanck, Editor-in-chief

Welcome to high school! It’s both every cliche you’ve heard and none of them at once, good luck! Just know it’s over in four years and in the span of your life, that’s pretty short. No worries though, it’s gonna feel SO long. Here’s my advice:

Freshman year

Take no APs, unless you want to be valedictorian

Join every club that remotely interests you

Yes, that means you will likely quit them all too by the time high school is over but the difference this can make in you making friends and finding hobbies is astronomical. I’ve dumped lots of clubs over the years but I have also found some of the best people and spaces at Chamblee through this overextending method. You can quit them by second semester if they aren’t your thing but if you don’t overextend like this, you may never find that hidden niche or best friend that will make high school a great experience.

Don’t stress about dating

You’re in high school now and you’re ready to live out that YA fiction novel, dating lots of people, going to parties, and making memories. But that’s not real life. I put way too much pressure on myself to do things that, in reality, were not me at all. Only now as a senior am I even realizing that. You don’t have to be “cool” or “that girl” or “the cool guy,” just figure out who you are and keep your grades up. Don’t do drugs or get wild, chill out.

What this has to do with my piece of advice is, don’t devote so much of your brainpower to who you have a crush on. There are gonna be lots of cute guys and girls throughout your years here, AND lots of people who you’ll wish you never interacted with, and if you’re trying to date those people rather than foster friendships and hobbies, you’re gonna be pretty unhappy. Trust me, you won’t realize who are the actual good people and who’s gonna treat you like sh*t until it’s too late.

Basically, don’t look for your high school sweetheart even though that’s what every movie and TV show about high school has been portraying to you since you were a child.

Just focus on having fun rather than falling in love and watch out for those red flags.

Let go of middle school

I know that for you it will literally have been the school year prior, but to the rest of the school, Middle school was a fever dream that happened when they were a different person. Let go of your grudges and toxic friendships. Keep the good memories but let them stay just that. Don’t try to hold on to the past throughout your underclassmen years, and instead, start being a high schooler.

Yeah, this takes some maturity and growth and in reality, I don’t have much advice on how to do this, but you’ll be a lot better off and happier in the long run if you can let go of middle school.

And if you struggle with it, don’t worry, you’ll have forgotten it all by senior year anyways.


The Blue & Gold has many guides to volunteering, articles about events that have happened, what each honor society is, etc. BUT to me, none of this matters.

Here’s what I think you should do, join two volunteer organizations while an underclassman. You can also totally take this advice your sophomore year instead of your freshman year if you want. Join two clubs: one that is more general but you can achievably do, say maybe Beta or Interact, and then one that fits your interests. If you go here, you can see all the different clubs at Chamblee, which include STEM, art, and identity-based organizations based around community volunteering. If you like art, there’s the National Art Honor Society, which will look better to colleges than another random volunteering job because it will show your passion to them when they read your resume. Choose the one that fits you best and stick to that. This will also give you more opportunities actually related to what you like to do and show colleges who you are and that you’re a good candidate for their school.

Here’s the big advice, if you join more than two, you’re gonna be so overwhelmed with required hours and it won’t be any fun. Also, after two volunteer clubs, I doubt colleges really care anymore about that aspect of your resume. They know you give back, what else is there about who you are?

Sophomore year

Take 1-3 APs

You made it through the first quarter, congrats! If you didn’t use any of that advice your freshman year, PLEASE use it your second year. On top of that though:

Find a leadership position that interests you

Now that you’ve tried out lots of clubs and sports (hopefully), figure out which one you have enough of a passion for to become more involved in. Whether you want to make big club decisions, send out information to club members, or just be a bit of an assistant to the teachers or club leaders, every club at Chamblee has some sort of leadership role. Not only does this help college applications, but it can also teach you how to take on responsibility and push yourself in a new direction.

If there is not a single club you would want to lead, start a new club!

