What I learned about learning in high school
As a first year in college, I catch myself reminiscing about my high school days. It was an experience that definitely had me the most stressed, fatigued, and sleep deprived I had ever felt. However, it was also a time that I was really able to see my weaknesses and work on my strengths.
High school, for me, was all about getting the grades and getting the right SAT score, all to get into the university of my heart’s desire. Looking back however, I see that I was way too hyper focused on these aspects of high school life. My obsession with my grades and test scores got to the point where it interfered with other important areas of my life. I found myself lacking in social interactions, hobbies, and more importantly, my health and self-esteem.
I ask myself if the many nights of crying and studying were worth it. Did I gain anything from those experiences at all? The answer is yes and no. I think my high school habits simultaneously made me weaker and stronger.
Cramming didn’t always work, and when I didn’t get great results, I felt embarrassed and ashamed.
Moments when I found myself nowhere near finished studying or doing my homework left me super overwhelmed. It was in times like these I realized I should have never procrastinated. But, being a teen, it’s so easy to get distracted, and that’s perfectly okay. I did see my work ethic get stronger, but I also found myself getting weaker. I saw that even if I had put a lot of effort into one subject, if I didn’t get the results I had anticipated, I was ashamed and embarrassed. I was weaker mentally, and for the most part, I was sick a lot from the stress. Putting a lot of energy into one area and working on it for countless hours can really mess with your health.
But when I did pull off all-nighters, I knew I could do anything I set my mind to.
With the amount of studying and rigor I dedicated to my work, I developed consistent study habits I now use in college. I found that my work ethic especially developed in moments I found myself cramming, whether for a midterm or research paper. Even though I ultimately learned from the experience, I wouldn’t recommend waiting till the last minute to study. In fact, there’s research that shows that studying a subject in specific areas over a long period of time (also known as chunking in psychology terms) is one of the best ways to study. Even though I know there are better ways to study, some of my best results have come from studying last minute. It taught me that I don’t give up and I can do anything, even when the odds seem stacked against me.
I often times felt very overwhelmed with homework — to the point that it was hard to function.
Imagine taking four AP classes (which are essentially college-level courses) along with another two or three honors classes. It’s daunting, and being in those classes required lots of my attention. With extracurricular activities, social plans, and spending time with family, I found myself floundering in work a lot of the time. I would miss days of school just to catch up on homework and to study. I built up anxiety that constantly followed me throughout the school year.
The workload of AP and honors classes really prepared me for college.
They were called accelerated classes for a reason. Each class presented such a heavy workload that I was forced to learn good time management. And it wasn’t enough to just get the work done; it had to be done well because quality mattered. In college, it’s okay to take three of four classes at a time, which is a lot less than what we’re expected to take in high school. My heavy workload in high school conditioned me to have discipline in timeliness and effort in my current university studies.
My anxiety got worse.
My senior year, I finally felt a little calmer. However, everything leading up to that point was one big panic attack for me. Homework, AP exams, SAT prep, SAT tests, SAT scores, all were aspects in my life that really dictated how I felt about myself. School was always on my mind. How to improve, how to be better, how to get good grades, the thoughts never left me. When I got to senior year, I finally took a second and realized what I was doing to myself. That was when I finally learned how to not overthink too much and just let things be.
My academic standards became a lot stronger.
Ultimately, I learned not to settle and to always try, regardless of the circumstances. And towards the end of my high school career, I saw that I was good enough for college, and more importantly, I was good enough for myself. I learned to accept my abilities, and who I was, even if at times I felt disappointed.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try in high school — I’m a serious advocate for studying and trying your best — but if you don’t get the numbers or results you so diligently tried for, don’t let it discourage you. This means nothing in terms of your intelligence, what matters is the effort you put into keeping yourself healthy while also trying to learn at a pace that works for you. You are infinitely greater than any number you receive on a standardized test, and a GPA does not depict your worth. Overall, my high school career was character building and I learned a lot about myself that a textbook wouldn’t have been able to teach me.