By Sarah ’22
Do: Try new things!
It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and be adventurous, especially because of how many interesting activities and clubs Harvard-Westlake offers.
Don’t: force yourself to do activities you aren’t interested in
There’s no point in doing things that only make you stressed out. Use this time to find what you’re truly interested in and focus in on that. If you spread yourself too thin, you might not get to figure out what you actually like.
Do: seek healthy competition!
Sometimes competition can be a great motivator and can give you the boost you need to succeed. Auditioning for plays and musicals, participating in competitions online, and trying out for sports teams can be a great way to push yourself.
Don’t: feel as though you need to be the best
Nobody’s perfect, especially not a high school student. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to succeed every time. The more activities you try, the greater the chance that you’ll fail some of them. But instead of beating yourself up for not being “good enough,” remind yourself that there’s always next year.
Do: get help when you need it
If you feel like you didn’t understand a lesson in Math that well or you got a not-so-great score in History, consider meeting with a teacher or talking to a fellow student. Working in study groups and having a good relationship with your teacher can really boost your grades. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of – Harvard-Westlake is extremely rigorous, and there are tons of classes and assignments every single day. If you feel like you’re slipping, there’s always a safety net.
Don’t: fear your teachers or classmates
It can be easy to be intimidated by kids you don’t know, even to the point where you don’t reach out because it seems too difficult. And I’m sure every student can relate to being just a little scared of asking for a meeting with a teacher. But, the act of putting yourself in scary situations (i.e. talking to a classmate despite your anxiety and setting up a meeting even though it makes you nervous) can actually help you surmount these fears. Be bold and do things because they scare you. Pretty soon, you’ll find that they’re not so hard to do anymore.
Do: Put in effort
Slacking off can obviously have negative consequences. Put in effort and always try to do the best you can. If you work hard earlier in the year, by the end of it you’ll have a lot of wiggle room in case your finals don’t go well.
Don’t: let stress control you
If the work feels insurmountable, it either means you’re taking on too much or you’re not taking care of yourself. We’re not well-oiled machines, and we’re capable of burning out – that means you need to consider your stress levels and decide for yourself when you need to take a break. Everybody is different: for some, this might mean always doing something special on Sunday morning. For others, it might be doing all their homework on Friday in order to relax during the weekend. Regardless of what you choose to do, be mindful of your mental state. The people around you want to help, not inhibit you at school, so never be afraid to consult your teachers or deans for advice.
Do: Have perspective
Personally, there have been so many times during my Harvard-Westlake journey when I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Sometimes we do badly on tests or say something embarrassing or lose a friend. These things often cause our mindsets to suffer and impact our sense of self-worth. But a piece of advice that I now carry with me everywhere is this: every single feeling is temporary. There will be times when you’re cramming for three tests the next day or you realize just too late that you forgot to do your English homework. But those moments will pass and things will be okay in the end. Don’t beat yourself up and never let yourself fall into the trap of believing that your hardships are permanent. You will find relaxation even if you’re feeling anxious, friendship even if you’re feeling lonely, and happiness even if you’re losing hope. You are good enough, even if you fail sometimes.
Don’t: struggle on your own
Sometimes, the worst thing you can do when you’re having trouble – whether it be with your home life, friendships, schoolwork, or mental health – is to fight it on your own. Harvard-Westlake is full of people who want to keep you healthy and happy, and there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. If you desperately need advice or you just want to talk it out, we have counselors and deans who will work with you. Find a supportive adult who you can turn to when you need to and use this resource whenever you need it. Whatever you choose, there is always somebody willing to help, and you’re never alone.