Every student at one point in time has thought it; I hate high school. High school can be a frustrating time for many. It’s an era when there are massive changes to social structure, physical bodies, and expectations.
The classes become harder, the assignments more complex, and the pressure to perform increases. It can leave many students feeling overwhelmed, no matter if they are in their first year of high school, or their last.
Some students may find the good in their high school years, making lasting connections and memories. Others may feel isolated, overworked, and unsure of their place in the process. But no matter who you are, one thing is for sure; it takes a lot of work to learn how to be successful during this era. No one gets out of this phase of life completely unscathed.
One thing that can help during this time is taking a step back and understanding why high school is hard for you specifically, and what strategies are available to help solve some of the things that make you struggle. It is important to remember that everything is solvable and to not get lost in the overwhelm of how to move forward.
Remember, countless others have experienced the same issues, even if it feels like you’re all alone. There are solutions to everything.
Why is High School So Hard?
There are several reasons why high school is so hard. They will be different for every person, but almost everyone can relate to most of them to some degree. We will go through each of these significant problems you’re experiencing and offer tangible solutions for each one. Although answers may vary per person, some overarching strategies will help anyone.
Changing Social Structures
Social skills and having friends is essential for your success in school. Unfortunately, making friends can become very complicated once you hit this age. Teens are in the time where they’re exploring and creating an identity for themselves. It’s a confusing and complicated time. People are dealing with new feelings and ways of being, which begins to create complex dynamics or cliques with those around them.
When you’re a child making friends is relatively easy. Making friends comes naturally for many children because kids tend to have fewer insecurities about themselves. It is a lot easier to make a friend when you don’t have an assumption that they’ll judge you for who you are. If another kid has a toy you like or is playing in a spot you want to be in, there is a natural segway to connect. Kids tend to be a lot better at being brave with new people than teens or adults.
But as we grow, we begin to have bad experiences with others. Being laughed at or bullied, or even just shut down, can create feelings of caution around new people are we age. By the time we hit high school, it can feel intimidating to go up to strangers and insert yourself into their space. However, making new friends is one of the keys to being able to survive the difficult times in High School. It is essential to practice this skill. It will be useful for the rest of your life.
How to Make New Friends
It’s good to remember that many of your classmates probably feel just as uncertain about how to make new friends as you do. I know that it may not feel like it. You may look around at others and see them hanging out and chatting away and make the assumption that you’re the only one that feels lonely or struggles with connecting. You’re not, I promise.
Everyone at this time in life feels insecure, even if it doesn’t show on the outside. When you choose to practice these techniques, you’ll get even better at them over time. And by implementing these strategies now, you’re going to be a step ahead of the pack.
Confidence is Key
Bravery is hard for everyone, but the key is to do it anyways. You’re allowed to feel scared, but you’ll still need to practice putting yourself out there even if you are terrified. Confidence is not something you have; it’s something you create. Being confident isn’t about being perfect or about knowing it all. Courage is trusting yourself and knowing that no matter how a situation turns out, even if it’s not the desired outcome, you’ll be able to handle it and learn from it.
When you project confidence, people see you as being convincing and trustworthy. You draw people to you when you show confidence, probably because so many people feel insecure and want to connect with others who make them feel confident themselves. On the flip side, no stranger wants to be friends with someone who seems insecure. Lack of confidence can severely impact your capacity to make friends.
To be confident, you’ll need to practice controlling and changing your mood. No matter what’s happening in your environment, there are four principles for how to manage your attitude; body language, positivity, resilience, and your ability to learn and grow.
The number one way we project confidence is through our body language. The words we use have way less to do with our projection of confidence. If you think of someone you know who appears self-assured, you probably assumed that because of the way that they carried themselves. They stand up straight, look you in the eye, and don’t fidget. When they use words their voice is strong and assured. When you talk, they listen attentively, don’t cross their arms and smile.
By using the basics of body language, you also can project confidence and command people’s respect and attention. Research suggests that nearly 55% of meaning comes across to people in your facial expression and voice tone alone. By practicing these techniques, you’re able to command respect.
Confidence is also one of the only areas in life where you can fake it until you make it! When you use your body language to project confidence, people will treat you like you’re confident. The more you have feedback from people respecting your self-assuredness, the more confident you’ll become. Physiology is vital in learning and projecting confidence.
The second thing that creates confidence is how positive you are. It may seem hard to be positive when you’re having a hard time connecting with people, but positivity is just a mindset that you can train. Instead of getting hung up on all of the ways that something can fail, it’s important to practice thinking about all of the ways that things can go well.
Our brains naturally want to spend time thinking about all of the things that could go wrong. Fear is an evolutionary trait designed to protect us from the bad things in the world. Fear will focus on anything new and different as being wrong.
