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Hello! My name is Acacia, and I am a 2020 high school graduate. My high school was a public school located in a small city north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program Candidate (wow, that’s a mouthful) before I graduated, and now I’m an incoming freshman at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, studying Mathematics and Statistics.
My high school experience was probably similar to most of yours, or at least, what it was going to be. I did online school for the second half of my senior year, but I know it doesn’t even come close to what you’re going to experience. However, I will be telling you about how it was as well as some of my experiences that you may also face.
Let’s start before the beginning: the end of eighth grade. I went to a private Christian elementary school. A lot of those in my grade were from different school zones, so I and a lot of the friends I’d had for approximately six years were splitting up. Going to high school with me was one female friend who I honestly didn’t know that well, and we’re still friends to this day.
Now to the beginning: Grade Nine. I was starting almost fresh, at least, friends-wise. I had that one female friend, but we didn’t have any classes together. But that was okay! I made a couple friends relatively quickly. I understand that as you are online or only partially in school, it may be a lot harder to make new friends. As my university is 100% online this semester, I was worried about the exact same thing. However, a sister in the church told me that I really shouldn’t worry. A lot of her closest friends were not friends she had in her freshman year. I realized that to be true of my own high school career. Almost none of my close friends in Grade Nine are my current close friends. So don’t worry about it! As you age, you and your friendships will evolve.
Grade Nine was tough for me. My school was really small, so I was used to being one of the smarter kids in my grade. In high school, that all changed. On my first math test, I got a 64%, and that still haunts me. However, it was definitely a learning experience, and I have advice for it now.
My advice is this: understand the kind of work you’re doing. For example, math in elementary school may be completely different from math in secondary school. I know it was for me. Find out the format of the test - is it in short answer, multiple choice, or something else? What does “short answer” mean? Does it just mean the answer or do you have to show your work? It’s the same with any subject. Don’t assume you know the format just because it sounds the same as it was in elementary school. I made that mistake in pretty much every ninth grade class.
So that was my advice for ninth graders. For tenth, my advice is simple. Enjoy yourself! Personally, I think Grade Ten is the best of the four years. Your grades don’t matter yet (at least, in Canada they usually don’t), and you should take advantage of that! You can use this time to join clubs, figure out what you enjoy doing, or even think about where you want to go for post-secondary.
However, a huge thing people usually suffer from around this time is, and I’m calling it, “Comparison Syndrome.” I remember constantly looking at my friends and peers and thinking, “Wow that person is so successful already! They joined a bunch of clubs and have such high grades!” I felt this all throughout high school, not just in tenth grade. All I have to say about this is to try to be happy for them, but I know how hard that is to do. Remember, God has a personal path for you.
Okay, Grade Eleven. My junior year was probably different from most of yours. I didn’t apply for post-secondary yet, and I didn’t have college essays or SATs. So while I can’t help with that, I may be able to help with picking a university/college.
My history teacher advised us to make a chart with all the important things you’re looking for in a post-secondary institution and give them number values. Then, add them up and try to figure out which institution provides the best options for your needs. Another option is a pros/cons list. Find out which institution has more pros or whose pros are better than the other ones.
This is another place where I was constantly comparing myself with others. I felt like I was less successful because I wasn’t going to John Hopkins or Harvard like a couple of my peers are (I don’t even want to be a doctor - sorry Mom). Like I said earlier, God has a different plan for me and you. What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. And besides, if I were going to JHU or Harvard, I might not be here writing this for you.
Another incredibly helpful thing for high school is to join your school’s fellowship, if you have one. I joined mine, Youth Alive, in Grade Nine and stayed throughout all four years. I made Christian friends there I never would have met otherwise. We watched and helped each other grow and mature in Christ.
If your school doesn’t have a Christian fellowship or Bible study, finding Christian friends is a huge help as well. I found that I never had to specifically seek out Christian friends. We just ended up meeting each other, becoming friends, and then finding out we were both Christians. The first friend I ever made in high school was a Christian. God will definitely show you the right people to be friends with.
I think I would tell my fourteen-year-old self to relax. I don’t have to join and preside over every club or have the highest grade to get into a good post-secondary institution. I was accepted to every school I applied to, and I didn’t end up picking the “most prestigious” or “highest ranking” school. Instead, I looked at what fit me and my position best. And, you should definitely pray about it and see what God says as well!
Thank you for reading, and I hope this will help you throughout your high school journey!