I like to think I “beat” high school. I can look back on those four years and feel proud of what I accomplished, and I’m going to the college I want to go to, the one I thought was too good for me.
Based on that, here’s what I think I did to be successful, however late that lesson came. I hope someone can benefit from what I’ve figured out.
1) I didn’t let opportunities get past me.
Somewhat a lie. This was a lesson in progress. If there was something I wanted to do, I took a shot at it. For example, I had held out for two years against the UIL calculator team. I thought it was pointless and a waste of time. By the time senior year came, I was in Scott’s room when she offered to have me try out for it. For 15 minutes, I can afford to take the chance that it might be cool, and we ended up 2nd at region, 7th in the state. True, you might only go into something with a half-hearted effort, but it might pay off. Just like so many other things in life, the worst thing that could happen is that they say “no”.
2) I Slept.
For the first two years of high school, if I didn’t have a specific activity to keep me up, I went to sleep before 9:30. After that, it started to slide, but I held myself to a midnight bedtime. The one time I stayed up to finish an assignment ended up totally not being worth it, since it was taken for essentially a completion grade.
I remember a then senior mentioning to me during my sophomore year how he would stay up until 2 in the morning doing nothing. While that doesn’t sound too unusual to me now, I was quite surprised. Since then, I’ve had my late nights, though I kept those few.
Sleep doesn’t sound the most exciting; I wish I needed an hour or two less every night. That’d mean another hour or two of work or fun. But I do. And when I didn’t, I paid for it.
The thing I know for sure about it though is that it isn’t worth it staying up to do school work. It really isn’t that important. Homework can either be forgone or mashed into classes. Studying can be mashed into classes. Even if it was important, staying up doesn’t work out. If I were to stay up for another hour, I would maybe get about half-an-hour’s worth of work done, and have to make up an hour of sleep, usually during class. Makes more sense to me to do that work in class. And that’s easier to hide than sleeping. Though I’ve seen some awesome sleeping tactics…
3) I got ahead.
Thank my dad for this one. The best thing to make school easy and free time to do other stuff is to get exposure beforehand. I didn’t even get a lot of the stuff he taught me the first time, but when it came up again, it was a breeze.
This one also kind of ties into #1 (take opportunities). So many extra-curriculars are designed to test students at a higher level than they’re at. In striving for those, I made life easier later. After-school Computer Science practice freshmen year turned CS2 sophomore into a breeze, and when my dad’s help in math ran dry junior and senior year, it was okay. I had touched on the concepts in math contests.
4) I got busy.
I’m sticking to the belief that the best work I ever did was when I was the most busy. Any band kid can tell you that marching season is incredibly intense, and band students don’t have nearly as much time as they’d like. That forced me to manage my time the best I could and do as much as I could. Procrastination just wasn’t an option. If I had free time, I would probably put it off again and again, with the distinct likelihood of never doing it. When I was busy, I didn’t have the chance to put stuff off. I knew I would never have other time, so I did it.
I also found that booking things back to back, or with an overlap, helps too. If I have 15 minutes before two different activities, it’s unlikely that I’d use that time wisely. I’d probably just blow it, since there wouldn’t be enough time to get serious on anything. By booking things tight during this past marching season, I felt like I was getting a lot done and not wasting time.
The flip-side of that is being over-booked, and not having time enough for everything. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me. Maybe I don’t work hard enough, but it always seemed like there was more fluff in my life that I didn’t have to do that I could cut.
5) I tried to prove myself.
I met lots of extremely talented students during high school. Talking with them between classes or whatever, I knew they “had it”. Unfortunately, it’s disappointing that many of them never took the time to shine.
Anytime I learned anything, I took the opportunity to prove it. Pre-AP classes may be Pre-AP, but they’re better named SAT2s, because that’s the level I needed to take those tests(I wish I had taken the french one now). I knew I could make region band, so I didn’t let laziness keep me from practicing to do that. It never seemed like a bad idea to let a test or contest quantify what I had done.