15 Things I've Learned In High School The Hard Way

Photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash

Where do I even begin?


If there’s any part of my past that I wish to relive, without a doubt, high school wouldn’t be a part of it. High school was 
4 years of crazy experience, and by crazy, I meant crazy.

When I was in grade school, I used to daydream about how awesome my high school life would be. I expected it to be the “best 4 years” of my life as others would say. I expected it to become the first time when I would lie to my parents (which happened) and when all those teenage rebellion phases take place. Nothing too dangerous, of course. It’s not that I wanted to be a bad daughter. I just wanted to make the most of my youth. I don’t want to live my teenage years as a 30-year-old. I desired the full, responsibility-free experience.

I consider myself a quiet, reserved person in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I can be noisy and fun when I get comfortable, but I don’t want to put myself out there (unless it’s required). I just don’t want to. Ever since I was in grade school, I thought that if people ever do like me, they wouldn’t like me for long. There will always be a reason that will make them stop liking me. So I didn’t want them to see the best of me simply because I didn’t think they would be there to see it.

If I could sum up my high school experience, it’s basically innocent me finding my way through a dark jungle filled with animals. I made tons of mistakes, mixed up with tons of drama, and heard tons of sermons. If I had a dollar every time my words get twisted and misinterpreted, I’d be the richest person on the planet.





High School can be an amazing time when you can hone and showcase your talents, skills, and passions to a (jealous, spiteful, insecure) crowd. There will be school programs, activities, university days, etc. for you to take part in and you’ll be forced to attend them even if you don’t want to. I’m one of those people who are shy and afraid to join contests in school.

Although I’ve joined a few, I’ve only done so because I was required by a teacher or it was for a higher grade. Only God knows how many possible opportunities I’ve declined because of my fear of what they had to say. But (un)fortunately, I’ve been in a few, to mention: debating, essay writing, singing, and some club activities.

You’ll need confidence when you go to college and when it’s time to look for a job. You need to be self-aware of your strengths so you can take advantage of them in the best way you can. Your gifts will take you to new horizons. 



If I had only trusted my capabilities, I would’ve started stepping out of my comfort zone years ago. 



I would have grown by indulging myself in adventures and choices with other people. I wouldn’t have criticized my skills too much and talk bad about myself. Before, I was too scared to grow because I was scared to be uncomfortable, to be challenged. My High School self would be proud of what I’d achieved this year.



To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what this truly meant until now. I didn’t understand what “compete with yourself” meant (why would I want to compete with myself? How is that any challenging or interesting, the least?) How is that going to help me if I don’t get an outsider’s perspective on my progress? Those were my thoughts before, thinking the competition always involved another person.

I thought when you chose someone to compete against, you’re putting yourself on the pedestal of measuring how good and competent you are. I thought that competing against those who are equally good or better than you is a great way to improve yourself because you tend to study the strategies and habits of other people. It was only this year 2020 that I’ve understood the saying for what it was. In my university where I studied, academic excellence was really something. It was seen as a status of how much they’re going to respect you.

If you’re part of the honors list, then you’re considered smart (even if you really aren’t), and it’s going to feel good that you’re benefited from the generalization of being intelligent and guaranteed a successful future when your name is on that list. Competition can get too saturated and difficult especially when everybody else is chasing what you want too. It was only this year, when I wasn’t in the place where I constantly compare my progress with others, that I realized how magnificent and literally life-changing it is to invest in yourself.

When you’ve finally accepted that you have a different but unique life than others, you’ll become more accepting and disciplined to yourself because you can control what you think and do. Their lives have no impact on you whatsoever. You’ll get so busy reaching a daily goal that you won’t even get time to sit down and check what your enemies are doing. As a result, you hate yourself and other people less, minimize jealousy and insecurity, and be more persevered in building your empire at your own pace.




Is it really high school without drama?
Gossips and rumors are the trademarks of high school. For some reason, people desire to make up stories about their classmates and share them with their friends for enjoyment. Usually, the most popular ones have the worst made-up stories about themselves, and that’s one of the many downsides of being “the popular one” in high school.

