A Senior’s Perspective: Success in High School

Everyone wants to be successful in high school. Success comes in a variety of ways: academic success, social success, financial success (except babysitting hasn’t really been cutting it). But the kind of success that I’m describing is not something that comes in the form of a transcript or an Instagram post with this or that person. A couple of weeks ago, as college notifications were rolling out, my friend and I had a long chat and reflected on the end of high school. The conclusion we came to was one that will always stick with me: the people who truly succeed in high school are the ones that can look back and say, “Wow, I had a blast doing the things I loved and I would not change a single thing.”

No one, myself included, is ever accepted to every single college they apply to. Getting a “no” is always hard, and the same question always comes to mind when you hear bad or mediocre news: What should I have done differently? Make sure that by the end of your senior year, your answer to this will be simple: nothing.

Reading this as a stressed junior or sophomore (or even freshmen, but, boy I hope not!) you might be like me when I was younger and say “high school is not about fun; it’s about working your tail off and making sure you don’t peak too early.” This could not be further from the truth. Yes, studying hard and giving schoolwork your absolute best shot are crucial, but at the end of the day, you are not going to remember those long hours you spent in the library without rest, slaving away at an English essay that you know was finished two drafts ago. Instead, you’re going to think about planning spontaneous trips to the beach with your friends; playing “Assassin” with Mr. Lowell and the senior class; yelling at your friends from the 2nd floor of the Arillaga and quickly hiding to confuse them; and that hour or two conversation you had with so-and-so about life.

The easiest way to be successful in high school is to do the things you love. I didn’t run for ASB because it showed leadership on my Common Application; I ran because I love working with people and collaborating on ideas for the community. I didn’t start teaching yoga because it was “different” and “gave me an edge” in the college admissions sweepstakes; I did it because yoga has always made me feel perfectly content with my day or week regardless of what I have going on. Find what you love, forget about how “hipster” or “different” or popular it is, and never stop doing it.

So, take it from someone who has thought long and hard about high school — from someone who has gone through the college process, someone who used to think that high school success was found in your college options. HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT ABOUT COLLEGE. High school is about creating stories to tell, being adventurous, and figuring out what and who makes you happy. 

Success has never been and never will be about what you have in comparison to everyone else. Success is about how proud you feel about the person you’ve become in the past four years.

Megan Colford is a senior at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. This piece was originally published in the school’s newspaper, “Counterpoint.”

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