by Anya Razmi

It’s the thick of senior year—reputedly the worst few weeks of high school, I’ve been informed—and so it’s sort of inevitable that amidst the flurry of tests and college essays, I’ve been reflecting on these past three years. And while my experiences haven’t been wholly unexpected nor unique (my high school memories consist mainly of studying, speech tournaments, and long days at the lab), I, like any senior, have changed enormously. I remember receiving inordinate amounts of advice as a freshmen and listening to precisely none of it, but I understand, now, the sudden urge to share it. There’s a lot I don’t regret about my choices as a freshman or sophomore or junior, but there’s still a lot more I wish I had known. So, as hackneyed as the concept may seem, here it is: my advice to the underclassmen, coming from a (relatively new) HB senior. 

1. The decisions you make are not permanent. 

I think I entered high school with this sort of fearful, doomsday complex that led me to believe that every choice I made would define me. Moreover, I assumed that my everyday decisions were irreversible. Three years on, I can assure you: that’s not true. You are allowed to change your courses, to drop out of classes and switch levels. You are allowed to quit clubs, join others, try out different activities, and stick with the ones you actually like. Don’t be afraid to say no, and honestly, don’t be afraid to quit something that you’re not passionate about. Freshmen year, I competed in debate, doubled in science, worked in a cancer research lab, and was in a math club. Senior year I do speech, take art classes, study flies, and take extra writing courses. You’re going to change in high school. Let your academics and extracurricular activities reflect that. 

2. High school is hard. 

For everyone. Never assume that your problems are too insignificant to need help. Whether it’s academics or mental health issues, HB’s faculty are some of the most caring people I have ever encountered. They truly are here for you. I remember hearing this all the time and often dismissing it, but I hope you don’t do the same. These years are transformative, and change is difficult and grueling, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it is. Reach out; be vulnerable; ask for help: in my experience, this has always worked in my favor. 

3. Yes, you are allowed to worry about college. 

Another thing I always heard: that I was a freshman, sophomore, or junior, and therefore didn’t have to worry about college yet. Sure, that was nice in theory, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be worrying about it anyway. And let’s be honest, this is HB: it’s difficult to go anywhere without hearing about the college admissions process. So here’s the deal: you’re allowed to be worried about college. If you’re not, that’s fantastic. If you are, your feelings are legitimate. Just don’t let them take over your existence. These four years of your life really are just that: four years of your life. They’re not just stepping stones, so try not to treat them like just a transition. 

4. HB has the resources. It’s up to you to have the drive. 

This is something that seems self-explanatory, but honestly didn’t hit me until about mid-junior year. We go to an incredible school, with an incredible staff. If you have an idea for something—a startup, a fundraiser, a competition you want to enter—tell someone about it. Likelihood is, you’ll eventually find someone willing to help you achieve whatever it is you are seeking. 

5. Your choices are your choices. 

Don’t do things because you feel like you have to, for college or for your friends or for your parents. I’m not saying not to push yourself. I’m just saying that at the end of the day, now is the time to experiment with what you love in a place in your life that is relatively safe and forgiving. I remember I felt like I had to put a very specific list of activities on my resume. That’s not true. Colleges don’t want to admit all the same student, so you might as well pursue something you actually want to pursue.
These four years are difficult. They are rewarding. They are equally monumental and mundane. But more than anything, remember this: these four years are what you make of them. They are your own, and no one else’s.