Being a kid can be tough, especially when it comes to school. Here is a list of 10 things most of us wish someone had told us while we were students:
1. The most popular and highest achieving kids in school are NOT always the most successful in the real world. Success in the academic bubble does not necessarily translate to success in work and real life. While you’re in school, take heart and stay focused because slow and steady wins the race.
2. Just because you’re not part of the “cool crowd” doesn’t mean you’re not cool or unique. I remember one time just before Christmas break, I was walking out of a chemistry exam and a guy in my class who rarely spoke to me came up and said, “It must be wonderful to be like you and not get nervous about big tests like this.” I looked at him and laughed. I said, “What the heck are you talking about? I’m a wreck just like everyone else.” It just goes to show you that not only is perception in the eye of the beholder, but it’s also not always on target. The reason I seemed composed going into exams was that I developed a “leapfrog focus” (i.e. “When the exam is over, I’m going to see a movie/have hot chocolate/etc.), but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a nervous wreck. I’m amused at how we can all look at each other and think something is true when it isn’t. Everyone has feelings, insecurities, ambitions, and dreams that aren’t apparent on the surface.
3. The smartest, most interesting, and most creative people usually aren’t the most socially comfortable or interested. It’s the least popular, most focused kids who become the most influential and successful. They’re the ones thinking day in and day out about the big things they’re going to do with their lives. So if you’re one of them, don’t worry. And if you’re not, don’t be mean to them. You never know who’s going to be signing your paycheck or be in a position to help you down the line. As they say, nerds rule.
4. Being different is actually good. In the adolescent and post-adolescent years, there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the group, agree to their rules, and dress, talk, and behave a certain way. It’s a matter of belonging. However, even though there’s a lot of pressure to fit in and be like everyone else, you can get to the point where you lose sight of who you are at a time when you’re supposed to be discovering yourself. Therefore, being like everyone else is in direct conflict with what you really need.
5. Pursue what you love regardless of what people say. You have to remember that people in school are painfully limited in their perspective on the world. Whatever it is that you’re really into, that you want to stay up late reading about, or you’re thinking about when you should be focusing on a lecture or studying may be the key to what you build your life and career around. Don’t ignore your passion. It doesn’t matter if anybody else thinks it’s stupid – it’s your passion.
6. Extracurricular activities and internships are sometimes more important than academics. Interacting with the outside world gives you invaluable experiences. The more you interact with adults, businesses, community groups and execs, the more comfortable you’ll be networking with them when you need a loan, a job, advice on your career, admission to grad school, etc. Get outside the bubble of school and build a network.
7. Courses and majors in school do not necessarily correlate to opportunities in the real world. I laugh at some of the majors colleges have, such as “Women’s Studies” or “Communication Studies.” What the heck are you going to do with those?! Some of these degrees simply aren’t pragmatic in the real world.
8. Teachers and professors are not the enemy. Consider them as mentors and friends. Talk to them often for advice and counsel. Ask them for extra help, perspective, or just to go over something again. When I was a professor, I really appreciated the students who came around and wanted to learn more.
9. Your parents and family usually have your best interests at heart. They may not always understand why you do some of the things you do, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t make life harder on your folks. The better your relationship is with your parents, the easier life is going to be. Period. You need family.
10. Life is complicated – get used to it. Consider all the frustrations you’re going through now as training for the really big stuff later. Learn to deal with conflict, confusion, challenges, and tackling things you don’t like or understand in school because adulthood is a much more dangerous atmosphere. Develop the coping skills you’ll need for the rest of your life. The biggest war is not with your teachers or your parents, but the one you have with yourself over who and what you’re going to be and what you’ll stand for.