We’re all in this together

Seniors share advice to help a new generation of students navigate the OPHS experience

East High is a place where teachers encouraged us to break the status quo and define ourselves as we choose. Where a jock can cook up a mean crème brulee, and a brainiac can break it down on the dance floor,” said Troy Bolton in “High School Musical 3: Senior Year. “It’s a place where one person, if it’s the right person, changes us all. East High is having friends we’ll keep for the rest of our lives, and that means we really are ‘all in this together’. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!”

Oak Park High School might not exactly be East High. We certainly don’t have as much singing in the halls. However, the creme brulee-cooking jocks and break-dancing brainiacs of East High are rivaled by the eccentricities of Oak Park.

It can be tough to navigate this environment, and it can be helpful to hear about the experiences of those who’ve survived it. So as we both prepare to leave our senior year behind, we also want to leave behind some of the best advice we’ve gathered in our time at OPHS.


Rising Sophomores: Don’t overload yourself just because you can

Try not to stress about packing your schedule with Advanced Placement or Honors classes. Through the years, OPHS has built up a highly competitive culture. From the outside looking in, it may seem like if you’re not taking several APs, you’re not keeping up. Our big piece of advice is that you shouldn’t be afraid to break the cycle of high academic stress, despite peer pressure.

Sophomore year represents a unique opportunity for OPHS students. By school policy, freshmen have limited course selection options. Once we reach sophomore year, that all changes. AP and Honors classes offer students enticing GPA boosts and opportunities to further explore their specific academic interests. However, the pathways that open up can be overwhelming in the new freedom they offer students.

If you don’t feel you’re ready to take them, don’t throw yourself into them just because your friends are. Everyone learns at their own pace, and it won’t take you off course if you don’t take them this year. 

In the end, a healthy balance of working at a comfortable pace and pushing yourself academically by taking challenging and thought-provoking classes will help you thrive in the long term more than either extreme.


Rising Juniors: Stay social

Rising juniors, you may have heard that you are entering the hardest year of high school. It may be disappointing to hear, but these rumors aren’t baseless. Classes like Chemistry, no matter what level you select to take them at, can be pretty challenging, and falling behind is very dangerous.

Along with the increased course load, standardized tests like the SAT, ACT and PSAT may prompt you to think about your life after high school for the first time. Our advice is to stay academically diligent but not forget about your extracurriculars and life outside of school.

Maintaining a social life can be difficult, especially if you’re in multiple sports and advanced classes with more work. But a healthy and active social life is vital in preserving your mental health. 

As the year progresses, you may start to think more and more about your upcoming college applications. This is only natural, but try not to let it consume you. Take each day one at a time, and you will find that you are more successful in the end.

Even though this year will probably come with a significant increase in stress, make sure to find time to go out and have fun. Go to different sporting events, see the plays and have school spirit. It will make a nerve-racking grade seem a little less daunting.


Rising Seniors: Enjoy it while it lasts

This is the big one. Senior year is by far the most anticipated year of high school. It’s the last hurrah, and boy, is it a doozy. Senior year brings the academic workload of junior year with the added pressure of college applications, with a heaping helping of a sense of superiority over the freshmen, sophomores and juniors to boot.

Our advice to you is: don’t take a second of it for granted. It’s not the most groundbreaking advice in the world, but it’s true. Do everything like it’s the last time you’d get to do it because before you know it, you’ll be a second-semester senior choosing how to spend the next few decades of your life.

Don’t let your college decisions define you. You are put on every path for a reason, no matter what it might be. At the end of the day, there’s an element of total randomness to college applications. You are no better or worse because you were accepted or rejected from a school.

Seniors, enjoy your time at the top as much as possible. Spend your days creating unforgettable memories to add to your high school experience. Before you know it, it’ll be this time next year, so enjoy it while it lasts.