If Only Someone Had Told Me and
A Little Advice from those who have been there
By Laura B., Grade 12, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB
They made their way through our endless corridors, eyeing our cafeteria food suspiciously, gawking at the huge classes of busy students, and whispering amongst themselves.
When George Street and Albert Street Middle schools, which are feeder schools for the local high school, came to visit Fredericton High School (FHS), they got a glimpse of what life is like at the top of the hill. To a group of eighth graders facing the prospect of leaving their safe haven and attending an entirely new school, Fredericton High can seem like a daunting place. With a student body of over 1800, a day at FHS can feel like a day in an ant hill.
Kylie C. is an eighth grade student at George Street Middle School. She found the tour of the high school a little uninformative: "They didn't really explain much, they kind of just took us around the school and showed us things," said Kylie in a phone interview.
Kylie looks forward to next year with uncertainty: "I'm excited, but it's a really big school."
And the factors causing the intimidation are not limited to the extreme size of the school. Before starting grade nine, the future freshmen arrive at FHS from a school at which they ruled the roost. They climbed their way to the top, only to have to start all over again as freshmen. Now they are the youngest, the shortest, and the newest.
Stephen T., now a senior at FHS, recalls his first day as a freshman: "It was fairly intimidating. I had just come from a school with a student population of less than two hundred; and now I was hurled into a building with nearly three thousand bodies."
This is a familiar feeling among new students at FHS. Though the administration tries to make integration as easy as possible, offering an orientation day, and a website with information on the high school, there are some things that one can only learn in time.
With graduation fast approaching, seniors are beginning to reminisce about their time at the high school. Conversations around the lunch tables are beginning to center around the past, as twelfth graders talk about the days of old. They discuss the good times, the bad times, and sometimes, it slips out: "I wish I hadda known."
What if the freshmen knew what the seniors know now? What a difference that would make! Given the opportunity to impart with their vast knowledge of high school life, the seniors were glad to be of help.
Saba H., a senior at FHS and an active participant in many of the school's groups, said, "I wish I had known about all the activities; I only found out about them in grade ten. When you get involved, you meet a lot of people and make new friends."
Many other seniors gave this advice as well. Melissa V. is another grade twelve student who says that it pays to get involved: "[High school years] go by really fast. Start in grade nine, and do everything you can!"
In the stress of starting at a new high school, it can feel rather hopeless when faced with the prospect of having to maintain a high average as well.
Stephen T. has a different take on things, that may come to the relief of some stressed-out students: "Don't let the pressures of academic life compromise your enjoyment of high school. In the end, grades don't make a difference."
Anais G. is an exchange student who came to FHS this year to complete a year in grade twelve. She offered these words of wisdom that certainly apply to everybody: "Be open to all the opportunities that come. Try to meet as many people as you can so you can learn about different ways of life. Keep an open mind and learn about things instead of judging them."
Fredericton High School is the junction of three main middle schools: George Street, Albert Street, and Keswick Ridge. Therefore, students arriving in grade nine have the opportunity to meet many more people.
Lucy M., a grade twelve student at the high school commented: "Buy some self-esteem at Zellers. Be yourself and make friends with people who share your interests, it makes all the difference."
In middle school, students begin to be concerned with their appearances. This, unfortunately does not end in high school, and for some ways it never ends. But not everyone has to go about it in the same way.
Mat L., a senior at FHS, looked back on his high school days and said: " I wish I had grown my hair longer, sooner." Whether or not the freshmen choose to take this advice will be left entirely up to them.
With all this advice being dispensed by the seniors, perhaps they as well need some guidance. Some of them are going off to explore new countries, some are moving to new cities, and some are staying here and attending University of New Brunswick or Saint Thomas University. But whichever life path one chooses, it is quite normal to have some misgivings.
Amanda K, graduated from FHS last year. She recently completed her first year at Saint Thomas University in Fredericton. "Don't make any decisions that aren't based on what you want," said Amanda, " And don't compromise your life and goals for other people, especially for a guy! Cause you're so young and you have so much to learn."
In a student's first year after high school, they have many chances to meet new people. "Friends are really important, so try your best to meet new people," said Amanda, "It'll broaden your perspective."
Amanda also warned students to be prepared for a big change going into university. "It's really different from high school," said Amanda, " There's no one looking after you. Talk to your professors about what they want, because every professor is different and has different expectations, and that can really affect your marks."
There are many options open to students graduating from high school. Of course, the most obvious one is to go directly to university, and this seems to be what society in general advises. But many students prefer to go their own way, and choose to travel.
Theresa R. graduated last year, and a few months afterwards, she traveled around Asia for three months. Her recommendation to grads: "Don't make a decision that's going to affect the rest of your life based on what other people think you should do. When I graduated from high school I had no idea what the future had in store for me. I took the year off and traveled, and I had experiences that will be with me for the rest of my life."
Maxwell B. is a graduate of FHS, class of 2001. He advised students entering the "real world" hoping to take a year off to do so immediately. "I went into university unsure of what I wanted to do. I should have taken that year off to find out more about the world and my place in it. I don't think that it's a good idea to interrupt your university career in the middle to go travel."
Though at this time of year many potential grads are scratching their heads and wondering where to turn to next, there is one door that is always open, and it's conveniently located right in the school.
The guidance office offers advice on course selection, as well as information on universities and scholarships. They have a team of professionals who are trained to dispense the very advice that is sought by confused grads.
FHS guidance counsellor Mr. Davis said that there is a lot of information available. "The guidance counsellors go around and talk to grades 10, 11, and 12, to make sure they are selecting the right courses and headed the right way," said Mr. Don Davis.
One problem that the guidance office faces is the fickleness of students: "One year they want to be an astronaut, and the next they've decided to be a firefighter."
But the office is an excellent place for students to turn to. "We try our best to provide the information to those who do come in," said Mr. Davis.
In the last year of high school, students are bombarded with advice. There are words of wisdom from the parents, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, friends of the family, teachers, not to mention the old man on the seat next to you on the bus. It seems like everyone has a word to say, and that everyone's advice is different.
So how do grads know whose advice is right? "When it comes down to who you can trust in this world, the list is actually quite short," said Theresa, "Though most likely everyone has your best interests at heart, they haven't lived your life and they don't know how you're really feeling. The one person whose advice you should always, always put first, is you."
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