Dylan’s piece of the puzzle: high school


Photo illustration by Dylan Cohen

One of the final pieces of the puzzle of high school was the senior picnic, where students gathered with their grade and wore their college apparel.

Dylan’s piece of the puzzle: high school

I love puzzles. I do jigsaw puzzles all day on my computer, I do the crossword every day on my phone and I do sudoku, KenKen and other puzzles in my spare time. I’ve devoted so much of my time to types of puzzling that I start to think in the logical progression of someone who is solving a puzzle. The most daunting puzzle that I am close to completing is not a one-million-piece jigsaw puzzle, but rather a significant time period of my life: high school. Like always, there will be some methods to solve this puzzle that will work well for people but not for others. These are just the methods that have helped me grow while solving this puzzle.


It is OK to not be friends with people who you originally thought would be your friends for life. Seriously, part of high school is realizing that nothing is permanent and friends, for better or for worse, are part of this realization.

Know your worth. In a time where you are constantly growing and changing, both physically and mentally, it is important to surround yourself with people who uplift you. Don’t waste time on trying to be friends with people because you feel like you have to.

Be patient. This is something that I struggle with in every part of my life, but a little patience with yourself and other people can go a long way. You likely won’t click with new people immediately and that is OK. Allow yourself grace when navigating the stress and emotions of high school.

Cherish the time that you do have with your really good friends. Of course, if someone is really a good friend, you’ll stay close after high school, but it might not be the same. It’s OK to drift, but spend time with the people you really care about.


Do not procrastinate. As hard as it is, spacing out your work for an essay, test or big project will be one of the best decisions you can make. It will make the quality of your work better, and it won’t give you the stress (or sleep deprivation, I’ve been there too) of saving everything for the last minute. Planning out small chunks of a task to do leading up to the due date for an assignment will help you in the long run, even if you see no reason to start a project two weeks before the deadline. Trust me, it is worth it.

Participate in class. Even if you don’t feel like it or are not in the mood to do anything, raising your hand to answer or ask a question is an important part of growing as a student and building strong relationships with your teachers. For juniors, this means having stronger college recommendation letters. For anyone else, this means just being able to learn more effectively since you are actively engaging in class.

Take AP classes, if you want to. There is no need to load up on as many APs as possible just because you can. The most I took in one year was four, one of which was a double period. This was more than enough for me. Go out of your comfort zone, but don’t push your limits too much. Taking AP classes and taking the exams seriously meant that for me, I’ll have up to 36 credits entering college, or about a year’s worth of classes. As expensive as the exams seem, college classes are not cheap whatsoever, so if you feel comfortable doing so, take advantage of all of the APs offered here and study well for the exams.

Start your college application components early. By early, I mean starting your essay in May or June before the Common App opens. As soon as the application platform that you are using opens, start working on your college applications. For me, the first semester of senior year was much more stressful than junior year, so starting your application early is just one more thing you won’t have to worry about.


Your grades do not define you. This is another thing that I struggled with throughout high school. I was convinced that if I got below an A in a class I was stupid, but this is not true. I was challenging myself in my classes and really trying my best. You are still smart if you do not get an A, and you can still get into good colleges if you don’t do well in a few classes.

Don’t overbook yourself. Having too many activities with not enough breaks or rest is a one-way ticket to burnout. It might seem like you have to do every activity under the sun in order to get into college, but you really can’t do everything, and it’s always better to have a few extracurriculars that you are committed to than a bunch of extracurriculars that you do very little for. Giving yourself breaks is absolutely necessary to succeed.

You do not have to peak in high school. Whether you’ve struggled socially, academically, or otherwise, you most likely won’t reach your full potential in high school. Just spend this time being the best version of yourself you can be.