men greeting sun. Stands on hill, ocean and yellow sunset

Dear high schoolers,

Welcome to the most easily taken for granted years of your life. This article will not speak to everyone, because it is from a limited perspective of my own. But let me at least divide it this way: IB and American Diploma students.

As a newly graduate, I often find myself reflecting back on my school years, leaving me perplexed, wondering if I really want to go back or never set foot in there again. The answer is: a little bit of both.

So to avoid such conflicts in your bright little futures ahead, here’s my advice to you:

American Diploma:

  1. Maybe it was just me, but American Diploma is easy. There’s not much to it. It’s really hard to take more than three challenging courses in the first two years of high school. If you just invest some time in your work, you’ll find yourself at least a 3.0. If you invest your time effectively you’ll be on the high honor roll before you even know it.
  2. Try not to limit yourself to your social life. Please. It’s not worth it. At the end of the four years, your groups and clicks won’t matter. You’ll find yourself within your own social bubble with only a handful of people that truly care about you and enjoy your company as well. You might be a united grade or you might not. But the only thing worth investing in is yourself and maybe even the people that matter to you. Anything else will be temporary and really, just not worth it.
  3. With that being said, explore your interests. Your dislikes. What you truly enjoy and try to distinguish from what you’re forced to enjoy or what you feel obliged to like. Try new music, play an instrument, draw, read, take up a sport, do something for you and solely for you. Do something that is only uniquely you. And discover your ever-changing self through yourself. Not through other people and not through what everyone else likes.
  4. There will be high school drama. It’s there in the instruction manual, set in stone, right under “family issues”. You will have both, and I honestly don’t believe anyone who says that they don’t. THEY DO. They will not show it and you might even not show it or even acknowledge it, but you’re growing up so it is going to happen. So don’t let it overwhelm you and be cautious of how others might be feeling. Also be smart about everything, about your reckless decisions when it comes to your parents and about your choice of friends and the drama they bring. Nothing is worse than investing all your time and energy into a toxic friendship. So save yourself the trouble and stay fully aware of who you’re letting in in your life and who you’re personally influencing. If you do that, you will have minimal drama. And by the way, friends are not a change of clothes. You don’t have to go through a whole new bunch every semester. When you find yourself stuck with the same ones throughout all fours years, then you’ve made the right decision.
  5. If older kids are intimating, well then, let me tell you this, they’re kids just like you and me. There’s nothing too special about them. In fact, just take the time to get to know them. They might actually have some very useful advice, especially if you don’t like this article. They might be super fun people that you’d hate to see graduate or they might not. Either way, they’re just people. Don’t go out of your way to impress them or be like them. One year or even one term in high school changes you more than a lifetime would in the outside world. No matter who they are, they’ll be beyond your measure, so the best thing to do is learn from their experiences as well as your own. Whatever you’ve been through, they’ve probably had it for breakfast, twice.

And now, let’s move on to the poor, academically drained souls of the IB program:

  1. Don’t be a teacher’s pet. Just don’t do it. It will not determine your final score. It will not determine your final score. It will not determine your final score and neither will your predicted. Why? Because teachers are human. It’s hard to be completely unbiased. No one in this world is, but your predicted, especially your first one, is only HALF of your studies. If you do super well on those, don’t expect the same on your finals. Unless you work twice as hard during senior year. So if your teacher likes you, thats not what’s going to give you that final acceptance from colleges.
  2. But your predicted scores will. Why? Because your predicted is what essentially sends you off into your dream university, if not with a full acceptance then at least with a conditional. After that, you can know what level you’re at and how hard you need to work the upcoming year.
  3. No, it is not how smart you are, it’s how hard you work. You can be the smartest student in your classroom, but you won’t top the most hardworking. They’ll eventually catch up to you and you’ll eventually slack off thinking you don’t need to make the extra effort.
  4. Don’t try to flex your scores or your grades, unless you’re trying to prove to someone that you’re capable enough of helping them. IB is HARD. You don’t need someone waving it your face of how we’ll they’re doing while you’re still climbing out of the gutter. Help each other out. It won’t hurt you.
  5. AND DON’T BE COMPETITIVE. It will get you nowhere. Except self doubt and all the dissatisfaction this program can offer. And it will also cause too much tension that will just get in the way of your studies. You want to compete? Compete with yourself and watch how far you’ll go.
  6. Respect your AD students. Not all of them take bird classes and come out an A+ every semester. Some of them actually work their butts off trying to make it through highschool, especially those doing anything beyond Business Math.
  7. And just because you’re in HL math, doesn’t mean you can be literary component. Everyone has their strong suit and just because some people don’t have your own, doesn’t mean you’re smarter than them. You’re good at what you’re good at and they’re good at what they’re good at. There’s a reason why you get to pick your own courses. Again, don’t compare.
  8. One day, you’ll walk into a room full of people you never even knew went to your school. You will first resort to sticking to your friends from your American Diploma years, completely ignoring everyone else, thinking there’s no way you’ll get along. Don’t do that. You’ll be surprised how fun and nice some of them are. Even if they don’t end up being your new best friend, everyone in that room will help you out at least once throughout those two years. Don’t take them for granted. IB forces you guys together, so take that opportunity and actually get to know them.
  9. You’re not going to be a “family”. You’re more like those kids from Lord of the Flies, running around trying to figure out how in God’s name did you end up here; so try not barbecue one another and work together to get off that island instead.
  10. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is stressed. Who you are during IB is not who you are after IB. You get to experience everyone’s worst in those two years, so when you think you’re completely fed up with them, remember those two years are just as tough on them as they are on you.
  11. No, you will not be an antisocial outcast living under an ancient rock. In fact, you will go out. Almost every weekend, at least twice a day. How? You’ll find the time or you’ll make the time. Its either you’re out for “study sessions” which don’t actually result in studying or you’ll work double what you’d usually work on a Saturday night. Why? Because you are being hammered every single day of the school’s week. You will not want to stay at home and study. You will either sleep for a decade or party most of the stress away. Majority of the time, the last thing you’ll be is antisocial.
  12. You’re overwhelmed. They’re overwhelmed. Even your teachers are overwhelmed. You’ll even pinch yourself hoping that this is some bad dream, but only to realize you’re still overwhelmed and now, with a bruise. You can only go up from here, so the best thing to do is just laugh the pain away.
  13. Don’t get discouraged. Who am I kidding? You’re probably discouraged right now, but that’s okay. You’ll never stop feeling that way until…maybe finals. It’s just the way it is. Unless you managed to score all 7s on all your mocks, then chapeau!
  14. 0, 4.0 , 2.0, does it really matter? A high 6 is still a 6 and a low 4 is still a 4. Remember that next time you’re staring at your report card. Especially when you don’t have that extra five percent.
  15. And finally, don’t overestimate yourself. Don’t flex your American Diploma skills in IB. There’s a reason why you get two different diplomas for each. Sometimes it’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how well you get it. Your papers are more about understanding how to do it as much as they are how well you do them. Focus on figuring that out primarily. Always ask yourself, “What would the IB like?”

Well, that’s my closing chapter for high school.

I wish you all good luck and try to cherish those years. You really can’t get them back.


A university undergrad