Advice to Underclassmen

I’m not here to pretend that I’m super mature or whatever. But thinking about how incredibly stupid I was for the first 3 years of high school makes me want to make sure that no one repeats even, like, 11% of my mistakes. I have some advice, and most of it isn’t the stupid stuff you’ll find on Pinterest or blog websites about how you should use a planner. For the record, I never used a planner. I’m not gonna comment on whether or not that affected me because I think this article is incriminating enough.


If you care about your grades, freshman year is when you start doing that. I’m serious. It’s a transition, so hit the ground running. If you’re potentially scrambling in later years, now you have a cushion, and your grades don’t completely tank. If you wanna not care about your last semester of senior year, you better hope you have the grades in previous years to back it up.

If you don’t care about your grades, but wanna pass, dope. But think about your priorities down the line. Do you want to get into college? A good college? Even less far down the line, do you want to be certain that you’ll pass a class? Riding the C train as far as it goes is awesome and valid, but it can be scary if you tank a final. But I see you, and I get it, and it’s chill.

If you don’t care about anything and just wanna get outta dodge, amen. But let’s be realistic here. It’s hard to live on the minute number of jobs you can get without a high school diploma these days. Look at how successful you would want to be, and how independent you want to be. If you’re cool with the risk, more power to you, but remember that you’re still an actual child and may not be cool with it down the line. High school sucks for all of the reasons that should make you want to work harder: to finish, and get the hell out.


No matter what grade camp you’re in, no one’s gonna care even a little bit the second you get out of here. In 10 years no one will care about any of it. They won’t care what your GPA was, where you went to college, how many AP and IB classes you took, or what you scored on a BS standardized test. Make the choices that will satisfy you and make you feel like you got what you wanted out of this experience. Pick classes that you like in high school- pick classes that will benefit you in the future. And for the love of GOD pick reasonable colleges that you actually like, if that’s even what you want to do. If you don’t know what you wanna be or what you wanna do, U of Chicago is not the place to be. If you don’t want to go to college, don’t go.

Don’t be afraid to take a gap year! Colleges really don’t actually care what you do with that time that much. If anyone has ever told you that, it’s fear mongering. Try to watch every video on YouTube, I dare you. In any case, Do what’s best for you, because you’re the one who has to sleep with it.

Don’t be afraid of switching classes, or overriding teacher recommendation if necessary- especially as an underclassman. If it’s not working, for any thousand reasons, switching classes could benefit you. Almost every roadblock put up to prevent you from doing this is to test how much you actually care about doing it. Advocate for yourself and getting the education that you need and deserve. That being said, about 99 times out of 100, your teacher will be acting in your best interests, so make sure you’re talking to them.


Talk to your teachers. They’re people too. Most of them. They will get you in and out of opportunities based on how much they actually know how sick you are. They will help you if you communicate with them. Most of the ones here will probably help you even if you don’t. But communicate  anyways, because it makes things easier for everyone involved. Plus, a lot of them are like, super chill and stuff. Not to mention if you already talk to them and communicate problems, they’ll probably give you some slack. Don’t abuse it, but take advantage if you need to. Your teachers are not scary, and if you think they hate you it’s probably because they just hate being alive sometimes. Who doesn’t?

Have a sense of humor and be friendly with the staff. All of the staff. With teachers, you can send a small amount of warranted snark their way, you can make jokes, and you can definitely stop emailing them like you’re talking to The Pope. Your boring, 1820s diplomat emails are doing no one any favors. I’m serious. If you’re asking a question and your email is more than 4 lines MAX, you’re doing something horribly, horribly wrong. If you can’t read it out loud without pauses, your teacher would probably rather read a book upside down.

Also, be kind to the other people that make this school actually function. Food staff, janitorial staff, secretaries, bus drivers, all of them. Have conversations with them and get to know them. They’re awesome people and your life would be hell at school without them.


Try going to a sporting event if you haven’t yet. If you’ve never been, and feel like you’re not the type of person who would enjoy it, suck it up, find a friend, and just go. It might suck. But, y’know, what if it doesn’t? At least you’ll know for sure either way. If you’ve been to a game or two, maybe try the sports that get a little less fan section love. Everyone loves Friday night lights, but maybe go to a field hockey or volleyball game, or a swim/track meet, or maybe a golf thing(?), if you can even go to those. 

 If you’re really adamant about the sports thing, try a school event that isn’t sports. Our school is good at a lot of things, and that talent and dedication often goes unseen in terms of garnering attention from the student body. Go to a debate meet, or a play, or a concert, or a film screening for the Femenist Club or the Civil Rights Team, or even just talk to your friends in mock trial and the science bowl about what they’re doing. Maybe you’ll find something that you actually enjoy doing.

Look. I’m about to get real enough that I might not be allowed to publish this part. You can ditch class sometimes. You can party sometimes. You can get zooted sometimes. You can do all the things that young people do. As a treat. But don’t go around ruining your life, chasing a feeling that will wait for you until you have job prospects and a working frontal lobe. Don’t waste all of this valuable time. You can waste some of it, everyone does, but don’t be an idiot.


I think we all know at this point that these are not the best years of our lives. If high school produced the best years of your life, your life is the problem. High school does go by quickly- and this is coming from someone who hated a whole lot of it. It kinda sucks, and for about 75% of it there was hardly a minute that I didn’t want to spend somewhere else. But it will get better, and I’m banking on the fact that I’ll forget most of it anyways. That being said, enjoy the parts that you’re supposed to enjoy. Enjoy the stupid stuff, like hearing the Halo theme coming from an overcrowded boys bathroom, or an atrocious school meme page that makes one half-decent joke every 9 posts. Enjoy the not as stupid stuff, like the time that you spent with your friends doing all the things you love doing, and enjoy all of the other people that make this experience a little bit more bearable and meaningful for you. Sometimes you’ll hate most of high school, and it’ll still end before you’re ready for it to. Make memories you’ll cherish, and burn out the rest. 


And consider using a planner.