10 Things We Learned From Freshman Year

For as long as we can remember, we have romanticized the idea of “high school.” It was where all our favorite movies and shows took place, the age of all our favorite book characters and the place where we would have the opportunity to exercise a level of freedom unreachable in elementary and middle school. The transition to a much larger school proved rightfully daunting to us both, but more great things have come out of it than either of us could have imagined. Despite the incredible experiences we have had and memories we have made, both of us made our fair share of mistakes. So, here are the 10 most important lessons we learned from our freshman year of high school.

Just Say Hi – G.A.

The concept of identifying as an introvert or extrovert has never fully connected with me. When I first meet someone, I can feel very open to introducing myself, but sometimes a hesitance forms in me and my self-confidence just disappears. Do not let it. There is no harm in saying hello to someone; any negative implication of this lives simply in your head. I live by the phrase “It is better to try and fail than be left wondering.” The first week of school, I noticed a girl I had various classes with but was scared to introduce myself. Yet, I remembered that the worst that could happen is that the conversation went nowhere, but instead, she has become one of my best friends that I am now co-writing this story with. Never be afraid to say hello; the worst case scenario is that you will manage small talk with a stranger, but on the other hand, you might make a close friend for years to come.

Pick At Least One Fun Class  – E.C.

This school year, I took all honors classes and two Advanced Placement classes: AP World History and AP Human Geography. Because of this, my schedule was drastically more demanding than ever before. However, I truly believe that one of the only reasons I was able to manage it all was because of The Panther. Despite the additional work as a copy editor, being in a fun environment to do the thing I love for just two hours every B-day gave me something to look forward to every morning. So, my first piece of advice is to take at least one enjoyable class. Whether that be a language you want to learn for fun, a weight lifting period or even a hobby you want to take on, having that one fun class to look forward to makes all the difference in the high school experience.

Be Open to Change – G.A.

High school is an entirely new chapter of your life. It grants you the opportunity to change and either adapt and embrace the new experiences that come around, or stay as you are. However, do not fear the idea of change. Enrolling at Miami Palmetto Senior High was a big transition for me as I willingly left the majority of my friends from middle school. Despite my fears, I chose the school that I believed would fit me best, even if it was not for my friends. While I was nervous about making friends, everyone was extremely welcoming and I quickly felt at home. All in all, I am forever grateful that I made my own decision on which school to attend, and did not base it solely on what others wanted or expected from me. My first year of high school would not have been nearly as fun if I was not pushed out of my comfort zone, continuously embracing change and growing as a person. 

Experiences > Academics – E.C.

Possibly my biggest stressors this year were my AP exams. I started studying for them months prior to the exam dates, as feeling unprepared for either one was my personal nightmare all year. However, about two months before my exams, The Panther and Palm Echo trip to New York to attend the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Spring Convention took place. I had doubts about going — it was a week-long trip right at the start of exam preparation, and I knew I would risk falling behind if I attended. However, I decided to take the risk of going on the trip, and it paid off more than I could ever have imagined. In addition to the amazing lectures I attended, I bonded with my fellow newspaper staffers on a new level and solidified friendships I would not have had the chance to grow if I had stayed home. As long as you are not cutting it dangerously close, always value experiences over academics. Grades are not the defining factor of high school, the relationships and memories you create are. 

Time Management is Key – G.A.

There is nothing worse than scrolling through TikTok and suddenly noticing it is 9:30 p.m. My stomach forms a knot and sweat creeps down my back. I have found myself in this situation various times throughout the year. Though I eventually snap back and get back on schedule, I wish that I had done better and prevented all the stress. Throughout the year, I have become significantly more efficient at managing my time, and I promise, it is worth it in the long run. Get a planner, organize your time. Realizing the benefits of persevering and getting my work done right away, actually studying instead of staring at my notes and realizing the negatives when I procrastinate, I have obtained better time management skills. At the beginning of the year, I wish I would have noticed the importance of this skill. Though it is possible to survive with these habits, my personal experience enlightened me with the happiness and serenity that one has when they do not feel stressed, sleep deprived and completing an assignment well past midnight. 

