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School Survival Guide: The Oracle Staff Offers Advice

Freshman. Even hearing the word makes me smile and shake my head. Considering I was a freshman myself up until two months ago, that is kind of funny and a little bit sad. It’s not right that the word “freshman” has such a bad connotation and I think that it’s time we changed that. For all you freshmen out there who don’t want to fall into the same pattern, here is some advice for how to survive your first year of high school.

hansFirst, we understand that you are really excited about being at a new school with new classes and you want to be as prepared for them as possible. That being said, you don’t need to fit your entire desk into your backpack and carry it with you to school every day. It’s unnecessary, and frankly it’s really painful. Bring only what you need because we don’t have lockers and you’ll need to carry your stuff around with you all day.

The second piece of advice is about finding your way around school. Gunn has a pretty big campus and it can sometimes be confusing, but don’t walk around campus with maps in front of your face all day. It’s a good idea to make use of your freshman orientation and get used to campus at that time. Find where all your classes are and don’t be those freshmen that the sophomores and upperclassmen shake their heads at.

The third piece of advice is about friends. You might want to stay with the same friends that you’ve known throughout middle school, but I encourage you to go out and meet a lot of new people. Don’t just stick with your own grade. Talk to sophomores, juniors, seniors,  and maybe even some teachers. They can help you through freshman year and answer any questions you have.

The last piece of advice is about classes. School does get harder from here on out. Make sure that you do your work and don’t slack off. You have a lot more independence with your work and you should definitely talk to your teacher if you feel that you need help with something.

Overall, freshman year is pretty awkward and kind of confusing. The first part of freshman year is basically an adjustment period to help you get used to how high school will be. It’s a new place, lots of new people, harder classes, etc. However, I have hope that the next generation of freshmen will listen to this advice, and maybe give the word “freshman” a better association.

—Kale, a sophomore, is a Copy Editor.

Welcome to sophomore year. You’ve survived World History and Biology. You’re probably excited that you’re no longer the runt of the school. And you’re probably a little nervous about one class in particular, but as a whole you have a positive out look. That’s how I felt last fall. In retrospect, I see that maybe I should’ve been more nervous about balancing all the schoolwork as a whole, rather than one class in particular. For me, the class I was overly worried about was Chemistry. My mindset going into class was that I had to focus extra energy on Chemistry and retract attention from other classes in order to do so.

shawna_grayBig mistake.

All the rising juniors had told me about how difficult the class was, how strict the disciplinary teaching was, how the teacher might scare the daylights out of me, and more. So my mindset going into class was that I had to focus extra energy on Chemistry and retract attention from other classes in order to do so.

By thrusting other courses aside, I simultaneously made Chemistry a burden and displaced the balance required to enjoy all my classes.

As I began to rush through homework in other classes, I stopped appreciating what I learned and began seeing Chemistry as the crux of my frustrations within all other subjects as well.

And then, school wasn’t about learning anymore. Everything revolved around how I could cushion my Chemistry scores and how little I needed to do in order to maintain good grades in my every other class.

I finally realized in the second semester that my strategy was not only stressful, but also extremely ineffective. I took a step back, reevaluated why I took Chemistry in the first place, why I loved learning, and why I was stressed out. I was finally able to say, “It’s okay if I can’t completely solve this neutron problem right now. I’ll come back to it.”

Sophomore year taught me that balance and an appreciation for learning should always be your number one priority. And yes, that’s easier said than done, but I’m telling you this now: don’t let your perceived weakness in a certain class cause you so much anxiety that you neglect your other classes; and even worse lose interest in learning.

—Chen, a junior, is a Forum Editor.

Junior year is really difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and pretend that it’s not, but a lot of it is also how you deal with stress. If you’re going to psyche yourself out because your friends are ahead of you in the standardized testing process, or freak out because you realize you can’t manage 20 extracurriculars on top of 5 AP classes, you’re going to have a hard time. Remain calm, keep track of deadlines and try to do things as ahead of time as often as you possibly can. I hope some of these tips will you help you do just that.

esther1. In the beginning of the year, take two practice tests, one for the SAT and another for the ACT. Lots of people don’t realize that the ACT is a viable option, and find out that they like it a lot more than the SAT after wasting months of time in SAT prep classes. Take two practice tests without studying at all, and see which test you’re naturally better at. Stick with that one test and study for it accordingly. It’ll make your life a lot easier.

