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Difference between revisions of "High school: opening message"

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This page provides a brief introduction to why high school is a critical phase of your life, and a few big ideas to keep in mind. Read it, and then proceed to explore our range of advice offerings.
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High school is a critical phase in life. If you make good choices, you can blossom and set yourself up for success later in life. If you make bad choices, you can permanently cripple your future prospects. We're here to help you make better choices. On this page, we give some big picture considerations to keep in mind. Once you've read them, you can proceed to our pages with more details:
  
''You'' here will refer to a high school student, typically an early high school student.
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* [[Choosing what to learn|Choose what to learn]]
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* [[Learning resources for high school students|Find good learning resources]]
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* [[course selection|Select courses]]
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* [[good study habits|Improve your study habits]]
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* [[managing your time|Manage your time]]
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* [[high school extracurricular activities|Select extracurricular activities]]
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* [[college selection|Decide where to go for college]]
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* [[college: deciding whether to go|Decide whether to go to college]]
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* [[Preparing for your career during high school|Prepare for your career]]
  
==How high school matters==
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===Don't rely on "the system" to guarantee you life satisfaction===
  
High school is a critical phase for reasons to do both with biology and the structure of academic systems, because of the juxtaposition of the following facts:
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If you go to school, take the classes that people tell you to, do your homework, and engage in the extracurricular activities that your peers do, you'll be setting yourself up for an "okay" life. But you can do better than that.
  
* You're still growing rapidly, and what you learn and how you spend your time will play a major role in shaping the sort of person who you are as an adult.  
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The school system wasn't designed to help you achieve your goals. It wasn't designed to optimize student welfare in general: it was cobbled together by many different actors with many different goals, from politicians to teachers to parents to colleges. It often suffers from inadequate resources. Even if the school system ''were'' optimized on average, the ''one-size-fits-all'' approach it takes means that it wouldn't be optimized for people who differ in any relevant respect from average. Compared with what you can achieve by carefully thinking about what your goals are and how you can achieve them, following "the system" fares poorly.  
* You're sufficiently mature so that you can start engaging in intellectual activity and work in the way that adults do.
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* You're at a stage where how others evaluate you has a strong impact on your future prospects.
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===Your high school academic record===
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{{quotation|'''KEEP IN MIND''': Doing well within the system should be treated as a ''constraint'' within which you need to operate, rather than a defining feature of your life.}}
  
A strong academic record in high school is critical for college admissions. If you want to get into a selective college, you'll need to earn high grades in challenging courses. See [[college statements on the importance of grades and coursework]]
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==Getting into trouble can change your life ==
  
===Getting into trouble===
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High school is a time when many students engage in risky activities that can get them into trouble in ways that have a major negative effect on their life trajectories. One reason for this might be because they haven't had yet had the experience of suffering the consequences of poor choices. Another reason might be because they're not fully biologically mature and haven't yet developed adult-level impulse control. Whatever the reason, you should be aware of the risks. See our page on [[getting into trouble during high school]] for more thoughts on these activities and the importance of avoiding them.
  
High school is a time when many students engage in activities that get them into trouble in ways that can permanently alter their lives. We strongly urge you to avoid engaging in such activities. See our page on [[getting into trouble during high school]] for more thoughts on this.
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==The importance of your high school academic record==
  
===The positive: combine deep exploration and impressive accomplishment===
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A strong academic record in high school is said to be the most important factor for college admissions. The college that you go to is not the the main determinant of your future prospects, but it's among the most important ones that you can influence while in high school. If you want to get into a selective college, you'll need to earn high grades in challenging courses. See [[college statements on the importance of grades and coursework]].
  
If you use your high school years wisely, you might be able to rack up impressive accomplishments and build a huge amount of knowledge and skills, valuable both directly (so-called ''[[human capital]]'') and in terms of convincing colleges and others of your potential (so-called ''[[signaling]]''). And in the process, also experience the [[consumption]] benefit of accomplishing something impressive.
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===Some subjects are more important than others===
  
A number of people who find school boring gravitate towards dangerous activities. Others overdo studying their existing school subjects to the point of diminishing returns. Yet others tune out completely. By focusing on something different to do that is both important and interesting, you can avoid all these depressing fates.
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{{further|[[Learn ahead in high school]]}}
  
==Start early with our advice==
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High school can give an illusion of democracy between the different subjects you study: they all seem to get equal weight in class time and in grades, so you may believe that all subjects are equally important to study. This is not true even in general: some subjects are more important to study overall, and within each subject, some topics may be more important than what school seems to suggest.
  
We urge you to start thinking about our advice and incorporating it as early as possible. Why? Chances are, even if you don't read what we have to say, you'll turn out fine. But "fine" isn't good enough to settle for, particularly if that means high levels of stress, persistent dissatisfaction with life, being a ''grind'', getting into trouble, and not accomplishing your life goals. We don't offer a recipe for sure success, but we offer a way to start incorporating long-term optimization into your day-to-day activities, and reduce stress.
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Because the method of exposition and choice of topics in school is likely suboptimal, it generally makes sense to learn the important topics well ahead of time, and deal with the others as needed to do well on the courses.
  
