From having to deal with an entirely new environment to juggling various classes, clubs and extracurriculars, underclassmen will have to go through a variety of experiences. Hopefully, a bit of advice from an upperclassmen will make high school a bit easier. (Illustration by Kim Ly)
Fountain Valley High School

Column: Advice from a senior to underclassmen

There has always been a stereotype about high school, whether it will be one of the best experiences in someone’s life or the worst. The only real fact is that everyone has the choice to decide how or what they can do to make the most out of high school either by choosing to make it memorable or miss out on some of the best memories and experiences needed for the future. The four years in high school pass by faster than you think.

Everyone is different and this applies to our ways of learning, hobbies and interests. Although high school might seem like a place where you get locked down for six hours, it is a place where everyone grows tremendously, whether they grow to like their past four years of high school or not. Making high school a “worth it” experience is a choice. The following are some of the things you can do to make the most out of high school:

Prioritize 

High school is full of distractions like parties, going out or even being on social media for a long time. It’s important to understand that setting goals and having your priorities straight is a key factor to anyone’s success. Learning to say “no” to distractions or people when needed will help you stay goal-oriented. 

This doesn’t mean that having fun and hanging out with friends is not an option anymore; it means that there are times where you will have to choose more important matters in order to reach a goal you set. Although it might not sound like a big deal to prioritize things in life, it goes a long way in building habits. Prioritizing in regards to school starts by planning assignments and projects from most important to least and making sure you manage to get all of them done.

Get involved

In high school, there are tons of options for everyone to get involved. This ranges from clubs, classes and sports teams which cover almost all types of different interests. There are currently over 75+ clubs in school that are academic and nonacademic. There are over 15 sports at Fountain Valley High School. There is a range of elective classesRegional Occupational Program classes and dual enrollment classes you can join. 

If there’s a sport or hobby that is not covered in the categories mentioned above, there are always academies, classes and volunteer opportunities that you can get involved in outside of school. Talking to teachers and counselors to ask for opportunities is important because of their experience throughout the years that they can provide to you.

ROP classes serve as a great opportunity to obtain a certificate or license to work with right after high school. Some examples include Pharmacy Technician, Emergency Medical Technician and Automotive Technology.
Not only can you get certified but you can also earn high school credit. Volunteering with clubs or outside of school are also great ways to meet new people, learn new skills and build long-lasting connections. 

Getting involved in classes and clubs such as Associated Student Body, Baron Banner, Baron Broadcast News and Leadership Exploration & Development are a way to gain leadership skills. They also not only allow you to stay updated with school news and events but allow you to contribute to your school and community.

Be organized

Everyone has different ways of managing their time. But if there’s one thing you should do to be successful in high school, it would be to have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish every day.

Buying a planner or using a digital calendar to balance your schedule is a good option to keep up with your work and never forget about an assignment or project. A key factor for high grades is to turn in your work on time and to ask effective questions that will lead to your understanding. Although it’s hard to manage time, experimenting with different ways to be organized will help you excel.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Understanding that everyone learns and grows differently is important whenever you start to look at your progress and start comparing yourself to others. Things aren’t usually the way they look on the outside, so it creates an unfair comparison which you may be unconsciously doing. Instead of looking at others’ progress and where they are, ask yourself where you want to be or aspire to do and how you can get there. Creating a plan or a simple breakdown is a great way to help you reach your goal.

Stand out to the college or job you’re seeking

If there’s a specific college you’re interested in, try visiting to have an idea of how the student experience would look like. Show interest by emailing the admission office and/or counselors with some questions you might have.

“Students should utilize their summer break with enrichment activities whether that’s taking a community college class, doing community service, conducting research, job shadowing, working, etc.,” Fountain Valley High School College and Career Specialist Irene Yu said. “College applications inquire about how students spend their free time and this time period will paint a clearer picture on the type of student you are.”

Something important to note is that college admissions offices care more about what classes you took and things you did in the field you want to major in rather than classes you decide to take to fill your college application. Always make sure you take classes you are passionate about because that’s what truly stands out to colleges.

“Quality over quantity…in addition to attaining good grades, students should be active in extracurricular activities…However, students do not need to be involved with everything. Instead, students should focus on activities that they’re passionate about and work towards increased responsibility and leadership for that activity/field,” Yu said.

To stand out on a job as a candidate, submit an online application then call for an update on the status of your application. Generally, most jobs do not call or respond unless the candidate shows interest by taking an extra step. Understanding the job’s requirements and your qualifications will also prepare you for a potential interview.

If your goal is to start a business, brainstorm ways on how you can start with the resources you have and instead of waiting for an opportunity to come, create your own opportunities by asking questions to those with experience or researching and watching videos. The earlier you start, the more you learn. Even if the business didn’t achieve popularity, the lessons learned from it are important for your future projects.

Most teen jobs are in the food or the retail industries, which means that working in a team and talking with people is a huge part of the job. This is also a great opportunity to develop public speaking skills and understand what employers are looking for in a candidate that will put you ahead in what you decide to pursue in the future.

Have an open mind and get out of your comfort zone

Think about what makes you uncomfortable.

Is it trying something new? Making new friends? Getting a job?

Always seek to break all your fears because it will build character and help you in real-life situations. Understand that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to and accept that you will not necessarily like everything you attempt, and this is the point of trying new activities. Not everything will work out and that serves the purpose of discovering what you like or don’t like.

Apply for awards

In FVHS alone, there are several chances to be recognized for all the work you did in high school. These awards range from the Coronets awards, one of the highest honors a student could receive in FVHS, the community service cord to the Seal of Biliteracy to club awards. It never hurts to give it a shot. Most of the awards that may seem unreachable in your opinion may be possible. If you’re planning to attend college after high school, applying for scholarships is also a great way to lessen the burden of student debt.

There are also various options to be recognized outside of school by taking part in competitions and contests whether they’re academic or not.

Explore your future career

Although there are great stories of many people who changed their careers and major multiple times, deciding on a career at an early time like high school is an advantage. However, changing careers, later on, is always an option. Finding ways to explore your career will help you gain experience and necessary skills for real-life situations along the way.

Ask for help 

Throughout high school, there will be times where you feel stuck or “burned out” which is okay, and it just means you need to pause and just rest for a little. Talking to others about how you feel and communicating with your teachers about the workload and questions you might have is a good approach.

If you’re planning to attend a private college after high school, you will need letters of recommendation.

“It’s helpful to make meaningful relationships early on [with teachers and counselors] so that your recommendation letters will have greater substance. Students can get a preview of the Letters of Recommendations process here,” Yu said.

Being aware and caring for your mental state is also crucial. Taking breaks and studying smart is very important. There are many different methods to do school work in a healthy way and among the popular ones is the Pomodoro Technique, which consists of breaking down a task into increments of 25-minutes and taking a five-minute break in between each one. This can be done differently according to preference. 

Always remember to have fun

Attending school events and hanging out with friends is a great way to enjoy your high school years. Taking a break from school once in a while to do something you’re passionate about and to develop your hobbies will give you a positive boost of energy to other work for school or clubs you’re involved in. This will also help reduce stress.


Adventuring into all these activities, you become a well-rounded person, gain friendships and knowledge. There’s ultimately no limit to what you can achieve at a young age unless you set a limit for yourself. Experimenting with all these ways to create a memorable high school experience, you will find out along the way what methods work best for you. Always remember, if something feels difficult or hard to reach, start working toward it and you will see how the small steps will help you get to your ultimate goal.