On behalf of the entire Tower staff, I’d like to welcome the class of 2019 to PHS! If you’re feeling anything like I did three years ago, just the mere idea of “high school” may provoke a unique combination of feverish excitement and daunting uneasiness. The media seems to have a peculiar obsession with these four years, as it constantly bombards us with semiacurate portrayals of high school in television shows, books, and songs—Mean Girls, 17 Again, and The Breakfast Club are all based around this four-year escapade. While the majority of these depictions are either romanticized or completely unsound, clearly there is something distinct and fascinating that goes on between freshman and senior year.
High school is a unique experience, so it almost goes without saying that PHS will be a lot different from middle school, no matter which school you are coming from. I think most of the distinctions between junior high and high school can be accounted for by an increase in freedom and the responsibility that comes with that freedom. While of course the support of parents and teachers still serve as your backbone, you are ultimately given control of your success in high school. You won’t be constantly reminded to turn in late assignments like you might have in previous years and if you don’t understand a concept and do poorly on a test, most teachers won’t seek you out to ensure clarification. You must become your own advocate in high school, which, while daunting, ultimately allows you to really get to know yourself as a student and as a person.
Even now, you are also being introduced to the idea of college, the larger goal that will be emphasized during the entirety of your time at PHS. The idea of college will integrated into your high school experience. You will take the PSAT and perhaps and AP or two during your sophomore year. Junior year will be a balance of studying for the SAT and keeping up your GPA in more demanding classes and possibly APs. While the second semester of senior year will be pretty laid back, the fall will be centered around very time-consuming applications and college visits.
Looking back on each year and my collective high school experience, I think the best advice I could have taken as a freshman would have been to take the year to really adjust to PHS and save worrying about college for my later years. Freshman year is really about learning how to manage the newness of high school and prematurely stressing out about college does nothing to aid this goal. When I visited UCLA, I was even surprised to learn that the school did not even include freshman grades when determining an applicant’s GPA. So take the year to try to begin to discover your passions in academic fields, sports, or extracurricular activities. Challenge yourself—take classes or join clubs or even talk to people outside of your comfort zone—but also learn your limits, and be kind to yourself when you’ve reached them. You should never feel like you have to do everything perfectly or like you have to put getting into an esteemed college over other more important aspects of your life such as your psychological health. High school should be where you are able to begin to get to know yourself as a student and a person, and I truly believe PHS will allow you all to do so while being surrounded by great opportunities and support.