The Freshman 50 Junior

The Freshman 50 Jr.
I was quickly scrolling through the submissions from the survey I placed on my blog the other day.  I was surprised, and a little excited, to see so many girls under the age of 18 reading College Prep.
Then I started thinking about high school… and The Freshman 50.  If I could go back in time to August of 2004 and do things differently, would I?  No.  But would I like to tell myself a few things before I journeyed through the halls of HB Plant?  Most definitely.
I’ve created a brief, but comprehensive, list of things I wish I knew before high school.  We’ll call it The Freshman 50 Jr.  If you’re out of high school, feel free to share your own advice in a comment!!!
1.     Popularity is relative.
Hang out with people that you feel comfortable being around.  Surround yourself with other students who share similar beliefs and morals.  At the same time, though, don’t exclude anyone.  If a girl is trying to be your friend, give her a chance.  She respects you and is reaching out.  You may not be “the popular” bouncy, big hair, and white teeth girl out of the movies.  But being respectful to your classmates, getting to know different girls, and having a genuinely nice personality can make you well liked by all.
2.     The grass is not always greener.
So you wish you were the popular, bouncy, big hair, and white teeth girl that you watch from a distance in the cafeteria?  Well, she may feel insecure, compromise her beliefs, and be struggling with family issues.  Just because someone seems perfect, it does not mean that they don’t have similar problems.  Don’t shed your skin so much that you lose yourself in the process.
3.     Practice studying, even if you don’t have to.
I’ll admit that I never really had to study throughout high school (well, except for calculus junior year).  Reading through my notes on the walk to class before a test does not count as studying.  It may be easy to do the bare minimum (you are still a straight A student after all), but it will pay off tremendously if you learn to study now.  Classes in college will require studying and not having to spend time picking up study habits will give you an edge.
Also, I’d like to point out, that actually remembering stuff from your high school classes will give you a great foundation to build your college studies on.
4.     The “C” word.
This should be a completely personal experience and process for you.  My advice is to not broadcast where you are applying.  The second a friend or parent finds out you’re a senior, he will be inclined to ask, “Where are you applying!?!”  He is just curious and trying to be friendly, but you are by no means required to rattle off the list of schools that you are hoping to be accepted to.  In fact, it is really awkward when everyone knows where you applied, and you don’t get in.
5.     It’s okay to grow apart from some friends.
You might have been best friends with the same group of girls since middle or elementary school.  Entering high school as a fourteen-ish year old, it’s great to have this group of girls to hang out with.  By the time you leave high school, though, you’re eighteen.  During high school, you will grow up significantly… and so will your friends.  This may mean that you grow closer, but it can also mean that you find yourself at a crossroads.
Try to stay close with your long friends, but don’t be afraid to move on.  Especially if a friend has picked up bad habits or a rude attitude it may be imperative that you separate yourself from her.
6.     Do something you love, but don’t do everything.
Never start an activity with, “It will look great on a résumé!”  Freeze.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Volunteering is important, but spending twenty minutes at a soup kitchen unhappily doesn’t cut it.  My sister took her love and passion for soccer and volunteered as a referee for a special needs soccer league.  Volunteering was not a chore for her, she loved going every Saturday afternoon!
You make think that being the copy editor of the newspaper, president of a service club, founder of the Science & Technology club, captain of the soccer team, soloist in the choir, and a student counsel representative may be your ticket to college.  But you’re oh so wrong.  Being over-involved is bad.  How can you possibly be devoted and productive to each one of those activities?  College admissions see right through that. 
Focus instead on two or three activities that you are really passionate about.  Passion is something that will shine on a résumé.  Instead of listing all those activities that you show up to one meeting a year, being able to show a long list of accomplishments in three activities is much more impressive.
7.     Find your swing.
Swing is your rhythm.  How you work.  What makes you tick.  Why you do what you do.  Who you associate with.  Where you spend your time.
Figure out what works for you during high school, as that will help you better adjust to college.  Do you eat six small meals or three large ones?  Are you a morning person?  Do you work well under stress?  How are your organizational habits?
Work out the kinks now, and you will be able to replicate your swing faster and more productively later when you enroll in college.
