High school are two words that bring a wide range of emotions for each one of us.

I remember walking into the lunch room on the first day, only to hear a sophomore scream at my class, “FRESHMEN, GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE!” It was as if the move one grade up had brought that much more power to his life.

While I could spend my time writing about more moments like these, I wanted to dive into a list that helped me in high school or things I maybe wish I would have done differently. Is there more to talk about? Absolutely, but I wanted to do my part in starting the conversation.

Be kind

Perhaps it seems elementary, but I’d challenge you to take it as an opportunity to stretch yourself. Instead of sitting with the same group of friends or going through the same routine every day, be different. Maybe it’s sitting down with someone else at lunch and getting to know them. What about paying for something and challenging that person to pass it along to someone else? Look for ways to brighten someone’s day because it might even change their life.

Studying matters

Having gone through both high school and college, study habits stick with you and help determine how seriously your academics matter. There are grades that I’m very proud of, but others I wish I could change. I’m not trying to say your math grade is what determines your future, but I can say that how you approach it will impact more areas of your life than you know.

Learn personal finance

This really is a biggie. There are times where I learned about this in class, but others where I just determined that I really didn’t need it now, so why bother? Please don’t fall into this trap. Take time to talk to your parents, aunts and uncles or older siblings about jobs, writing checks or even what it looks like to save for a house. These conversations and moments are coming and you can save yourself a lot of headaches by talking about them now.

Find extracurricular activities

You should absolutely find ways to engage with your friends and peers outside of classes. Whether it be a club, sport or any other school-sanctioned activity, give one or more a try. That kind of camaraderie is irreplaceable at your age and I promise you can find something that fits your personality and interests.

Look for jobs

Are you someone who has limited work experience but is within a year or two of going to college? I’d encourage you to explore work opportunities in the community. I didn’t take this as seriously as I should have when I got into high school and I certainly will look to change that with my own kids. You’re at a perfect age to start building experience and a résumé. Any experience you can get is great.

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