When they say high school is the fastest four years of your life, they weren’t lying. It feels like just yesterday I was a shy freshman, and now I’m an outgoing senior. It’s crazy how much I have changed over the four years, but there have been lots of other changes, too. My friends and family members have changed, too, and important events have happened in my life from freshman to senior year. These past four years have shaped me to be the person I am today.

If I could go back to being a freshman, there are many things I would have done different. My sister is currently a freshman now. She is just like me when I was a freshman: quiet, shy and does whatever she can to make sure she’s seen as a perfect student. She’s involved in school and has friends. I was just like that my freshman year, too.

Looking back three or four years there’s so much I could have told myself then. This advice also goes for current freshmen or freshmen in the upcoming school year.

Never listen to any negative criticism from people. You are different than everybody else, and no two people are alike. People are going to say mean, degrading comments to you. Don’t take it personally, and don’t let it affect you because you are perfect just the way you are.

Don’t get caught up in drama or gossip. Drama and gossip may lead to spreading rumors about your friends, classmates or teammates, and you don’t want to be the person to be involved in rumors. Drama and gossip could even lead you into trouble in school.

Make sure you always stand your ground and stick up for yourself. As a freshman, you are at the bottom of the totem pole, but that doesn’t mean you don’t matter. You are just as important as other kids in school, and your opinions matter, too.

Always try your hardest in everything and anything you do. You may try new sports or extracurriculars which is encouraged, but with that you have to put in the time and effort that goes with them. Always give everything your best effort, and you will have the outcome you wanted. You only have four years to do most of these activities, so you might as well give it your all.

Keep your options open and accept change. In high school, everything is constantly changing. You have many different teachers, coaches, mentors and sponsors who are all different from one another. They have different ways of doing everything, so be open to change. Try new things. You never know if you are going to like something until you try them.

Always have a positive attitude. Personally, this is the most challenging, but the reward in return is great enough. By having a positive attitude, you are going to make the environment around you a better place. Your friends, teachers, classmates, and others are going to want to interact with you because you have a positive attitude. You might even cheer up somebody else because you have a positive attitude. Positivity is contagious, so if you have a positive attitude, so will others.

The last piece of advice —and most important — is to always be yourself. Nobody else is like you, so live up to the person you are and know you can be.

When I was a freshman, I was shy, quiet and very self-conscious. I cared a lot about what others thought and said about me. I wish my freshman self wouldn’t have been this way. The transition into high school is a lot, and it’s not always the easiest. Be yourself and do whatever you think you should be doing and you won’t have to worry about high school. When they tell you high school is the fastest four years of your life, they aren’t kidding. Enjoy high school and don’t take any of it for granted.

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