8.     Visit teachers from middle school.
Once or twice during your high school career, go back to your middle school.  First, take note at how young the kids seem now.  You thought you were so old in sixth grade, right???  Use this as a reminder that you’ll think the same way about high school later!
Second, go back and thank your middle school teachers for helping you prepare for high school.  Remember those ridiculously difficult independent study essays you had to write in language arts?  Now they seem like a piece of cake, but they made you a better student.  Your middle school teachers also want to see you.  You were an awkward, knobby kneed, braces clad girl and now you’re really maturing.  Let them know how much you appreciated everything they did for you back then!
9.     Read everything, except for Sparknotes.
Sparknotes is so easy and tempting.  Avoid the blue book of summaries at all costs.  First of all, teachers can see right through it when you use the exact same motifs mentioned in Sparknotes in your paper.  Beyond that though, your teachers assign you classics for a reason.  Read them now!!!
10.  You have nothing to gain, but everything to lose.
This applies to drinking and partying.  High school drinking typically takes place in someone’s sketchy basement.  Cars are involved and it’s just dumb and dangerous.  Think you’re being cool?  Yea, not so much.  It’s not so cool when you get caught tipsy at a high school dance and suspended.  And college admission officers don’t find it very cool at all either.
Bottom line: NOT WORTH IT.
11.  It’s totally fine to go stag.
Sure, it would be fabulous for a cute boy to ask you to prom in the perfect way.  But it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t.  Getting your makeup done, dressing in the perfect gown, and dancing all night with your girlfriends is just as memorable!
12.  Take the difficult courses.
Sign up for the AP class.  Take a difficult course load during your second semester senior year.  Push yourself.  AP Calculus seems daunting, but you will come out the other end a better student.  Do what you think can’t be done.  If the class turns out to be over your head, meet with a tutor, form study groups, and ask the teacher for extra help.
13.  Get to know your teachers really well.
Your teachers end up being the best resources.  I can go to my high school at any given time and run into a teacher that I had a great bond with and talk and catch up for hours.
I found that there was also a lot of bureaucratic red tape in the halls of high school.  Having a team of teachers on your side helps greatly.   Teachers are also a great alternative to parents.  Sometimes there are things you just can’t talk to with your friends or even your parents.  Having a trusting teacher to turn to can help in a difficult time.
14.  Stand up for what you believe in.
It’s way too easy to get swooped into groupthink.  It’s way too easy to stand by and watch someone make a big mistake.  It’s way too easy to stand by your morals.
It’s not easy at all to stand up for what you believe in.  High schoolers can be cruel, but standing up for what you think is important for personal growth.  Don’t let the opinions of others get in the way of your moral compass.
15.  Embrace who you are.
You like to read?  Be the nerd.  You like the sing?  Be the chorus groupie.  You like to dress in wacky outfits?  Be the eccentric one.
Being the same as everyone else is boring.  And trying to be someone you’re not is tiresome.  Being yourself will lead you to happiness and allow you to find friends who have similar tastes and interests.
Don’t be afraid to just be YOU.
16.  Don’t worry about clothes too much…
Your mom is doing you a favor by not letting you buy those jeans.  Trust me.  Have you ever found pictures of your mom and dad from their high school days?  I look at them and think, “Why on earth would you wear that?”  High school kids place this huge emphasis on what to wear, and I just really don’t think it’s about that at all.  If I were in charge of the world (one day…. One day…) I would implement uniforms for high school.
17.  Less is more.  Makeup.
Again, your mom is right.  You do need to wash your face.  Take care of your skin and go light on the makeup.  It’s kind of like shaving your legs: once you start, it’s hard to stop.  Ask your mom or an older sister to take you to a makeup counter.  Learn how to apply an appropriate base of makeup.  Nothing over the top.
18.  It’s true: Gossip happens, but has a short life.
It is inevitable.  One little rumor seems to spread through the hallways like wildfire.  Hiding under the covers and playing sick seems like the only option.  No rumors, in my experience, last more than two days.  Every piece of gossip is always replaced by another.  Don’t hide if one is started about you.  It will all pass before you know it.  (And don’t forget, a rumor is really just a rumor!)
19. Compete… respectfully.
Pushing your peers is a good thing.  Having your peers push you is a good thing.  Everyone benefits from a little friendly competition.
Stabbing friends in the back, deceiving and lying to your friends, and being absolutely ruthless helps no one.
20.  Don’t rush to grow up!
Enough said.
What do you think?
Agree?  Disagree?  Want to add anything?  Personal stories?

