You’ve probably been dreaming of getting to high school since you slipped on your backpack and walked into elementary school for the first time. After all, high schoolers seemed so much cooler: They could drive, they went to prom, they got to stay out late.
As a high-schooler now, though, you know that there are lots of pressures that come with being a big kid. While some mistakes come with only minor repercussions, others can have big effects on your life and your future. That’s why you need a roadmap to avoid the following four mistakes that could otherwise cause you to veer off course. It’s not meant to be scary; instead, think of it as a reminder of why you do the good things you already do.
1. Waiting until college to think about careers.
Your school probably has a list of required classes that you have to pass before you can get your hands on a high school diploma, as well as some extra electives and AP courses that you can choose to tack on. That’s the beginning and end of future planning for many high school students.
You shouldn’t fall into this trap, though, because college will be here sooner than you think. Most colleges suggest that you choose a major as soon as possible so you can start taking the required classes. You might have to complete prerequisites for particular majors, too, and you don’t want to get behind.
The best way to avoid all the confusion, stress and heartbreak is to start exploring now. There are plenty of ways to find out more about the careers that you find interesting. You might want to start by taking up a weekend job or finding an internship with a professional whose career mirrors the one you envision for yourself one day. No matter what, it’ll be worth your while. You’ll either love it or want to explore other options, but you’ll have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
2. Slacking off senior year - or earlier.
The movies make senior year seem like a nonstop party. In reality, it’s much more important than that. For one thing, you’ll be applying to college around the start of it, which means you need to be focused. Second of all, a dip in your grades can cause some colleges and future employers to question your commitment and drive, which you certainly don’t want.
The biggest probelm will arise if you aim for only a C average, as students with C-level or lower GPAs have a less-than 50 percent chance of earning even one college credit. Start and finish strong to be rewarded in the future!
3. Not getting involved.
Most employers look for well-rounded candidates to fill open positions. This means that you simply cannot submit a resume with academic credits only. An internship or work position is a great way to explore your career options, which will look great on your resume. It’s also important to get involved in clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities that show you’re able to balance a bunch of responsibilities at once. This is what most jobs require, after all.
Furthermore, volunteering your time for a good cause shows the kind of person you are on the inside, which just so happens to be the team player that many businesses will want working for them. Seventy-six percent of respondents to a 2013 survey said that volunteer experience is important in selecting candidates.
4. Saying 'yes' to illegal substances.
You’ve heard it a million times, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it once more: Experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school will do nothing to get you ahead in life. In 2013, more than half of people in the United States who tried illicit drugs for the first time were under 18, according to U.S. government data. This may seem like a harmless choice, especially when everyone around you seems to be doing the same. It’s more important to think of the bigger picture and how addiction can get in the way of achieving your dreams.
Many employers perform drug tests prior to hiring new employees, which means you’ll one day have to be clean in order to pass. This might come sooner if you listen to tip No. 1 and start working or interning in high school. If you’re let go or deemed unfit to work due to a positive screening, you will certainly be jeopardizing your future career. Add to that the potential danger to your health – approximately 850,000 young people will end up in the emergency room due to drug-related causes – and it’s simply not worth it.
Of course, you’re already doing something right if you’ve taken the time to read this article. You have goals, and now you have a bit more clarity as to what it will take to achieve them. With the right planning, practice and prevention, you will look back at your high school self one day and say thanks for helping you to get ahead.