The problem with anxiety is that it can’t tell the things that will be beneficial to us in the long run. It wants us only ever to do the things it knows for sure are safe. Our brains will do their best to convince us that making new friends is dangerous, and this doesn’t help us feel confident.
To counteract your tendency to feel fear around new things, spend designated time thinking about all of the ways that making a new friend could go right. Sit and visualize how much fun you and your new friends will have, how accepted and happy you’ll feel.
Anytime you start to think about how scary it is to talk to someone new, refocus on the excitement and fun you could have. The more you do this, the faster and better you will get at it.
When you focus on your positivity, you will naturally feel more confident and happy. People want to spend time around positive and confident humans, and just like with body language, the more you see people responding to your positivity, the more you’ll reinforce a feedback loop that will make you more confident and better at making friends.
Grow a Thick Skin
There will be times when you practice making friends when you will get rejected. You want to make sure that your confidence doesn’t suffer, even if you don’t get the outcome you want. The key to developing a thick skin comes down to one basic principle; remember that it’s not all about you.
Everyone has different reasons for why and how they react. When you let your feelings get hurt by someone’s reactions to you, you’re assuming that you can, in any way, control or direct another’s behavior. However, people have all kinds of reasons for why they respond the way they do.
They could be having a bad day, or be really overwhelmed, or just hate the color purple. It’s not your job to please everyone or figure out exactly why that particular person didn’t seem to like you.
Don’t let other’s get to you. Remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes and that it’s often not personal. If you focus on yourself, you’ll start stressing about your shortcomings. However, if you stop the negative self-talk and not add extra meaning to the incident, you will be able to get back to your confident state quicker.
Easier said than done, but dusting yourself off, staying positive and trying again will get better with practice.
Focus on Growth
It’s easy to feel like you could only ever be confident if you already had good experiences and successes, but this belief will only limit you. Confidence doesn’t come from your achievements, it’s coming from within. When you choose to practice being self-assured, you will get better and better at feeling it.
When you’re in high school, it’s easy to compare yourself to people who are older or better at things than you are. However, the only way you will get good at something is through practice. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. This includes your confidence levels and you making friends. It’s okay not to be good at it right away. If you start now, you will get better with time.
Learning to Make Friends Will Make High School Better
Learning how to connect with people is one of those skills you will use for the rest of your life. If you practice the skill of confidence and connection, you will be able to build relationships that will hold you all through high school. People with good friendships are better adjusted and better able to manage their lives because they have support. It is one of the critical skills to being successful in your high school years.
Changing Personal Identity
Another thing that’s extremely hard about high school is the process of coming to terms with your new identity. During the ages of 12-18, the primary focus of an individual is developing a sense of self. It is a confusing time where you need to figure out who you are and what you want. There are pressures all around you that seem to want to push you in particular directions.
Your parents may want you to take a different path than your friends, and your siblings will view you differently than your teachers. Amid all these voices, you have to figure out your own identity. It is even more challenging with the added distraction of social media, which encourages comparison and arbitrarily seems to add more value to some traits than others.
The reason this impacts your high school career so much is that the process of trying on various roles and identities adds a whole other emotional challenge on top of everything.
Not only do you have to get good grades and make new friends, and be good at activities, you also have to do a whole lot of emotional processing around figuring out a new identity. It can create a lot of feelings of confusion and self-conflict. There will be a point where this process will settle out, but it may be uncomfortable while it’s happening.
How to Figure Out Your Identity
The goal of this time of your life is to create a healthy sense of identity, values, and personality. If you succumb to the pressure to conform or don’t properly explore, you’ll move into your adult life with a weak sense of self and purpose. If you don’t feel connected to who you are and what you want, you will end up apathetic and unfulfilled in jobs, relationships, and personal activities. It may feel scary to commit to figuring out your identity, but if you do the work now, you’ll be ready to engage with the rest of your life fully.
Try New Activities
The fundamental way to figure out your preferences is by exploring new things during this time. Just like making new friends, this may feel scary, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. Extracurricular activities are a great way to figure out if your likes and dislikes. They’re also a great place to meet other people who are into the same things and boost your transcript and resume.
Your high school will offer a wide variety of things that you can participate in. Look over what your school offers and see what feels right to you. Focus on the feeling of excitement you feel when you think about certain things. If the thought of football makes you feel shivers of fear, but the idea of chess club seems interesting, go with that.
Practice your confidence and don’t think about what other people will think of your new interest. Getting too caught up in what other people think is a surefire way to end up doing something you don’t like.
Give yourself goals around exploring new things. Read one different type of book each month, or go to one new kind of event every couple of weeks. Challenge yourself to do something that you wouldn’t do otherwise, and find a buddy to keep you accountable or to do it with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the adults in your life. They’re there to support you in safely figuring out what type of new things you enjoy.
