What is the thing that most concerns people in high school?


Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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I very much agree with Michael Schoch from Noodle who suggested this is a tricky question to answer because different people worry about different things. That said, I would rank fitting in, peer pressure, and managing what might be a crushing workload as the top three concerns.

Fitting in and peer pressure are particularly intense worries. High school teens in particular stress about how they look and what they say. It's a highly judgmental age. In fact, educators and psychologists often refer to this as the "invisible audience," the constant backdrop in teens lives. It's the sense that someone is watching at all times. Whether peers are actually judging them, or it's imagined, the pressure to manage one's image, appearance, feelings, reputation, and especially on social media, is a constant for high school kids.

Of course, depending on what kind of academic trajectory a student is on, taking a load of Honors and AP classes is not for the faint of heart. High school students often struggle with very little sleep, and intense expectations in terms of classwork and grades. High school can feel like a four year anxiety attack with every moment counting toward that college application.

The culture of a school will also have an impact on the kinds of pressure a student faces. Is it an ultra-competitive place, full of rich and privileged kids? Or more of a crunchy granola school, laid back, where everyone dresses casually? Is it one with a diverse population of families and socioeconomic backgrounds and a nice mix of types? For example, are athletes the big men/women on campus or do geeks rule? Or is it some combo of both? The truth is, some high schools are dominated socially by one sort of student, others are more diverse. Some high schools are really fierce, others less so. The culture of a school will be driven not only by the types of kids that go there, but importantly the strength, ethos and leadership of the administration running the school. Are teachers inspiring and happy to be there? Or are they worn out and resentful? Is the administration forgiving, or do they occasionally remind you of the police? Most high school staff members feature some of the above. But these are some of the aspects of school that may affect your experience. Schools like people unfortunately, get a reputation. What's the word on yours? This may give you insights into what life will be like.

Whatever your worries, you should know that you are hardly alone in your concerns. Many high schools students mask their anxieties and fears, as well as their true feelings and even identity. You wont see it - that's the point of the mask - but I assure you, it's there - even for the most popular kids, and it's very normal. Your best bet for getting through high school is to have a strong support system, stay true to who you are, stick to your values no matter the situation and temptations, and join clubs and find friends that make you feel good. The "make you feel good" part of friendship is really critical. Many kids in high school worry about being accepted into a certain group, only to finally get in, grab onto some rung in the hierarchy and then try to hang on for four years. This can lead to a stressful and unrewarding existence.

The last word on worries: although every high school student will face tough challenges, it's important to reach out for help if it ever gets to be too much. That invisible audience or the fear of being discovered should never stop you from seeking help - even if it's just to talk something out with an adult. High school can be magical time, or a tough time, or a little bit of both. The real trick is to take an active role in making be the best it can be.

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Anonymous, Teen Leader and Freelance Writer

The thing is, this is unique to each person. We love to guess at things, speculate what he or she is worried about, and try to fix it. But, because we can't pinpoint something lost, it's going to remain up in the air.

Personally, it's fitting in. It's making sure I'm playing my cards correctly. But once I learned that I didn't even need to play the game, things changed. I accepted who I was then, and who I was going to become, despite of the many influences around me. I love dancing in the rain, and I love sitting out of stupid sports. Honestly, no one scared me except myself. It's an important lesson to learn.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I want to echo what others are saying: if you are asking this because you feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, I hope you know that there are many people in the school system who want to help with the worries. Consider your guidance counselor, school secretary (that person often knows more about the school than anyone), nurse, a trusted teacher, a student support team, or a parent--either yours or a friend's. Don't be afraid to tell someone you are worried. A teenagers' concerns are valid and should be heard. And if you cannot find someone within in the system, here is a list of phone numbers for crisis lines.

To answer your question more directly, the list of worries for high school kids depends on a lot of factors, from socioeconomic, gender, class, race, and sexuality issues. Each one of these facets of identity can lead to a different set of worries, but they all do intersect when it comes to forming one's identity at the cusp of adulthood. Know that every human being has had some kind of crisis at this age--that's why there are so many great books and movies about growing up.

Let's talk about what to do when worried, other than reaching out. I found solace in books. My friends found solace in sports. Meditation is shown to help teenagers deal with worry. The point? Find something that helps you deal with the worry.

I wish you all of the best.

Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T, Author. Speaker. CEO.

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In addition to what both Nedda Gilbert and Michael Schoch have said, I think most incoming high school freshmen worry about two additional things: finding their way around the school and dealing with the upperclassmen.

Unless the middle school (6th, 7th and 8th) and high school (9th, 10th, 11th and 12th) grades are in the same building, going to a new and bigger building for high school can be nerve-wracking for students. The fear of not being able to find their classrooms, their lockers, the bathrooms, the cafeteria etc. can be stressful. On top of that, the uncertainty about how to deal with the upperclassmen can make it even more overwhelming for freshmen.

Some high schools have freshman orientation prior to the students actually starting ninth grade. During this time, students will have a chance to walk through the school and learn some tips about how to get through that first year of high school.

Michael Schoch, Noodle Intern

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That's definitely a pressing question for anybody about to enter high school. The tricky thing is that there are maybe as many different concerns and anxieties about school as there are people. A good place to look and get a general overview of the high school experience is on Noodle's Articles page. There are a range of articles, from coping with the stresses of being a freshman to dealing with senioritis. I suggest glancing through and seeing if they don't address some of your worries. I hope that helps!

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