This story is sponsored by Language Speak

Just Say Yes – E.C.

One of the main philosophies I created for myself this year is that if there is a story left without a writer and I have time to write it, I will take it, no matter the topic. Though this relates to newspaper, I believe it can be applied to everything in life. If there is an opportunity for you, just say yes. Take that class. Enter that competition. Try out for that team. Easily the biggest regret of my freshman year is not taking every opportunity that came my way, no matter how daunting it may have seemed at the moment. Obviously, a fine line stands between taking advantage of the extensive opportunities our school offers and overwhelming yourself, but if you can ensure a comfortable balance of school and personal life, taking that risk will prove to be worth it nine times out of 10. 

Music Will Be Your Best Friend – G.A.

Taking all honors classes along with AP World History and AP Human Geography as a freshman took a great deal of dedication. At times, I had to choose the hard route rather than the easy one, especially if I wanted to achieve successful results academically. By prioritizing school, I often felt like schoolwork consumed my life, regardless of the time spent with friends. Music was my best friend in these situations, motivating me throughout countless assignments and study sessions. Not only did music serve as an outlet for my stress but it helped me learn more about different styles of music and which ones I relate to most. To me, music has become a companion alongside my schoolwork while still giving me breaks to analyze and interpret stories under the lyrics and tones of different songs. There is nothing better than jamming out to my favorite songs while completing the most dreadful and time-consuming assignments. 

Marie Kondo Your Life – E.C.

This story is sponsored by Closing The Gaps

In addition to my previously mentioned focus on keeping everything orderly in school, I try to keep everything perfect in my personal space. My favorite method of organization for this is the KonMari Method — a home-tidying strategy by Marie Kondo. It includes six rules of tidying, but the one that spoke to me most was always rule six: “Ask yourself if it sparks joy.” I feel that this sentiment is not limited to home improvement, but applies to all corners of life. If something takes up time and energy but does not benefit your life, just get rid of it. It may seem harsh or difficult to accomplish, but this year I learned that it is the only way to let go of the things holding you back. This could be anything, ranging from an ineffective study method to a dying friendship. By ridding yourself of things that take but do not give back, the already confusing, frustrating and scary time known as freshman year is made much easier.

Not Everything Will Work Out – and That is Okay!  – E.C.

I have always been a perfectionist. Whether it concerns grades, sports or even friendships, I strive for excellence in everything I do. And when things go wrong every once in a while, I used to spiral into a panic. That has been the number one thing I had to unlearn this year. My first year of high school taught me that not everything will work out. Whether it was a sport I tried that was not for me, a club I did not involve myself in as much as I would have liked or even an award I did not win, this school year was far from perfect. But, guess what? I survived. Not everything worked out for me this year, and I am completely fine. The transition from eighth grade to ninth was admittedly a terrifying shock, but it taught me a valuable lesson I had never been forced to recognize: imperfection is not the end of the world. The quicker I took this in, the quicker I was able to take that weight of perfectionism off my shoulders.

You are Your Own Person (Embrace it)  – G.A.

Though high school can feel like the determination of your entire future, remember: when one chapter of life ends, another one begins. Being a perfectionist, I almost always compare myself to others and how I rank in comparison to their character and achievements. Attending such a diverse school, I have finally understood that while I share similarities with others, at our roots, we are all our own people. It is difficult not to compare yourself to others, especially when they are either succeeding more or less than you; but remember that you have unique qualities as well and that there will always be someone who has more and someone who has less of a particular thing. Not everything in life is about being the best at something and killing yourself to be a carbon copy of someone else. Remember to appreciate who you are and embrace your qualities. You can push yourself to become a better version of yourself but do not count others’ gains as your losses.