Get Curious About People
Become friends with a variety of different individuals. Don’t just limit yourself to the people you’ve been friends with since you were a kid, or who live in your neighborhood. Everybody had a different life experience, and when you fill your life with different ideas, you may gain access to something you didn’t even know existed.
Be kind to everyone you meet and ask lots of questions. Get curious about why others believe things they do, or dress that way, or are interested in particular stuff. You don’t have to stay close friends with people whose beliefs and values you don’t resonance with, but by understanding why you feel differently, you’ll start to define your identity.
Pay special attention to people you admire. Ask yourself why you admire them and what of those attributes you want to see in yourself. By doing this consistently, you’ll start to get a picture of your ideal self, which will help you create goals for how you can become that person.
Solidifying Your Identity Will Help You in High School
The process of paying attention to the things you prefer and then exploring more of the things you like is the pathway to discovering your own identity. The more you actively engage in this process, the less confusion and emotional turmoil you’ll feel, which will make you better at school and your life.
People are also attracted to someone who has a solidified identity. So when you do this process well, you will be more successful in your relationships.
You have the agency to figure this out for yourself. Approaching it with open eyes will help you feel more stable and have a better handle on your high school years.
The Expectations of School
The expectation of getting good marks during school can lead to a lot of stress and frustration. With colleges being more necessary and more competitive than ever before, the pressure to succeed in your tests and assignments can feel overwhelming. You may not always be engaged in your classes, or the things you’re learning may seem irrelevant.
The amount of homework you get can add to the frustration, especially when you’re dealing with new subject matters you may not fully understand or like. On top of that, you’re expected to take part in extracurricular activities, figuring out your own identity, and creating new friends.
All of these tasks can make school seem impossible and overwhelming. However, if you learn some strategies for dealing with school, they will serve you for the rest of your life. Learning how to handle a new workload without overwhelm is something that will help you for the rest of your life. It is a skill you’ll find useful if you choose to go to college, but also in the workforce and your personal life as well.
How to Handle Schoolwork
When it comes to your schoolwork, an organization system is critical. Make sure that you organize your binders and books clearly so that you don’t have to struggle to find material. Get a great day planner that you use consistently. Use it to write down your homework, extracurricular activities, class schedule, and exams. It will help you plan your timelines and goals.
You can break down any goal into a series of smaller steps. For example, if you have an exam coming up, there will be a series of actions you need to do to prepare. You will have to sit through certain classes, read specific chapters, study new ideas, and quiz yourself on possible questions. Estimate how long each of these actions will take you and then block these actions into your day planner as well. Over time you’ll get better at estimating just how long each step will take you.
Try to find strategies to maximize time. If you ride the bus, for example, you can use that wasted time to do the assigned reading. Studying a little bit every day instead of all at once actually increases your memory retention and saves you time.
Always give yourself a buffer zone for when you need to have a project finished. Finish assignments a day or two before they’re due to give extra time in case something comes up. You want to avoid the stressful scramble of missing a decline because something more important came up. Once you’ve completed your project early, make sure you reward yourself by taking the night off and doing something fun. You want to reinforce that getting things done early gives you a more positive experience.
How to Focus
Focusing in class is a strategy just like any other and a key to being successful in school. When you focus, you absorb more information and will save yourself time having to go over things again later. If you concentrate in class, it also allows you to ask the teacher about anything you don’t understand, so you don’t have to spend time figuring it out later.
Minimizing distractions will help. Text notifications can derail our brains for minutes at a time, so make sure you turn off your phone. If your friends want to talk while in class, ask them to wait until later. Practice looking at your teacher and using all of your senses to take in what they’re saying. The more you practice your focusing muscle, the easier it will be.
Taking notes is also a great way to help focus your brain. Write down the topics and headings of the lecture as soon as your teacher reveals it. Use shorthand or keywords to write down the interim material you need to remember. Instead of writing down everything, try only to transcribe the most important points.
Not only does note-taking help you study for exams, but it also enables you to commit the material to memory. It will save you time trying to memorize stuff later.
Creating Good Work Strategies Will Help You in High School
By learning how to organize, focus, and game plan, you will be much more successful in school. It is easy to feel an amount of overwhelm around the increased workload and expectations, but by taking the time to create a plan, you will be able to handle the new level of work with minimal stress.
Learning how to organize will also develop skills you will use for the rest of your life. The skills you learn around your work and time management may be even more useful than your schoolwork itself.
High School Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
The stress of being in high school is understandable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s hard to learn new skills around making friends, figuring out your identity, and handling your schoolwork. However, everything has a strategy that can make it easier for you.
These strategies may take a little research and practice to see what works. However, the methods that work for you in creating confidence, personal values, and organization are skills that will be with you for the rest of your life. If you do the work it takes now to figure out the skills required; it may just be the most beneficial thing you learn in high school.