This post made me take a little trip down the old Memory Lane!

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A. It's ironic that I'm the first to comment AND i'm sitting in the library studying haha
B. I love this list – as a sophomore in college these are all things I wish I had known going into college. You may learn them along the way but it would have been a great help being more aware of it all going in!

Love this post – really hits home!

Honestly Bec

Such a great list, I agree with all of these! Everything in high school seems like the most important thing in the world, but it really isn't. Quality friends beat quantity every time!


I remember in freshman year, some girls from the Drug & Alcohol Prevention Team came in and talked to us during class. My favorite, which I always repeat, is "If you have to be drunk to have fun, you are a loser."

I totally agree – there's no reason why you can't have a good time without subjecting your self to health risks and potentially doing things you will either regret or loose memory of.


I agree everything you posted Carly I wish this was around when I was going into high school. I went and I fell in love with one guy and my high school life was THAT guy I was THAT girl. I had a few close friends and somehow they put up with me and his guy being completely obsessed with each other. He drank, I didn't he did drugs I didn't. He broke up with me 3 days before Christmas THROUGH HIS MOM TO MY MOM. If I could go back I wouldn't have put so much effort into that relationship but rather into my close friends. Nor would I have dated him for those 3 years.. the last 6 months were a joke. Luckily my friends were there when it did end with a pint or 3 of Ben and Jerry. It was a wake up call for me knowing that I had to stand on my own two feet and now I'm living the life I always dreamed with great friends, and no boyfriend. My ex ended up going off to college and failing out and having to come home… and works at shoe store now.
Younger girls who are reading this please don't think high school is the end, its honestly just the beginning.Nor is it "the best time of your life" you don't want to peek in high school, or college but have that slow steady climb that all those college admission advisors talk about when you visit. Don't get me wrong, its great to have that boyfriend you can walk down the hall with holding hands, its better to have the girlfriends that'll be there at 2 in the morning (helloo you can't share your clothes with your boyfriend, if you are I think thats a red flag sweetheart). Carly great advice, keep it up!


This is the first time I've commented, but I've been keeping up with your blog for a while! I'm in college now (Nashville), but I went to high school at Newsome and it was just a hot mess, the school, (thankfully) not me. 😉

I lived by some of those rules though the seemed kind of lame at the time, I left high school a very confident/sound/self-assured person. I can't say that for most of my high school friends, but I am glad I stuck to my guns. I hope younger girls take this advice to heart; it's tough to believe high school isn't the end of the world, you're just beginning life as your person.


This is the first time I've commented, but I've been keeping up with your blog for a while! I'm in college now (Nashville), but I went to high school at Newsome and it was just a hot mess, the school, (thankfully) not me. 😉

I lived by some of those rules though they seemed kind of lame at the time, I left high school a very confident/sound/self-assured person. I can't say that for most of my high school friends, but I am glad I stuck to my guns. I hope younger girls take this advice to heart; it's tough to believe high school isn't the end of the world, you're just beginning life as your person.


This is the first time I've commented, but I've been keeping up with your blog for a while! I'm in college now (Nashville), but I went to high school at Newsome and it was just a hot mess, the school, (thankfully) not me. 😉

I lived by some of those rules (though they seemed kind of lame at the time) and I left high school a very confident/sound/self-assured person. I can't say that for most of my high school friends, but I am glad I stuck to my guns. I hope younger girls take this advice to heart; it's tough to believe high school isn't the end of the world, but you're just beginning life as your own person.


Going along with what you said about challenging courses, I learned it is important to remember that what is difficult for you might not be what is difficult for your friend. For example, If you struggle in English don't feel pressured to take AP instead take regular English and take APs in other subjects.

caley-jade rosenberg

WOW, this is unbelievable and I couldn't agree more!
My only extra tip would be to spend less time on stupid boys – friends and individual growth and experiences are key!!


I am going to be a freshman in high school next year and I am already getting nervous. I have never commented before but thank you so much Carly! I always read your posts about college (and it makes me want to go so badly!) but having this post really gave me some insight. I am definitely printing this post and saving it for the hard times in high school. Great job and I love college prepster!xo


Great post, thanks for writing this! I wish every girl in high school could read this (and actually take it to heart…)


I am far removed from high school (second year law student), but my sister is a Sophomore in high school. So, I get all the high school drama second hand from her. This post is great and applies more than just to high schoolers. I would add that we should live be the gold rule, especially in HS, because it is already hard enough. Be inclusive…be friend everyone (if you can). Cherish the friendships you have because they are probably the first friends you ever had.