Further, particularly if you want to get on the ''Positive'' side by having impressive accomplishments, then you need time to identify your area to work on, and then a lot of time, and energy, to prepare for it. That will mean making sure that your other activities are not much of a time sink. And that relies on getting through them efficiently. (Complete neglect won't work, because then you risk defying the ''Neutral'').
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===Combine deep exploration and impressive accomplishment===
  
==Some starting things to remember==
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If you use your high school years wisely, you might be able to rack up impressive accomplishments and build a huge amount of knowledge and skills. Doing has multiple benefits:
  
===You can't just rely on "the system"===
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* Improving your performance in your future career
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* Convincing colleges and others of your potential
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* The satisfaction of having accomplished something impressive.
  
If you set a low bar, "the system" works well. You learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, and these skills alone enable a wide range of social, cultural, and economic activity. You learn many other facts and ideas in school that help you make sense of the world. Compared to living alone in a tropical savannah, it looks pretty good.
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{{further|[[High school extracurricular activities]]}}
 
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But compared to what you can achieve by consciously thinking of your goals, following "the system" fares poorly. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, the system is far from optimized at helping people accomplish their best. Even if it ''were'' optimized on average, the ''one-size-fits-all'' approach it takes means that it wouldn't be optimized for people who differ in any relevant respect from average. It makes sense for you to think carefully about your goals and how to optimize for them. It may so happen that the path of least resistance within the system is your best path, but don't assume that ''a priori''.
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{{quotation|'''KEEP IN MIND''': Doing well within the system should be treated as a ''constraint'' within which you need to operate, rather than a defining feature of your life.}}
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===Some subjects are more important than others===
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{{further|[[Learn ahead in high school]]}}
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High school can give an illusion of democracy between the different subjects you study: they all seem to get equal weight in class time and in grades, so you may believe that all subjects are equally important to study. This is not true even in general: some subjects are more important to study overall, and within each subject, some topics may be more important than what school seems to suggest.
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Because the method of exposition and choice of topics in school is likey suboptimal, it generally makes sense to learn the important topics well ahead of time, and deal with the others as needed to do well on the courses.
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===Consider alternatives to high school===
 
===Consider alternatives to high school===
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===Pick your extracurriculars well===
 
===Pick your extracurriculars well===
 
{{further|[[High school extracurricular activities]]}}
 

Revision as of 19:43, 16 February 2014

High school is a critical phase in life. If you make good choices, you can blossom and set yourself up for success later in life. If you make bad choices, you can permanently cripple your future prospects. We're here to help you make better choices. On this page, we give some big picture considerations to keep in mind. Once you've read them, you can proceed to our pages with more details:

Don't rely on "the system" to guarantee you life satisfaction

If you go to school, take the classes that people tell you to, do your homework, and engage in the extracurricular activities that your peers do, you'll be setting yourself up for an "okay" life. But you can do better than that.

The school system wasn't designed to help you achieve your goals. It wasn't designed to optimize student welfare in general: it was cobbled together by many different actors with many different goals, from politicians to teachers to parents to colleges. It often suffers from inadequate resources. Even if the school system were optimized on average, the one-size-fits-all approach it takes means that it wouldn't be optimized for people who differ in any relevant respect from average. Compared with what you can achieve by carefully thinking about what your goals are and how you can achieve them, following "the system" fares poorly.

KEEP IN MIND: Doing well within the system should be treated as a constraint within which you need to operate, rather than a defining feature of your life.

Getting into trouble can change your life

High school is a time when many students engage in risky activities that can get them into trouble in ways that have a major negative effect on their life trajectories. One reason for this might be because they haven't had yet had the experience of suffering the consequences of poor choices. Another reason might be because they're not fully biologically mature and haven't yet developed adult-level impulse control. Whatever the reason, you should be aware of the risks. See our page on getting into trouble during high school for more thoughts on these activities and the importance of avoiding them.

The importance of your high school academic record

A strong academic record in high school is said to be the most important factor for college admissions. The college that you go to is not the the main determinant of your future prospects, but it's among the most important ones that you can influence while in high school. If you want to get into a selective college, you'll need to earn high grades in challenging courses. See college statements on the importance of grades and coursework.

Some subjects are more important than others

Further information: Learn ahead in high school

High school can give an illusion of democracy between the different subjects you study: they all seem to get equal weight in class time and in grades, so you may believe that all subjects are equally important to study. This is not true even in general: some subjects are more important to study overall, and within each subject, some topics may be more important than what school seems to suggest.

Because the method of exposition and choice of topics in school is likely suboptimal, it generally makes sense to learn the important topics well ahead of time, and deal with the others as needed to do well on the courses.

Combine deep exploration and impressive accomplishment

If you use your high school years wisely, you might be able to rack up impressive accomplishments and build a huge amount of knowledge and skills. Doing has multiple benefits:

  • Improving your performance in your future career
  • Convincing colleges and others of your potential
  • The satisfaction of having accomplished something impressive.

Further information: High school extracurricular activities

Consider alternatives to high school

Further information: Alternatives to high school

Consider:

Pick your extracurriculars well