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Advice from a senior on what to expect from high school

After more than a year, the school has decided to allow students to come back into the classroom full time. Although the pandemic is still not behind us, students and faculty are a lot more prepared to deal with the virus now compared to just a few months ago. Arlington Public Schools (APS) has taken many steps to ensure that all students stay safe. For example, all APS faculty were required to be vaccinated as of September 13, or submit to weekly testing. They are also strongly encouraging students to get vaccinated. While students do not need the vaccine to enter the building, masks are required and must be worn at all times. APS currently plans to provide weekly COVID-19 testing at every school location — this is now available at W-L. 

Unlike last year, there is no delay for sports. Fall sports have started on schedule, beginning early last month. 

There have been a lot of changes to the school and many students are coming into a building that is unfamiliar. This is true not just of freshmen, but of many incoming sophomores, who, despite having spent a year at the school, may have never actually taken a class inside the building. 

Above everything, it is important to remember to be safe. This means keeping masks on unless eating, keeping six feet apart from classmates when possible, and utilizing the many hand sanitizer stations in the building. 

Despite these necessary precautions, many underclassmen who were unable to participate in clubs or sports last year now have the opportunity to sign up and try out. There are more than 100 clubs and activities at the school, so students do not have to look very far to find something interesting. Participating in extracurricular activities can provide a great opportunity to get to know people, especially since it may be hard to make friends while wearing a mask and maintaining a six foot distance. Besides other students, students should talk to their teachers. While it was difficult last year, it is important to build relationships in class that can help us and our teachers work with each other in a mutually beneficial way. Teachers can offer advice and give information when it comes to classes, schedules, and sometimes even personal issues.

One of the best things an underclassmen can do is to use their time well and do things that they actually enjoy. This does not mean signing up for clubs and sports that they do not actually care about just because it may look good on a college resume. Instead, students should pick a few activities that they have a genuine interest in and participate in those for the rest of their high school career. Not only will this make the high school experience more fulfilling, but colleges will see that the student has a dedication to things they enjoy. 

This goes for classes, too. If you are really interested in taking an art class, but are worried about needing to fit another AP class on your transcript, choose the art class. Most students will not enjoy a class they are taking just to look smart. Without a genuine interest in a class, your motivation may start to dwindle. However, this is not to say you should not take hard classes. If you have the opportunity to take a more difficult class in a subject you are interested in, it is a great thing to push yourself. Colleges like to see students challenging themselves and working hard at the things they enjoy. To summarize, students should focus on their strengths and avoid trying to be someone they are not.

Incoming freshman or sophomores have a lot to look forward to, pandemic aside. There are many opportunities to find new interests, explore cool hobbies and make friends. Although high school is only four years, it is a time for growth, and students should take full advantage of it. Free time should not just be spent on a phone or watching TV. Although these things are okay to do every once in a while, it shouldn’t be done to the point where it occupies the majority of the day. Instead, one should embrace their creative side. Write a story, draw a picture, learn an instrument, or do literally anything. Whatever it is, just remember to have fun and make the most out of the upcoming school year.