41 High School Accomplishments to Achieve Before Graduation
Your list of high school accomplishments is something you should start working on the minute you enroll in that first ninth-grade class. You’ve only got four years to make the most of them, so it helps to have a game plan going in — a “bucket list,” of sorts, except at the end of this one, you don’t die. (Win-win.)
To help support you in the journey, we’ve put together a list of 41 that should be required doing. Now the good news is, you don’t have to get them all accomplished at once. After all, you’ve got four years, and some of these may not even be available to you until you and your friends are old enough to drive.
If you can just pace yourself at around 10 per year, you should be able to collect a diploma, cap, and gown with zero regrets. Let’s get started.
1. A prom experience
As someone who never went to the prom, I can tell you that it’s not necessary from a happiness perspective. But you do need some kind of prom experience. Maybe skip out on the dance and all the formal hoopla and meet up with your friends later, eager to make fun of them for spending hundreds of dollars for a few hours of one evening.
But if prom is your thing, by all means, go to it. Either way, you want to find some time in the prom’s gravitational pull to squeeze in camaraderie and togetherness.
2. Be kind to lower classmen
Picking on freshmen lacks so much originality, it should officially be considered lame. Since the dawn of time, upperclassmen have used their position to abuse power to varying degrees. Try bucking the trend, and you’ll stand out as a leader. That’ll come in handy, too, especially when we get to a later entry on this list of high school accomplishments.
The great thing about being kind to lower classmen: it takes almost no effort. You can just go up and say “Hi” and tell them your name. They’re usually so worried about being the object of a bully’s attention that they’ll be over-the-moon you didn’t stuff them into a locker.
3. A non-academic all-nighter
As you get older, all-nighters are usually born out of necessity. As in, you have to finish this project or study for this test. But in high school, the tension isn’t nearly as high. Since you’re going to need the stamina later as you roll into those college years, why not try at least one all-nighter — preferably with a group of friends — doing mischievous though not dangerous or illegal things until the sun comes up?
While a “good night’s sleep” never seems to last very long, it’s a different story when you’re wide awake and creating memories. You may be exhausted in the morning to come, but you’ll have stories you can take with you for a lifetime.
4. Off-campus lunch
If you’re unfortunate enough to attend a high school with a closed campus, this might not be an option. But for most schools, you can either a) come and go as you please provided you stay within certain guidelines, or b) have someone to check you out of school for a break from the rut of square-shaped pizza and corn niblets.
The great thing about off-campus lunch — other than the independence and the tasty food that it provides — is that it also prepares you for the little pieces of work etiquette in life, like getting excited about where you’re going to eat lunch and making sure you’re back on time. Each one is an overlooked life skill.
5. Reveal your crush
By “reveal,” we mean reveal. Go right up to the person you’re crushing on and communicate your feelings. It’s entirely possible they’ll laugh in your face, but no matter what happens, good will come from it.
On the one hand, they may feel the same way, and you may find yourself in a romance that lasts for the rest of your high school years. On the other, they may not feel the same way, and, while you’ll feel the brief pain of rejection, you’ll establish more confidence in who you are because you will realize that life goes on to bigger and better things and your inhibitions don’t have to hold you back.
6. Stop taking so many pictures
Seriously, people, at a certain point, it’s less about making memories and more about just documenting. Documenting may seem cool from an Instagram perspective, but it sure sucks the fun out of the moment.
We’re not saying to not take any pictures, because it’s nice to have the memento of a great memory. But take time to make the memory first before you pull out your phone and snap that group selfie. Not only will you get more joy out of the moment, but you will also ensure that you and your friends don’t turn into a bunch of tools.
7. Bust your Give-a-Dam
The Give-a-Dam is that thing that makes us care what other people think. When we’re in high school, we tend to have very strong Give-a-Dams, and that’s not very helpful for anyone who wants to be comfortable in their own skin.
We recommend intentionally breaking yours. Quit trying to be the jock, the cool kid, the lone wolf, or whatever stereotypes that litter the halls of Any High School USA. Instead, be the type of person who does what you want to do because you actually want to do it. (This obviously doesn’t apply to laws or rules that could get you in trouble.)
When you are your authentic self, that will draw the right people to you. There may not be as many of them, but they will be the types of relationships that last well beyond your high school years.
8. Live your best social media life
Take time now to exhibit coherent speech, good grammar and spelling, and overall professional behavior. What you put online essentially is there forever. And as we’ve seen time and time again, tweets from 17-year-olds can come back to haunt them a decade-or-so later when they’ve achieved some measure of fame or success.