There are really people who believe in hearsays and even paint you as the bad guy in someone’s story. They’ll ruin your reputation way before you realize you had one. They will stain your image and make you feel unwelcomed in your school. You’ll walk in the hallways and feel eyes on your every move and you just want to be invisible. One day when every hate comment bottles up inside you, you’ll end up crying in one of the bathroom stalls where you hear a group of girls talking about you while putting on lipstick.

The first thing you should do is to remind yourself that all the pain you’re feeling will vanish soon enough. Hearsays will never prevail because they’re not the truth; eventually, people will see you for who you really are. Don’t be too caught up with all the pathetic rumors you hear about your affiliation with someone else if you know they’re not true, but even if they are, then let them think what they want to.

People will assume all they want about you, but remember that all they see is the part of you that you show them. You control what you tell them and what you don’t. Rise above the haters by keeping yourself busy and limiting your circle. Cut off your relations with so-called friends who are the very first ones to believe these rumors. As of now, you will feel like an outcast for the next couple of days but you will get through with that one day and realize how brave you are through the process.



Although high school isn’t as terrifying (in terms of professors) as college, there are still some who’ll make you second guess about going to school the next day. Listen attentively to lectures and read them as soon as you get home. Anticipate that you’ll be having graded oral recitations at the next meeting, and you’ll be screwed should you not prepare for it. Also, be wary of surprise pop quizzes that will take a good chunk of your final grade. Don’t go to a war unarmed; you’ll be eaten alive. You don’t want to get embarrassed in front of your teacher and classmates.



I’m one of the students who don’t take notes when I’m in class simply because I prefer giving my full attention to the lecture and not do anything else. I just borrow notes from my classmates afterward and then write them in my notebook. But don’t follow that tactic; 
you can definitely do both at the same time. Sometimes, it’s important to take note of what your professor is saying because not everything is on the visual aid.

When you reach college, make note-taking a habit to have all the information on a particular lesson written down in your notebook. When exams come, you’ll have your own customized, personalized summary and notes of the lessons. Taking notes is also an efficient way to digest data into your brain quickly and creatively. You’re more likely to remember the terminologies and their meaning especially when you highlight them with their corresponding colors.



In terms of passing output (especially ones that involve writing and making concepts), I never pass something of the bare minimum. I’ve always been doing projects to the best of my ability because I believe whatever I create reflects not only my intelligence and skill but also my dedication and pursuit of excellence. In everything you do in school, don’t just do them for the grades but also for the opportunity to grow and be better.

If you make it a habit of passing half-assed output, you’ll get used to that kind of easy, convenient method without putting effort into it. That practice will affect your professional judgment and competence in the workplace because you don’t try to go over the required standards. Your works speak about how much time, effort, and tears you spent on them and how much value you give. Entrepreneurs and human resources love people like that.



As I’ve said in my previous blog post on the first time I got 
drunk, I lived a Catholic upbringing. Every night, my family and I prayed the rosary (until now). I loved praying the rosary, not only because it turned into a family tradition but because it’s one of the many ways to strengthen my faith in the Lord.

But at most nights before, especially during examination week, our teachers would give us performance tasks and group projects with impossible deadlines. I would be overwhelmed and stressed at the same time, struggling to finish one task to another. There was so much to do and I wanted to finish them earlier than having to compromise my sleep.

There were some days when I hated the sound of my father calling my name from upstairs because it means it was time for the rosary. I didn’t want to be bothered as I was too caught up with meeting the deadlines. Then one night, my dad got so angry because I didn’t respond to him right away as he called my name.

By the time I went upstairs, he told me to never put God as my second priority ever again. He told me the importance of giving time to worship God as we should for we are blessed and we should be thankful. All our earthly commitments should never be more valuable than our relationship with God. That’s when I realized I was wrong and I regretted my actions.



