High School Decisions…

Lauren, guest teen blogger

It’s the beginning of eighth grade and everyone seems to be talking about high school. The teachers are all talking about how different high school will be and that no one will be there to “hold our hands”. The high school fair is coming up where schools in the area come to talk to us. But, most of all it’s the students talking about which high school they plan to attend. Our town doesn’t have our own high school, so we send to another school in a neighboring town. I think because of that, many students feel they want to attend private schools or at least not the public school our district feeds to. Around here there are some other good options. We have many different county schools that are free and a great education, but there you lack the normal high school experience and you need to be willing to specialize. There’s a county school that’s great for technology, one for if you want to be a doctor, one for marine and ocean sciences, and several more. Then, there are extremely competitive, private, non-religious schools, which cost a fortune. Finally, there are Catholic schools that aren’t really such great schools and are pretty expensive. Those are the main schools other than the public school that students attend.

So the question is “why does it seem to be such a hard decision?” For many girls, I think they may be intimidated by the big public high school which is also fed into by another school where the kids seem to be a bit tougher. Since my brother is already attending, I’m not that worried about that. So, for me, it’s either the standard public high school or this county school for technology. I want the “normal high school experience”, but the technology school offers a great education (for free!) and I’m really interested in what they have to offer. So what do you guys think about the high school decision?

Rach, the “teen”

First let me tell you this: the teachers who tell you that high school is different (read: way hard), those teachers are lying to you. Freshman year is all about teachers helping you. Being a freshman is kind of like being in a big prep class for the rest of high school. Unless you’re planning on taking all AP classes, you’ll be fine. High school isn’t as hard as they say.

When it comes to specialized high schools, I think they are a terrible idea. Like, fantastically bad. That is when I was 13, and going into high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be. At least, I would certainly not have expected to be interested in so many things. I think specializing that early is bad for the majority of kids.

Think of it like this, when I was nine, I wanted to be an astronaut. At 15, I desperately wanted to be an artist. Now, at 18, I have no idea what I want from my life. When you were nine, what did you want to be? If you choose the specialized school, you get a very specific education that may fit in with what you want now, but it might or might not fit in with what you want later. Like me and being an astronaut, I would have been seriously regretting that decision now, had I chosen then to go into science. Or into a specialized art school at 15. Rounded is good.

So, right now you’ve got to choose between a classic high school experience and one that is more fitted to what you might want in a career. If you were my real sister, I would encourage you to go to public school.

Brad, the “dad”

Way, way, way back in the Triassic when I went to high school, there wasn’t any choice at all. There was the public high school nearest to you – no intradistrict transfers back then, let me tell you – and there was the Catholic high school that was for actual Catholics. But now? For both my daughters, we had to struggle with far too many choices, and that’s not unusual. So welcome to the party, Lauren. Sorry.

I have to agree with Rach here: a lot of the scare-talk about how different and huge and terrifying high school will be is exactly that: scare-talk. Only those afflicted with genius or obsession should even think about single-subject schools (and that’s a much, much smaller group than you think. P.S. You’re not one of them). On the other hand, the idea of a “real high school experience” is equally fantastical. Our li’l ones went (are going) to a project-based high school that’s far from home and has only about 400 kids, and we agonized about the same thing: will they get a “real” high school experience in such a small, non-neighborhoody place? And it’s true, there isn’t a cheerleading squad or a CIF football team there, but The Girls didn’t suffer (they wouldn’t have been cheerleaders or quarterbacks anyway); today they are socially well-adjusted, and so far there’s been no difficulty in getting into college. So what is a “real high school experience,” anyway? My observation? It’s the one you have, not the one you see on TV or other people tell you about (that, after all, is their “real high school experience”).

My advice: ask everybody you know, with kids in and recently out of high school, for recommendations. If you’re lucky, there will be some options within your public school district. But check out charter schools, open-enrollment church-based schools, any private schools you can honestly afford. You’ll find that almost all of them offer you a chance to “shadow” a current student for a full day – not just to go on a tour and get a sales pitch, but to actually attend classes, hang out at lunch, talk to the current students. (And if they don’t offer that kind of access…cross them off the list.) Then choose the one (or ones – options, always options!) that ‘feels’ the most comfortable.

And most important of all: don’t worry about it, no matter what those icky grown-ups and teachers say. The experience you’ll have in high school will have as much to do with you, and how you approach it, as it does with the school itself…and if you go in next Fall determined to enjoy yourself, learn what you can, and move on to college in a few years, you’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll be great.