High school 101

The transition from middle school to high school is a big challenge for us teenagers. It can be intimidating — a big world filled with new experiences. However, the first few steps into your new high school will be the beginning of a four-year-long adventure. It feels like just yesterday when I walked into my high school for the very first time. A grab bag of emotions overwhelmed me as I opened the heavy front doors of the place I would come to call home. I was very apprehensive. I didn’t believe I would ever fit in. Yet, I was still eager for a huge chapter of my life to begin.

The commute

The biggest challenge I faced was the distance of my new school from my home. New York City has a wide range of public high schools scattered across the five boroughs. Most kids tend to stay in their own neighborhoods for early education, but many teens venture across the city for high school. Like many other public school students, I made the long commute into Manhattan from Queens. Navigating the subway at 7 am was a terrifying experience. My first few days turned into misery due to the tedious, hour-long journey. I even doubted my decision to choose a dream school so far from home!

However, with time, the trek into the city became special. I took pride in my newfound independence. Also, time on the train became a great place to do homework (without distraction from computers and my parents). I also took time to socialize with friends who faced the same obstacle of living in another borough, and we bonded during our commute.

Time management

Additionally, with two hours spent on transportation alone, I found that it wasn’t easy to juggle school, extracurricular activities, and friendship. With six classes my freshman year, there just seemed to be less time for fun. High school presented a lot more work, and I was constantly tantalized by the school’s clubs and activities. I wanted to join everything and get to know people. Yet, older students often joke that in high school, you can only choose two: a social life, sleep, or good grades.

Learning time-management skills early helped me achieve the most. I have to admit that I did give up sleep for an afternoon with my friends. Planning ahead and knowing my own limitations, I learned to give and take. The school’s extracurricular activities are like a buffet table. I don’t need to eat everything that is offered. I can taste a little bit here and there. No matter what I choose to participate in, I’ll be sure to find new friends. Still, I knew that academics were my top priority.


Teachers play a huge role in high school, just like they do in middle school. I found that developing a good relationship with my instructors helped me overcome the challenges of freshman year. I often wish I reached out to my teachers earlier, when I was discovering difficulties. Most were willing to explain material and offer words of encouragement.

Still, there will always be less than desirable teachers. I had my share of questionable teachers in the past, but in high school, I handled the situation better. In high school, I had to work with what was given to me. I often sought out resources to supplement some slacking teachers, such as Internet and online study groups. Rising above the drama of bad teachers and putting learning as my biggest concern, I was able to cope with the worst and still succeed.

Guidance counselor

Unlike a middle school guidance counselor, a high school counselor helps you navigate your four years. Eventually, he will write a recommendation for your college application. Needless to say, it is best to develop a rapport with him.

I regret not forming a stronger relationship with my guidance counselor during freshman year. However, during junior year, I have maintained a great bond with my guidance counselor. He clarified my graduation requirements and offered advice for what classes to take. He provided me with sincere college suggestions. Not only was his door always open for academic guidance, he also provided support for personal problems.

Discover yourself

The most important thing about high school is that it gives you a place where you can discover yourself. I’ve had the opportunity to take a variety of courses, and I’ve discovered things I never thought I’d like. In middle school, I detested history class, finding it dry and insipid. However, during my freshman year, I found a passion for history. I’ve also unlocked a hidden talent for chemistry. I even furthered my interest by taking electives and advanced courses in these subjects.

No matter where high school may take you, enjoy the journey. It can be the most stressful phase of your life so far, but it could also be the most exciting.

Aglaia Ho is a 16-year-old student from Queens who enjoys writing. Her work has been published in Creative Kids, Skipping Stones, Daily News-Children’s Pressline, and The State of the Wild.