2. Start looking at colleges now. I know it’s early, but if you have some free time, go online and do research. Some websites I’d recommend are collegeconfidential, collegeboard, and collegeprowler. Figure out some deal breakers in terms of what you want and don’t want in a school, and start compiling a list of those things. Even if you don’t know what you want to major in, if you know you want to live somewhere with actual seasons or you know you want a large school, write it down. It’ll make compiling an actual college list later a lot easier.

3. Get organized. If you haven’t found an effective way of keeping track of all the things you have to do yet, find one. Write down dates for everything and try not to leave things to the last minute. That being said, learn how to do things in a time crunch. You’ll probably find yourself doing something the night before it’s due more than once this year, and need to be able to complete these tasks without having a mental breakdown.

4. 4. Prioritize. In the beginning of the year calculate how much time each activity,class and extracurricular activity will take up in your schedule. If the hours for these activities don’t allow time to eat or sleep, you need to take some activities out. If you’re not interested in something or don’t enjoy doing it, you will have no time for it junior year. Trust me.

5. Cut toxic people out of your life. If a friend or significant other is constantly bringing you down, causing drama, or just generally creating negative energy in your life, you should probably consider spending less time with them.

6. Cut toxic people out of your life. If a friend or significant other is constantly bringing you down, causing drama, or just generally creating negative energy in your life, you should probably consider spending less time with them. Not only do you not have the physical time to be around people who cause problems, but you’ll also find yourselves in need of supportive friends this year in lieu of increasing stress and responsibilities.

—Kozakevich, a senior, is a Forum Editor.

Think of all the people who have attempted to give you advice over the years. Now multiply that number by ten because that is the amount of people who will try to tell you how you should live your life this coming school year. You can add one more to that number because I’m also going to give you advice. For your own sanity, do yourself a favor and trust your gut. For some reason, everyone thinks they’re an expert on how you should write your essays, which schools you should apply to, where you should go to college, what you should major in, etc. The great majority of these people truly have your best intentions at heart, but there comes a time where you have to make a decision for yourself. You will be miserable if you end up at some school just because it’s what your parents pressured you into. (I may or may not be currently worrying about the aftereffects of this right now.)

rebeccaThe same falls true for ranking lists. If you choose your school based on how the people at U.S. News feel about it, you’ve essentially given up on being an independent human being because you are letting strangers decide how you live your life. Do your research, and try to visit the campus. You don’t have to go to a university that everyone knows. Think about different options, whet her it’s a liberal arts college or going out of the state (or country), or possibly taking a gap year. You don’t need to go the route it appears everybody else is taking.

And on that note, as wonderful as your peers are, some of them are crazy and some them are liars. Do not, I repeat, do not believe everything you hear. I guarantee you that Suzy Jones in your AP English class is not already done with all her college essays. And those people that you hear who are applying exclusively to Ivys? Yeah, sorry to burst their bubble, but they’re not going to get into all of them. Statistically speaking, they’re probably not going to get into any of them. And even if they do get in, do your very best not to compare yourself. I didn’t apply to any Ivys, yet the day after Ivy Day, I felt absolutely terrible about myself, despite that fact that probably only about twenty people got into one of these schools we put so high on a pedestal. I know that it’s impossible, but at the very least try and remove yourself from the insane conversations of who applied where, who got in, who didn’t, who deserved it and who didn’t, etc. Worry about yourself.

As much as it feels like high school is already over—you are three-quarters of the way there, you still have a year to go. Trust me, it will fly by. But at the same time, senior year is a marathon, not a sprint because every time you think it’s over, there will be another essay to write, another test to take, another interview you have. Pace yourself and do your very best not to be overwhelmed by the insanity of the college application process.

—Alger, is a Gunn Alumn and former Features Editor.

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