My school is a high school/middle school combo, so I sometimes run into middle schoolers and they ask, “What is high school like?” It’s funny because since they’re middle schoolers, they think they already know everything, so they don’t me seriously. It is a hard question to answer, though.

I understand their arrogance. In middle school, I also looked forward to my days as a high schooler. I thought I knew how it would be: how I would have the coolest friends, the sweetest boyfriend, and I would be happy all the time. Well, unfortunately for middle school me, it didn’t exactly happen like that. At first it was similar to being thrown into a melting pot of drama, grades, hormones and angst. Eventually, I found my way out, and I got to really experience high school for what it is.

As my fellow editorial intern, Natalie Doan-Dunnum, says, “What makes high school so high school is that it’s so surprising. It’s everything you expect, but then everything you don’t.” Most people imagine their high school experience as something similar to what they have seen in the media: free, fun, and the best time of their lives. Sometimes that can be sort of true, but all that fun is just mixed with other events. The media may enchant us with the idea of being one of the cool kids or going to huge parties, but you know what? It doesn’t prepare us for pulling an all nighter before a history test or being stressed out due to a full schedule, and it definitely doesn’t truly prepare us for the different transformation we go through to start finding who we really are.

We expect high school to be super awesome with some mean people and rough spots here and there, but we aren’t shown the reality of high school, the pros and cons. Everything is different when you go through it yourself. So high school is kind of like wading through shallow water; you know there may be sharp rocks, but it’s still a shock when you get cut by them.

High school may not be exactly what we expect (Is anything?), but it is what you make of it. Teens all have their weird phases in high school (I had one where I insisted on going everywhere barefoot aka my hippy, down-to-earth phase). We may go from preppy to nerdy to goth to who knows because we are trying to find out who we really are.  But between the different phases, we find that we have the flexibility to make things, along with ourselves, what we want. “What makes high school so high school for me is the disappearance of the idea of ‘cool’ as a term set in stone,” Michael Salib, an Admit/Deny writer, says. “Cool becomes what you want it to be.” Nothing has to become a popularity contest or a competition if we don’t want to, and even though things still do, we get to choose what. In high school, we start to really think for ourselves, develop different opinions and become true individuals.

When people think of what makes high school so high school, the first things that come to mind is the plethora of drama: classes, cliques, hook ups, grades, hormones, first loves. But just like Shrek, high school is an onion, and those things are just the top layer. So what really makes high school so high school? Everything about it! From eating lunch with your friends to talking about cute girls and boys to going to prom and homecoming, every experience you have in high school. Though that seems obvious, it’s so true. High school is that stage between the awkward stage of middle school and the semi-adult life of college, so of course you’re going to have to go through some major changes, and it is what you make it. It sure is an unpredictable roller coaster, but we  can all at least try to enjoy the ride.

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