In High school, some of your friends and batchmates will invite you to parties and secret clubs. All of the beliefs and values you preserved at home will be challenged and tested. You will meet different types of people and realize there’s more to life beyond the rules. At one point, you’ll be tempted by their way of living and their choices.

This is also probably one of those moments where you start lying to your parents because you don’t want them to know you’re hanging out with people with whom they strictly prohibited you to be. They’ll start losing trust in you and threaten you to be transferred to another school. When you’re in this chapter of your high school life, stay away from those people with whom you know you can’t form a real friendship.

If they lead you to make harmful, irreversible choices where you don’t get any benefit from, then don’t bother being friends with them. They’re not worth it. They’re just looking for victims to play around with. It’s okay to have some fun every once in a while but be strict with your limits. Tell them about your curfew or your parent’s rules and think about the long-term consequences should you continue on this path.



Honestly, this is one of the main reasons my high school was terrible. I didn’t know what I did to be a magnet of bad blood with my professors. There was just something about me that makes my teachers’ blood boil, and I have no idea what. In my third year of high school, in particular, I experienced the most embarrassing and terrifying student-teacher moment of my life.

My math teacher was wild in front of the class while talking about me. She didn’t mention my name but everyone in the class knew all her insults were targeted at me. I suffered from anxiety; I was conscious of my actions because I didn’t want to be in a position where I offend other people anymore. I handled all that in 15. Make sure you have a good relationship with your teachers, even if you “fake it till you make it” with them.

That’s much better than having to accept a low mark and a bitter treatment to you. You’ll be with them for a couple of months and it’s not comfortable to constantly watch your back. I’m not saying to be a teacher’s pet, but just don’t piss them off in any way you can. Say sorry if you think you offended them and just keep whatever negative sentiments you have against them (unless when it’s absolutely necessary and requires legal matters).



High school is one of those times when your parents, relatives, and people in general never stop putting asking the million-dollar question: 
what degree program will you pursue in college? You can’t avoid this question no matter what you do. This will always be thrown at your face in the most unexpected times.

Don’t allow yourself to be pressured thinking about the right college course for you in high school. You still have a couple of years to explore and decide what you really want to study. Focus on getting good grades and having fun with your peers in high school (and avoiding getting into much trouble). However, it’s important to list down your top three options. Having options is enough at this stage. It’s better than having either no idea at all or having way too many choices.

Start listing down your interests, strengths, weaknesses, fears, convenience, and find a common denominator. Also research on the different college courses while considering your location from school, difficulty, skill, money, and more. But don’t force yourself to land on a decision right away.



In high school, the student body will only care about two things: your popularity and your academic standing. If you have both, well good for you (you’re safe from bullies but can be a candidate of hearsays). Grades are like tattoos on your skin that people would judge you for in high school. 
They would treat you less had they known they have a higher mark than you. People would treat you differently and would likely befriend you for selfish reasons.

Your grades can never measure your intelligence; always put that in your head. Just because someone has a higher grade than you in Science, that doesn’t mean he/she is necessarily smarter than you and vice versa. There are many factors to consider and sometimes it’s based on luck. Don’t pout or feel bad when you see the honors list and see your name behind someone else’s name. Fluctuations happen everywhere, including the honors list.

Even if you don’t get the exact mark you were aiming for, still continue to celebrate your success and humble down yourself. Congratulate other people and stop making it all about you. It’s better to have an 80 mark than having a 90 and being so full of yourself.



Schools and universities give due importance to group collaboration and teamwork. Nowadays, school projects are done in groups, so you need to learn how to work well with other people. The school curriculum now focuses on developing not only intelligence and skill but also your competence and ethics towards human interaction.

You have to be easy to work with and smart to handle different attitudes and personalities. You have to pay respect to each other’s free time and priorities. You may not be in a hurry to do group work but some of your groupmates may value punctuality and may not have the luxury of time to do it afterward. Create a strategy suitable for the needs of all the group where they can freely express their opinions and ideas.

