The Black & White

Advice for underclassmen: a look back from senior year

Graphic+by+Selina+Ding.
Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

By Ariana Faghani

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As I opened the door to Whitman for the first timemy school for the next four yearsmy anxiety was through the roof. It was freshman orientation, and I was terrified.

From what I’ve gathered from other students since, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was nervous, everyone was self-conscious and nobody fully understood the then-confusing world of high school.

Looking back on my freshman year evokes a lot of emotions: regret, compassion, discontent. While it’s embarrassing to look through old Instagram posts and to reminisce about my fashion decisions, it’s also heartbreaking to see how much I focused on superficial things like my Instagram “feed” or how I looked.

In the past three years, I’ve developed as a student, friend, daughter, pom and person in general. I’ve learned what makes me happy, how to surround myself with true friends, how to eliminate negative people and activities from my life and how to balance the academic demands of high school with the social demands of being a teenager.

I’m no expert on how to get into an Ivy League college, or even get straight A’s in high school, but I think that I have some valuable advice to share.

First, the five ground rules:

  1. Don’t allow your happiness to be determined by others.
  2. Do your homework right after school— get it over with!
  3. Form relationships with your teachers. You’ll be amazed at how much you might have in common with them.
  4. Venture out of your “friend group.” There are so many amazing people at Whitman, and if you confine yourself to one group, you might miss out on some incredible friends.
  5. It never hurts to be nice to people, even if you don’t know someone. A compliment or smile can make their day.

My advice breaks down into two sections: academic and social.

Let’s start with academic:

The hardest aspect of academics in high school is managing your time. With all the distractions we have nowadays, it can feel like you can’t get five minutes of work done without being texted, tagged in an Instagram post, Snapchatted, etc. To keep yourself from getting distracted, put your phone away when doing homework.

Whitman also has a problem with unhealthy academic competition. Everyone has different learning paces, styles and abilities, so comparing yourself to your peers is an inadequate measure of your own intelligence. You shouldn’t feel the need to share your grades, and even if you decide to share, remember that not everyone has the same strengths.

One last thing: School is hard. It can be draining and stressful, but as long as you put in your best effort every day, you shouldn’t freak out if you mess up on a couple tests. Just learn from your mistakes and keep going.

Onto my advice on social life:

High school is dramatic, but it will give you some amazing friends. Going back to my first rule, putting your happiness in the hands of your friends is really easy to do. If they’re in a bad mood, you’re in a bad mood; if they’re happy, you’re happy. But just because a friend had a bad day doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate your wins, and if they don’t recognize that and celebrate with you, then they aren’t healthy friends.

It’s important to learn the difference between positive and negative friendships. If your friend is encouraging you to be your best, makes you feel good about yourself and is there for you, they’re a positive friend. If they’re missing one of these characteristics, they’re most likely not. Negative friends can make you feel insecure, be a bad influence and just negatively impact your mood.

With all this being said, my biggest and final piece of advice is to enjoy your time at Whitman. It really goes by in the blink of an eye.

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