What a Graduating Senior Learned Over 4 Years of High School—Advice, Lessons, and General Knowledge

1. School is dumb

If you’re under 18, you know this already. The United States’ educational system sucks. The vast majority of the information you learn in high school will never be useful to you. Rather, it is far more important that you use these years to experience life. You will never be young again, and while you still have time to make mistakes, do so. The experiences you have now will come to define the rest of your life. 

2. Thoroughly consider your options before deciding where to enroll

The Coronavirus pandemic will have profound effects on pre-collegiate education. Although most of these effects have yet to play out, the most important one for upcoming high schoolers is schooling options. While many students love to hate on distance or hybrid learning models, a good portion of students find virtual schooling better than in-person. Many more prefer a hybrid method where students only go to school 2 or 3 days a week. Be sure and decide which of these options is right for you. Keep in mind that hybrid and virtual schools can allow you the freedom to go at your own pace and make time for many other opportunities. 

3. Take college classes early—not APs

AP classes are set up to be hard. You must spend an entire year learning (in most cases) material taught to college students in one semester, only to then be required to take a 3-hour-long exam to prove you deserve the college credit you’ve rightfully earned. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a much better path, if you are open to pursuing it. Rather than deal with the hoops and red tape of AP classes, take courses at a local community college. One-semester community college classes count as a full year of high school, don’t require you pass an AP test, are mostly free, and most colleges will accept them for credit towards your graduation. 

Having taken over 40 college credits worth of college classes, I haven’t found any of them to be any more difficult than my high school classes. Rather, because they tend to have much less tedious busywork, I’ve actually enjoyed them a lot more. 

There is a catch, however. Some private colleges will refuse to accept college classes taken during high school, so it is important you check their policies before applying.  

4. Find a passion

Don’t spend your youth just plodding along doing nothing of much import. Do something with your time while you still have it. The point here is not to find something you want to do as a career—although that certainly isn’t a bad thing either. Rather, the goal is to allow you the opportunity to escape from the bubble that is high school and gain on-the-ground life experiences. Whether through volunteering, a sport, creating art, or anything else, the experiences you’ll gain are far more important than anything school could ever teach you. 

This is what many high schools are trying to accomplish by enforcing community service requirements or senior projects. But often these programs are stiff, awkward, and ruin the experience. You shouldn’t feel pressured to make a project out of what you’re doing. 

5. Make some money

Although allowances are great—and you should absolutely milk your parents for as much money as they will give you—there’s just something about knowing the sweat and blood that went into your money that provides a sense of independence nothing else can. Plus, it’ll allow you to do the next item on this list.

6. Go on a trip without your family members

No particular reason for this one. It’s just fun!

8. Get your damn driver’s permit

This need not be explained, however, in California you are required to have your permit for 6 months before you can get your license. I waited until I was 16 to get my permit and regretted every day when I could’ve had the freedom to drive but did not. 

Similarly, schedule your driver’s license test months in advance. There are never any spots available, so it is imperative you schedule your test ASAP.


Unless you strike it rich and retire young, your youth is the only time you’ll ever get where you’ll get free food and housing to just learn and have fun. Use it.