What I wish I knew when I was at Sardis

The crisp September morning when I first walked through the doors at Sardis Secondary still feels far too recent. I have a feeling it always will. Entering that relatively large building kickstarted my life in ways I never imagined possible. It was the turning point of my life, the beginning of a period of self-discovery, and by far, the most fulfilling and rewarding years of my life. Fast forward to the present day and having completed one year at the University of Waterloo in Software Engineering and a work term in Toronto, I realize what a blessing attending this high school was, and how much of an immediate and long-lasting impact a successful high school career can have on your life. Through my university experiences, I’ve learned so much about how to make the best of your high school years. Unfortunately, these realizations come over 365 days too late for me, but I hope you find little tidbits of advice buried in this article that help you maximize what you get out of your three deceitfully disguised short years at Sardis Secondary.

Sardis Secondary School, Chilliwack, BC, Canada

Sardis is not just any ordinary high school. I have met many friends who have come from ordinary high schools, and I can confidently assure you that Sardis has no spot on that list. This school hosts a wealth of opportunities in academia, service, athletics and work experience, to name a few broad categories. And this is perhaps the greatest bonus you can hope for in a high school, because it allows you to set yourself up in the most unique ways for your unique life path.

And this leads to my first piece of retrospective advice.

1) Don’t be Afraid

What scares us from striding through these wide open doors? What are you afraid of? Something I started realizing in Grade 12 and first year university is that fear is the absolute worst drawback from achieving success. Or rather, fear of the wrong things. Which are ironically the things we are most afraid of. Also ironic: fear is entirely self-created. We fear failure, and we fear judgement. High school may perhaps be the most costly time of your life to let fear control your actions. It is a time to experiment and figure out what you love and what you’re passionate about, as well as what you detest. It’s your chance to figure out what makes you happy before you embark on the next part of your adult life. So take risks, accept challenges, and know that failure is normal, and is how you grow and understand your strengths and weaknesses! Don’t be afraid to sign up for that club, that class, or that team that you have always wanted to try. You can’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

2) Take Care of your Mental, Emotional and Physical Health

High school can be a stressful time of life. It’s a period where you are transitioning from a youth to an adult, but on top of this, there are all sorts of additional stressors placed on your shoulders: increased family responsibilities, work, academics, scholarships, university applications, and relationships to name a few. However, as taxing as high school may be, it is important to realize that there are still challenges waiting down the road. So don’t sacrifice your health and ability to conquer the challenges ahead by burning out in high school. That isn’t to say slack off in high school and put your second best (aka your worst) foot forward. But make sure you take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Find out what keeps you happy and healthy, whether it be exercise, being social or counseling, and do it in high school because you never know what situation you’ll find yourself in after high school. Many of you will move out, start university or join the workforce, and I can tell you first-hand that those changeovers will not pass without trials. So do yourself a favour and do whatever it takes to ensure you leave high school feeling cheerful and healthy!

3) Plan Ahead

When you entered elementary school, you knew you were going to come out of it and go into middle school. When you entered middle school, you knew you were going to Sardis Secondary. I bet for many of you, when you entered high school, you didn’t have a clue where you were going to be three years in the future. And that uncertainty can be frightening to look in the eye. For me at least, it was hard to speculate about the future. But I cannot stress how important it is, to put in the work and plan for your future. From Grade 10, start researching scholarships, university programs and future courses. Many postsecondary programs require a specific set of Grade 10 and 11 courses, so be aware of this prior to Grade 12! Have discussions with your family about whether you want to pursue postsecondary education or you want to work or you want to take a year off. Don’t postpone all this planning for your Grade 12 year, when there are already plenty of things you’ll be preoccupied with. Also, for those of you intending on pursuing a degree, AP courses are a lifesaver in first year!

4) Focus on Time Management

I would argue that time management is the most important skill you can develop in high school. At university, I’ve noticed there are two primary groups of students: those who spend all their time studying, and those who spend all their time, well, not studying. However, study upon study points to a work-life balance being a key contributor to overall happiness and health; it’s the reason why colleges have so many resources to help students manage their time, the reason why companies try to advertise a work-life balance. No matter what path your life takes following high school, time management will be essential to your success. So focus on developing those skills in high school. Limit your social media time. Prioritize. Keep a calendar. Avoid last minute crams. Value your time. Once you develop these skills, they will stick with you for a lifetime!

5) Enjoy Graduation!

You never get to graduate from high school ever again! Take advantage of all the grad events Sardis has to offer, or even better, be a part of the committee that plans them! Enjoy your awards night, commencement and prom because those memories are ones that don’t fade away.

Embrace the three years you get to spend in Sardis. My life’s most precious memories are from this school. Drink in experiences as they come, learn all you can, enjoy uniqueness of every moment in high school, don’t draw boundaries, and erase the boundaries others try to sketch for you.