Don’t be that team leader who is too arrogant not to consider other people’s input because he thinks he’s better than all of them. Be open to suggestions because they might have something better than what you have in mind. Give credit where credit is due and do all your best even if it means sharing the score. Aim for excellence not only because of your individual evaluation but because you’re responsible for the entire group’s performance.

Sometimes you get to choose your members and sometimes you don’t. But remember that in the real world, you don’t get to choose whom you work with. When conflicts arise, you have to be quick, resilient, and initiative in looking for solutions. Practice working on your people skills while you’re in high school before it’s too late.



High School will either break or make you. Some of your worst mistakes may happen in high school, and that will change the entire course of your life. It all depends on how you ride along the waves and finish high school strong. Don’t pressure yourself too much and enjoy it while you can. You might miss all the fun when the real pressure comes in college.
My high school experience wasn’t perfect but it made me discover more about people. It has taught me precious, painstaking lessons in life that I will carry along with me.


How about you? How was your high school experience? 

Tell me in the comments below!



“High school is what kind of grows you into the person you are. I have great memories, good and bad, some learning experiences and some that I’ll take with me the rest of my life.”

Giancarlo Stanton

Published by Monique Renegado

Monique started Life Begins At Twenty as a 20-year-old college student from the Philippines. In her lifestyle and wellness blog, she shares first-hand experiences and soulful advice about student life, relationships, mental health, adulting, and self-growth. Monique is passionate about literature, music, public speaking, and family. Besides studying and blogging full-time, she strives hard to become a published author with her first YA fiction novel and poems. Monique is the older sister you wish you had to help you navigate your twenties successfully. If you want a constant drive for motivation and pep talks, be a part of her journey.

21 thoughts on “15 Things I've Learned In High School The Hard Way

  1. I remember wishing time would speed up when I was in high school! Early mornings and late nights of doing stressful and sometimes, unnecessary work (cue teachers who make you create unnecessary posts online and gain likes/comments which would ultimately decide your grade.) But I'm glad I'm out of that hellhole with the best of friends that made the four years fun!


  2. Yes, high school can be really stressful. Wow, that's amazing to have friends to get you through high school! That's what makes the 4 years fun! Thank you so much for reading!


  3. Hey Monique, this blog post is so detailed and very well written. I have never truly reflected on my high school days as you have, and it is so long ago for me now (about 4-6 years ago?). However, high school was one of the best times of my life. Most of my closest friends now are the ones I made back in high school too! https://mingwrites.com


  4. These are all great life lessons. High school for me was the worst and I'm so glad it's over 15 years in my past. I definitely agree with you on competing against yourself, not against others.


  5. I still remember the time in high school like it was yesterday even if I left more than five years ago! It can be the greatest place for experience, but it's also been one of the worst I have been! I completely agree that you should focus on the now and that grades won't define you. So true!


  6. These are such lovely lessons! Honestly I really resonate with the “compare with yourself rather than others”, that really goes for everything! And struggling with grades not defining your self worth is a continuous process haha! This was an amazing post ❤


  7. I've always hated my high school years, every single day was a torture so dire that I even wanted to erase all of it in my memories. I just wanted to study but I can't do such a thing in peace due to the fact that I was always the subject of bullying😓😅, I don't know why but I guess that's what you get when you are born poor and short hahaha. 😂 I asked myself for a second, what if I fought back? What if I'm courageous enough back then?, Maybe things could have changed differently if I just tried to at least be brave.After reading this blog I reminisced the past, Then I realize, yes, majority of my memories in highschool were maybe bad but there's also some good memories worth remembering, it was just overshadowed by my fury and hatred. Haaaaaay very nostalgic, I hope I could relive all those high school memories (not the bad ones though 😂😂).I hope i'll meet the people who really cared for me back then. I hope still remember me, I hope SMN still remembers me hahaha 😂😂


  8. I love these all so much! I was that weird kid who used to love school and I enjoyed everything it had to offer! Taking part in plays, sports etc made my experience!Katie | katieemmabeauty.com


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