Get involved in lots of activities, high school students. Take your education seriously. Start laying the groundwork for your future when you re still a freshman. Manage your time. Apply for as many scholarships as you can.
And enjoy these years.
"Cherish your time, because it goes by really fast," said Megan Tyson, 18, a 2009 graduate of Lakota High School in Kansas, Ohio, who is entering the school of nursing this fall at Lourdes College in Sylvania.
She s one of a handful of 2009 high school graduates who reflected on their last four years of education and offered advice to current students.
"Have fun and enjoy it," agreed Caitlin Whitman, 19, a 2009 graduate of Edgerton High School in Edgerton, Ohio, but "make sure you pay attention in class."
"I wish I would have tried a little bit harder in school," admitted Miss Whitman, who plans to launch her career as a dental assistant with a 12-week training program at the Toledo Dental Academy starting in September.
Rachelle Kriegel, 18, said she has realized she put paychecks ahead of friendships during high school.
"I wanted to make money. That s all I wanted to do. Since I ve moved to Toledo it s very apparent I miss my friends, and I should have spent more time with them," added Miss Kriegel, a 2009 graduate of Celina High School in Celina, Ohio, who is scheduled to start a six-month esthetician training class at the Toledo Academy of Beauty next month.
Other recent grads echoed the importance of the social side of high school, and not just because it s fun.
Developing leadership qualities was one of the benefits of her four years of cheerleading, Miss Whitman noted.
Nico Hernandez, 18, a 2009 graduate of Gibsonburg High School who was president of the school s Spanish Club and is now pursuing an associate degree in criminal justice at Owens Community College, pointed out that extracurricular activities put students in touch with people they might not otherwise meet. Extracurriculars also look good on college applications.
"Get involved in as much as you can," he urged.
Katie Borgelt, 18, who graduated in May from McComb High School in McComb, Ohio,
said she kept a running list of all her activities, starting in her freshman year. Later, "That really helped when I was applying for scholarships," added the freshman in applied health science at Bowling Green State University.
Colleges and organizations that dole out scholarships also look at an applicant s grade point average, a number students start building in the first weeks of their high school career. Good grades pay off literally.
"I don t think kids realize that getting good grades and getting yourself prepared for the ACT [college entrance exam] really saves you money," said Alyssa LaVoy, 18, who graduated this year from Eastwood High School in Pemberville with a 4.2 GPA. "Based on how well you do, you get scholarships," said Miss LaVoy, a biology major at Owens who plans to go on to medical school.
Mr. Hernandez said he wasn t as savvy about the ACT as he could have been.
If he had it to do over, "I would have prepared myself better for the ACT. I think I would have gotten a better score. I ended up taking it once, but I would suggest they take it as many times as they can."
Miss Borgelt did just that.
"Each time I felt more comfortable and confident and less nervous, and my score improved, so don t wait until your senior year to take it," she cautioned.
(According to act.org, students may take the ACT as often as they wish but only once per national test date. ACT says its research shows that of the students who took the ACT more than once, 55 percent increased their composite score on the retest, while 22 percent had no change in their score, and 23 percent decreased their score on the retest.)
Miss Tyson, who graduated from Lakota third in her class with a 3.968 GPA, said that despite her good grades, she probably should have developed better study habits. "I never really had to study for a test because it came easy," she explained, "but college material is so much harder than high school."
Many teens feel a part-time job during high school is a financial necessity, but Miss Borgelt advised against working too many hours, based on the experience of friends who juggled jobs and school.
"It sounded like they were stressed out and couldn t give as much to their schoolwork, or came to school tired," she said
. "You only have the four years, and you ll be working the rest of your life."
Julian Bumpus-Barnett, 18, a 2009 graduate of Toledo s Bowsher High School, got a jump on college by taking classes at the University of Toledo during his senior year. As a result, he enters UT this fall as a sophomore.
"I really had to learn to manage my time," the pharmacy major said. He used a planner to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and activities at school and church. "It s a way to stay organized and recognize what you still have to do and what you have done," he said.
Mr. Bumpus-Barnett recommended that college-bound students get serious in their junior year about post-high school options. "Make sure you know what you have to do to get scholarships and get admitted to college," he said.
Likewise, students who are leaning toward a particular vocational field should research it thoroughly before they graduate, Miss Whitman advised. "Make sure it s what [you] want to do," she said, explaining that the month after she graduated from high school, she changed direction from cosmetology to dental assisting. That late switch meant she missed the start of the summer training session and has to wait for the next one in the fall.
College isn t for everyone, noted Miss Kriegel, who considered becoming a special education teacher before deciding on a career in skin care.
"Just because society says a four-year degree is the norm doesn t mean an alternative route is something to be ashamed of," she said. "I started to question, is being a teacher really for me? ...It s all about research. You ve really got to look into it and make sure it s something your heart is set on. Otherwise you won t succeed."
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