Sophomore year is in my opinion, the best year to start a club. This gives you plenty of time to go through the club-making process, as detailed here, and create long-lasting events and leadership while at Chamblee.

Also in case you didn’t know yet, CommonApp is gonna ask you for ten activities (clubs, sports, extracurriculars, jobs, competitions or awards, etc.). If you have absolutely no clue how you would come close to filling that section, start planning now so your upperclassmen years are less scary.

Here is the point where I’m going to explain my captions about how many APs to take since we’re discussing college, but just in the theoretical underclassmen sense. Many colleges limit the number of credits you can transfer in and/or only accept credit for 4 or 5 scores on the AP exams, hence, you don’t need to take as many as you think. Trust me, I took less than these numbers I’ve listed and I got into tier 1 colleges. Chamblee is a pretty competitive school and you can easily get tricked into thinking you need a bigger course load than you actually can handle or even need for your future.

While they are certainly nice for the GPA boost and many are more unique classes, AP’s can be pretty overrated.

Just don’t overdo it, okay?

Junior year

Take 2-4 APs

You’re an upperclassman; high school is about to be both way easier and harder than before.

Take the SAT and ACT this year

This is truly the best, concrete advice I think I can give.

Getting these under your belt is such a big step off the college process and also doing it your junior year rather than senior year gives you plenty of time to study, retake them if need be, and find peace with the standardized testing process.

ALSO, I highly recommend taking both IF you have the money and time. Even though on paper these may be similar tests, I found the experience of taking them completely different and the scores are curved and actually translate very differently so taking both is really nice because colleges will only ask you for one!

Also, I doubt they will still be offering this when you take it, but if they are, don’t take these tests with an essay component added on, it’s such a waste of time and effort.

Start brainstorming colleges and career paths BUT don’t worry about it

You will probably have changed your mind many times by the time you actually start applying to college so don’t actually feel like you need to figure these things out. However, having a preliminary list of what you enjoy studying or doing, where you want to live in the future, what scholarships are available, and what schools interest you can really help when you get to senior year. Giving yourself a bit of a head start without an imminent deadline and any pressure is honestly just really calming in my opinion before life gets any crazier.

Know that Junior year is arguably one of the hardest years of high school, and just take it one week at a time if you have to. Keep good friendships and relationships, dump toxic people, and find time to take care of yourself.

Senior year

Take a maximum of 3-4 APs

You made it! I hope there weren’t too many evil exes, unhealthy friendships, or life ruining moments, but also know, we all had them too.

Senior year is a roller coaster. I’m just gonna give you a checklist because there’s lots of advice everywhere about this part of your life.

  • Examine your schedule, take as many electives as you can/want to! Make this year as fun as possible. Also, the counselors don’t like to advertise this, but you technically don’t need to take a science if you passed each year of science before this, and if you’re magnet, you’ll likely have your language and math credits. I literally took no STEM classes my senior year and for someone who loves the humanities like me, it was so much better.
  • Only be a part of the clubs and sports you actually enjoy. This isn’t freshman year anymore; you’re too busy for that random morning meeting of the club you forget about half the time.
  • Make a CommonApp account
  • Get your standardized test scores uploaded
  • Write all those college essays
  • Ask your favorite teachers to write recommendations for you
  • Find a couple of scholarships

Here’s my best piece of advice for senior year, though: APPLY EARLY ACTION

This truly will increase your chances of getting into college and it makes the second semester way better because you’ll have all your decisions back to you months earlier than anyone who applied regular decision! It was my best decision this whole year. If a college is going to defer or reject you, at least you’ll know early enough to have good backup plans.

Also, at this point, if there are any cuisines you haven’t tried, or if you’ve never ever been to a concert or an art museum or like the zoo or aquarium, or anything like that, and you have the resources, now is a great time to expand your horizons a bit before you head off into the real world as an adult.

And if you feel lost about anything else, just ask your teachers, upperclassmen you know, or consult the Blue & Gold!