By Lydia Gramstad

Overall, I am pretty happy with how I spent my time in high school, but, if I could go back, here are some things that I wish I had spent more time doing. These aren’t hard and fast rules, and everyone has their own philosophy for the way things should be done, but it won’t hurt you to hear someone else’s opinion.

1. Worked more. It’s never too early to start building your résumé and working in high school can put you one step ahead of the competition after you graduate. Plus, your employers can write you glowing reference letters, which you will probably need in the future. In addition, working in high school will provide you with an income earlier than most people, which can give you a boost in the long run.

2. Saved more. This goes hand in hand with working, but, also, don’t underestimate the power of saving your birthday or holiday money. As much as you may want those new clothes or that makeup now, you’ll actually need that money when you’re living on your own in a few years. My advice is to talk to your parents or another adult you trust who can help you invest it conservatively or set up a savings account. That way, your money will grow and, you won’t be tempted to spend it.

3. Applied for scholarships and awards. After you leave the world of high school, everything gets a whole lot more competitive, so take advantage of the opportunities you have now. Not only can you often make easy money this way—write an essay and get a scholarship for a few thousand dollars, etc.—but a few awards and honors look good on your résumé and show that you weren’t just along for the ride in high school.

4. Learned that grades matter, but so does fun. If you knew me in high school, you would have quickly realized how hard I tried to get perfect grades. Good grades can help you get into good colleges and get scholarships, but, at the end of the day, they’re not everything. If you’re obsessive about having a stellar GPA to the point where it’s hindering your ability to live your life to its fullest potential, then back off a bit. Take a break from studying every once in awhile to smell the roses and catch up with your friends.

5. Understood that college isn’t the only option. You could join the military, go to trade school, apprentice with someone, start a small business, pursue your passion, or start working. You can also take a year off to figure out what you want to do with your life because, after you start college, it’s hard to take time off to figure that out. There are plenty of options available to you, and you can always go back to college later if it feels right. If you need to work first to be able to afford college, that’s alright too. There is no right way to do life.

6. Saved more kisses. While there’s nothing wrong with being young and in love, you can save yourself a lot of heartache by only dating people who treat you well. If your friends and family don’t approve of the person you’re dating, take a moment to consider their reasons. It’s very likely that they’re looking out for your best interest, and you may be too emotionally involved to accurately assess your relationship. Also, only go after people who want to be with you. If someone can’t see how awesome you are on their own, they don’t deserve to be with you.

7. Lived a healthier lifestyle. Eat right. Stay active. Those are two of the best ways to genuinely feel well. Trust me, if you don’t start now, it will be so much more difficult to start after you graduate. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, you will never have more free time than you do now. If you go to college, your life will get significantly busier, and when you join the workforce, you will definitely have less free time than you do now. So go ahead and start yourself on a schedule of physical activity and start eating a more balanced diet, filled with lots of vegetables. You’ll feel so much better if you do.

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