I came into Princeton High School on the first day of freshman year feeling nervous but prepared. I had carefully studied the PHS map, knew the exact route I would take to each of my classes, and decided to meet up with my friends during break on the bleachers outside the tennis courts. I had my planner, a pencil case with more writing utensils than I would ever need, and an empty folder for my syllabi in my brand-new backpack.
photo by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Amy/" title="View all of this person's work">"Amy</a></span>

photo by Amy Wang

But as I walked up to my locker on the first day of school, reciting my combo in my head, I encountered my first surprise. A teacher was opening the locker next to mine. Upon reaching my locker, however, I realized that the person next to me was not a teacher, but rather a bearded, 6-foot-two high school senior. Suddenly my plan to ask upperclassmen for help if I got lost fell apart. If these people had beards, there was no way I was going to approach and speak to one of them.

On day two, unfortunately, I inevitably took a wrong turn on my way to history class and ended up at the school store. Recognizing my panicked look, a Peer Group leader showed me the way, and my fear of upperclassmen started to subside.

There’s a lot I wish I could go back and say to that freshman girl. First of all, don’t think you can carry around all your stuff from class to class without a backpack like you did in middle school. You’re going to give up within a week.

Next, don’t worry so much about grades—high school is bound to be harder. Don’t retake that first Latin quiz you got a 96 percent on during break. In order to succeed, you have to find the right balance between school, extracurriculars, friends and family, and of course—sleep.

Your friend groups aren’t going to stay exactly the same. Hold on to your close friends, but don’t feel obliged to continue that Snapstreak with someone you never talk to anymore. Meanwhile, make new friends, even if they’re not in your grade. By the time you’re a junior, some of your closest friends will be seniors.

Do what you want to do. Middle school often seems all about conformity, but in high school you’re much more free to find yourself and explore your passions, both old and new. And if you find out you don’t like something, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t spend two years trying to hide from the debate adviser because you quit after three weeks—when you end up in his English class junior year, you’ll find out he never even knew who you were.

High school is when you start to figure out who you really are. As such, try to get as much out of it as possible, be it through a language exchange trip, starting a new club, or even just discovering what a midnight Wawa run is all about. No matter how your time here compares to your expectations, when you’re looking back during graduation, you’ll be proud of what you’ve achieved, full of memories to cherish over the years, and ready to embark upon the next chapter of your life.

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