I love this. In May, I will have been out of high school 4 years & it's crazy. I feel old, haha. But reading these made me think about how I acted in high school and the things that I did in high school. Some of these I didn't come to figure out until college and some I didn't figure out until my 3rd year or so. It's never too late to figure things out, but it is better to figure them out early.

11. I'm in a sorority, so naturally we have dozens of date nights, semi-formals, formals etc and up until our Tacky Christmas Date Night this past Dec, I refused to go stag. I felt like people would be like "WHY didn't Michelle bring a date?" Well after my epic fail of a dbag date for my semi-formal in Nov, I decided that going alone would be better and probably be more fun– I was RIGHT! I had more fun going alone and I realized I was going about asking a date all the wrong way. I was asking "hot" guys instead of "fun" guys to be my date and so for formal in April I opted for a fun date. I asked a guy in KA that I'm friends with that is absolutely HILARIOUS. It's all about who you have fun with if you do take a date, or get asked…

Sorry for writing a book.!!


This is a great list. I look back so often on high school and think, "if only I would've known!"

My advice would be don't be afraid to do what you love even if you're scared others will judge you for it. All throughout my childhood and middle school years, I sang in the talent show and got the solos in chorus, and was known by those who weren't close with me as "that short blonde girl who sings" (that's how I came up with my blog username!)

However, in 8th grade, some girls got jealous that the teacher kept choosing me for the solos, and told everyone how much of a "show-off" I was. I was so hurt. I didn't want anyone to think poorly of me, so I stopped doing talent shows and started blending into the crowd all throughout high school. I even turned down the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Do what you love, and don't let a few unfriendly or jealous comments stop you!

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

Prep In the Midwest

Great post Carly! You are such a positive role model for these girls… and I believe some of the points you made are reflectent upon life in general…Bottom line, learn who you are, learn who you want to be, push yourself to be the best (even if that means putting yourself through the harder courses), but take a moment every now and again to enjoy all that you've accomplished. You Rock girl! Keep the great posts coming!


Great post! I love your blog! (and your tumblr too!)

But I would say that drinking in high school isn't necessarily a bad thing. In high school you have a group of friends that will take care of you if you get sick and take away your keys so you don't drive. You have parents who will straighten you out and won't let you get out of control.

I know a lot of kids (both girls and guys) who didn't drink in high school so once they got to college they went wild. But, in college you don't have friends and family who are looking out for you. No one is telling you to stop or making sure you don't make really big mistakes. So, it's really easy to get yourself into a bad situation.

Learning your limits and how to drink responsibly in high school is a lesson that can make your first year of college A LOT easier!


One of my favorite college prepster posts yet! You are so bright and insightful. I wish I had known these things!
I am thinking you should write a book for high schoolers.


I've been out of college for a couple years and I completely agree with everything. I don't think I could have said it better myself. My mom died my sophomore year of high school which made my perspective completely realign with what matters. Yes, I got straight A's, was popular, worked and was involved in everything but in the grander scheme of things no one is going to care WHAT lunch table you sat at or who you went to Prom with.I will say, I was greatly sheltered from all of the high school parties. I was also threatened(sternly) by my parents that they would take away my car if I had even one sip of alcohol. The thought of having to ride the bus versus going to a party was a definite no-brainer! Sorry, this is totally random but point being: I agree!


I can't express how important number one is! If you worry too much about being The Popular Girl, that's all you'll ever be. Spend time being The Genuinely Kind To Everyone Girl and you'll have more friends, more opportunities, and more joy than you know what to do with. High School popularity will last you exactly four years, but the impact you make on people by being fair, and kind, and accepting will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

11a. There's no rule that says you can't ask a boy to prom. Sure it means putting yourself out there, and it may be out of your comfort zone, but down the road, no matter his answer, you'll thank yourself for being gutsy and taking a chance.

11b. Your mother is right. Nothing good happens after 1 AM. After-Prom is fun, but the people who have to stay up until morning drinking the rest of the night away are almost always going to get in huge trouble. You don't want to be there when that happens. Have your fun and call it a night; keep it classy.

16a. Don't worry about labels too much. If your high school is anything like mine was, it seems like everyone is wearing a North Face jacket, Polo button-downs, carrying a Nalgene bottle, walking around in Sperry's and 7 jeans… Whatever the variation, whatever the brand names that float around your hallways, labels don't make you who you are. *Never* let anyone make you feel inferior based on the clothes you are wearing.

