I'm so young I find it very difficult to think that I could have much to say, however my younger sisters are about to enter high school, and I'd like to give whatever suggestions/recommendations I can on this incredibly developmental period I stumbled through not too long ago.
I will most certainly update this permanently rough draft, so check back here periodically!
The text below is more targeted towards my younger sisters and is more specific to navigating the next 4 years of their lives. For general life/happiness/etc. I've been reading Bertrand Russell's Conquest of Happiness recently and besides some slightly outdated references/views, I would say this book in combination with stoicism and minimalism articulate very well the greater portion of my personal philosophy.
How to make the most of your education
Learning > grades. Grades are a necessary evil, but generally focusing on the grade will cause you to expend unnecessary mental energy and distract you from the value of education. If you just try to learn, and you investigate things that are confusing or interesting and do your best to figure them out, you will be smarter and better equipped to learn other things—good grades will be a natural byproduct.
Reach out to other people. It is extremely helpful to have friends/acquaintances that you can talk to or work with in your classes. This is so well-known that the system assigns everyone with a person like this: your teacher. Teaching is generally underpaid - this means at least some part of your teachers are there because they want to help students like you! They are usually very knowledgeable in their domain - in the advent that they are not, treat them with respect but realize that you have the expertise of the world right from your computer, you just need to filter through to find the good stuff.
How to get ready for it and how to get into a good one
This is deeply related to the section on exploration. Don't think about what colleges want, but instead think about what your reason for going to college is. Think about what your best reason for getting a deeper education is. Explore your interests deeply, and you will naturally seek the resources that these institutions have to offer as a means to quench your curiosity. This goes for the people you would like to meet in college as well; you will want to meet the diverse, like-minded set of people that would accompany the education.
This is a brilliant blog entry from MIT that I wish I had found earlier in the process - https://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/applying_sideways/
How to make friends and cultivate your environment
Make the first move. People are friendly and will always enjoy a conversation with a nice person who's interested in talking to them. But other people will usually not be the one to initiate. Be the one to initiate.
Be friendly, and genuinely curious. It's reasonable to not be interested in every single thing about a person's life, but there's almost always something about a person that you will be interested in. You just have to find it. Asking questions will lead you to uncovering more and more things until you find that something that connects both of you.
The people you surround yourself with will have a great influence over what you think about and the things you choose to do. Try to be aware of the ways you are influenced by them and try to understand what you really want. Try to surround yourself with people who you would like to be like. By the way, this also goes for the internet - the people you become friends with in real life are limited to the selection of people within your immediate geography, however the people you are drawn to on the internet are not, and therefore are more closely correlated with your genuine interest/admiration. The internet allows you to spend time with amazing people you wouldn't normally have access to. Read their writing, listen to them talk, explore their projects and other things you admire about them.
Don't feel bad for being introverted. Time alone is in many ways more important than time with other people. Getting to know yourself is one of the hallmarks of the high school experience, and you cannot do that effectively if you are constantly bombarded by outside influences.
How to figure out what you want to do with your life
Have enough time to be bored. This will lead to you more easily/naturally exploring things.
How to explore things - consume media related to things, join clubs, talk to people.
Engage with your interests - work on projects, write blogposts, make videos, share things on the internet, join communities, reach out to people over the internet and/or in the area that are doing stuff you're interested in.
Don't mark yourself as untalented or unfit to pursue a certain thing too quickly. Your abilities and your identity are malleable and you may find that you have a knack for something after struggling in the beginning. Sometimes you may feel discouraged by those around you that seem to have claimed a certain thing. Don't let that stop you from exploring it for yourself. You're going to leave high school eventually, and there won't be the robotics club, or the swim team or whatever, it'll just be the whole world of people who are interested in all kinds of things.
Really question and learn about what you like to do, and so allow yourself the freedom to jump around to many things. But at the same time, remember the immense value in the depth of exploration. Over time you will figure out the things you enjoy most and naturally narrow down the scope of your exploration, so don't worry about it too much, but don't forget about it.
And the interests that I'm talking about can be anything. It doesn't just have to be math, biology, literature, history, it can be journalism, cinematography, cooking, urban design, minimalism, yodeling, screenwriting, languages, website creation, adobe after effects animations, music production, literally anything you could have even the slightest inkling of curiosity towards. Go for it. Tell me about it. Talk to each other about what you're up to. Explore things together.
Hit the fundamentals. Eat, sleep, exercise. A good life starts with good health.
Be reasonable and let yourself enjoy good food. As long as you follow a general theme of eating whole foods, you will be just fine.
People in high school like to brag about not getting enough sleep, about how it's impressive to do complete something poorly on so little time and energy. Don't fall into this. Sleep is important for every part of your biology, especially learning, and most importantly, just feeling good during the day.
Move your body. You don't have to go crazy, but just don't sit for too long. Take breaks, walk around, get outside, play with the dog. Be able to do simple things like a push up or a pull up. And if you end up getting into it, you will realize a whole world of benefits to how you feel, think, function, and just generally experience the world.
There is a ton to health and longevity, if you are ever curious, I have lots of resources on various topics I would love to expose you to.
You can't fully experience things in a distracted state of mind. Be very intentional about your relationship with things like your phone, video games, snacking, entertainment, etc. Leave your phone outside your room when you want to get something done. Maybe just see how long you can go without it every once in a while.
Curate your environment to reflect the way you want to live. At the most basic level we are animals that will react mostly in the same way according to our environment. It's key to design your environment to minimize the willpower needed to live how you want.
Take a break. Don't feel bad for not doing something all the time. I still really enjoy just sitting down with a nice meal or dessert and watching some TV. Nothing wrong with that. After a while, your mind needs a change no matter what you're doing, whether that be reading about something really interesting, or watching tik toks.
I truly believe at any point in your lives you can pull a total 180 and totally redefine your life. You will inevitably experience this to some extent during the next 4 years. You will learn about the world, about yourselves, about other people, and you're perspective and life will change because of it. Have some fun while you're at it!