What an awesome post lady! Don't I wish I had all of this fantastic advice going into high school.

The Irish Girl

Wow I really enjoyed reading this. Being Irish, it's interesting to read how different your high school is from my secondary school. In Ireland, there's not really all the stereotypical labels, like popular and nerd. Everyone kind of blends. I'm not saying that everyone gets on because that's so far from the truth, but in my senior year I could go a sit with any group in my year and I was just included into the conversation no questions asked.

Also, we have uniforms here and I must say, they're so handy. No choosing what to wear in the morning and it means that girls don't have to compete in fashion.

I can agree with the rest of your points though. It's so important to be yourself and not worry about what other people think of you. I feel sad seeing some of the younger generations and all they want to do is grow up. It's me who has reverted back to a child though!


After reading this I'm trying to remember how high school was for me and I'm having trouble. Make me feel old! And it was only 4 years ago. I pretty much agree with everything except for 12: Take the Difficult Courses. This may be because of my specific situation (I was destined for a state school where I was guaranteed to get in) but I think I put way too much emphasize on grades. I was so worried about taking ap classes, getting A's, competing with friends, and for what? Honestly looking back I feel it would have been more beneficial to have a part time job senior year and get some B's.

So the point I’m making is don't freak out about grades. Grades in high school don’t matter after high school.


I love this list!! Although, like Laura, I have to disagree with #12. I took the Honors/AP courses because I felt like I "had" to. I stressed myself out SO much, because not only was I taking harder courses, I was super involved in chorus (much like you, judging by your blog posts)! It got so bad that my parents started telling me midway through 10th grade that a B or C average in Chemistry Honors or Alg 2 Honors was not the end of the world. Yet I still stressed way too much. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't have taken so many honors classes.

I'm also going to add a #21: Community college is a viable option. At my high school, going to a CC first was looked down on, because it was really seen as something only "poor" people do. But you know what? It's a GREAT way to get all your general education courses out of the way. At the CC I went to, classes were generally less than 40 people, so we could interact with the professors and make friends easier. And, of course, it was also a lot cheaper. Once I entered my dream university after getting my AA, I was able to dive right in to courses related to my major!


Here's one more: Find a person you can always call. Best friend, roommate, boyfriend, that girl you model with, and make sure to let them know how special they are to you. College isn't easy, and sometimes when you hit a rough patch, you can't get ahold of your parents and its really important to have that support system.

shalini naidu

This post just gave me a lot to think… i'm starting my senior year coming may and just loved loved loved the article… your a really awesome inspiration to me.I really admire how you juggle college, crew and blogging. I would love to blog but i really don't no what to right about.
p.s. i have college prepster as my wallpaper on my desktop and my homepage.I just adore college prepster. <3


And another… learn to be responsible and respectful while you still have your parents/siblings around to tell you when you're doing something wrong/insulting/over-reacting (we all do it!) You don't want to be that kid running around crazy because you don't know how much detergent to put in a washing machine or that the pink stuff in the shower is mold, not soap residue. Gross but true! Plus, everyone likes a roommate that has self-respect because it usually means they can trust you to respect them too!


im a 14 year old in highschool right now and i just want too thank you for making this!! i know now too just focus on grades and being my self rather than trying too fit in 🙂


I just finished my freshman year in high school and start sophomore year in a few weeks. I agree with every single point ( and realize that I must resist reading sparknotes haha).
One thing that I found helpful was to write everything down such as schedules, goals, events,tests and keep it at my desk. Another thing that I did with my friends was to have a personal "journal" or notebook (I called it a rant notebook haha) to write anything in. I put pictures from events/vacations in it and wrote in it whenever I got stressed/overwhelmed/mad (it happened a lot).

#15 was (and sometimes still is) still hard for me at times, but I always tell myself that if I were to act like "everybody else", no one would remember who I am!! Being yourself gets you genuine (and lasting) friendships 🙂

Thanks for posting this!!! I LOVEE your blog


I am 15 and a freshman in high school and this is a lot of great things! Thank you for writing this! I love your blog!!!


I love this and how you mixed study tips and social tips together! I am a junior in high school and this is really helpful 🙂 I love your blog!

Elissa Verso

Carly, I read this when I was a freshman and I am reading it now as a senior and I am so glad you wrote this down so I could get a refresher and a reality check. When I read this as a freshman I didn't know how much all of this would apply to real life and my life, but ALL of it was on point. Thank you so much!! 🙂