By being aware of the scope of social media in high school, you can avoid some of the potentially embarrassing and job-killing situations that may arise down the road.
9. Mark your territory
No, we’re not talking about that kind of marking. We’re talking about finding some place in your school where you can leave your name and/or a message of some kind. Now, grant it, a new construction project may one day wipe it out. But even in those cases, it can turn into a positive. Here’s why.
Let’s say you hear about the demolition in enough time. You can rush down to the site, talk to the construction team, and see if you might be able to salvage something that has your name on it as they do their work. It could be a long shot, sure. But it’s possible.
Otherwise, as long as the school stands, something you did there will reside within its walls. And that will make it a pretty special place to be. It’ll also cement the details of that memory forever.
10. Converse with someone you’ve never spoken to
If you’re a jock, try to hold a meaningful conversation with one of the shy Goth kids. Put yourself out there. Find people you likely wouldn’t hang out in a million years and force yourself to hang out with them. At the worst, you’ll develop a new appreciation and respect for one another. Something this world needs desperately.
11. Develop a love of learning
It’s admittedly difficult to start out with a love of learning, especially when they attach a grade to it and raise the possibility of failure. Couple that with the fact that some of those subjects you might FAIL are of NO interest whatsoever, and it’s easy to see the entire learning ecosystem as polluted.
You can’t fall into that trap, though. Even if you hate your classes and hate school, there are some things that feed your hunger for knowledge. Things that keep you reading. Keep you watching videos. Keep you studying and asking questions. Hook into that love of learning. Then, try to “fake it till you make it” on the things that are of less interest to you.
It won’t always be easy. But if you learn to love the learning process on the things that do fascinate you, it will make other subjects more accessible. And who knows, you may even be able to develop a new respect for those subjects.
12. Attend a football game
You don’t have to like football or understand it to enjoy the blend of outdoorsy social experience and group camaraderie. Football games help you foster a sense of pride in your school. They also can bring you closer to your classmates and even give you and any significant others a chance for your relationship(s) to flourish.
Don’t deprive yourself of Friday night football games just because you think they’re played by a bunch of lug-headed jocks. These are your classmates, and if you’re the type of person who takes pride in what they do, they will more-often-than-not return the favor.
13. Try other sports as either a spectator or participant
Of course, if you can play football, go for it. Unfortunately, it tends to be a boys’ sport the older you get. And a particular kind of boys’ sport at that (i.e., strong, fast, aggressively and fiercely competitive). Clearly, it’s not something everyone can enjoy as a spectator or participant. But that should not close you off to sports altogether.
Consider any number of other team or individual sports like tennis, wrestling, golf, volleyball, basketball, baseball, soccer, or track-and-field. You don’t have to be a world-beater at any of them. Just find something that you can get in to, whether it be from a fan perspective or that of a player.
14. Road trip!
This is pretty hard to do without Mom and Dad’s permission — or without having them tag along — when you’re in high school. However, you can get a taste of the joys of road trips by tagging along with friends on their family vacations and making them the same offer when it’s your family’s turn to go.
That said, when we do the sequel article to this — college accomplishments before graduation — you won’t want Mom and Dad anywhere near those road trips. But for now, bringing a friend on a family vacation is a great way to prime the pump for independence that will hit when you show up for freshman year of college.
15. Opt for the lower grade
Okay, this sounds crazy if you just take it at the header. But notice the -er there. We’re not telling you to try for low grades. You should always strive to perform at the peak of your capacity. But by saying “lower” grade, we’re saying this: you shouldn’t ruin the high school experience to get straight-A’s if the option is straight-As and misery or A’s, B’s, and fun.
In other words, leave some time for your mental health. Your social life. Your ability to be satisfied with what is. You can push yourself too hard. When you do, that makes your high school years a pretty miserable experience. They should never be miserable. Neither should they be the best years of your life.
Learning how to let stuff go in favor of your personal wellness is a good life skill, and you can start developing it by taking the 85 percent instead of the 90 percent and instead using that free time to do something fun.
16. Hit a midnight movie screening
If you live in an area where there’s a movie theater that does midnight showings, check with Mom and Dad to see if it’s okay to get a curfew extension for the evening. Of course, you’ll probably have them waiting up for you after the movie is done, but it will be well worth it.
For best results, and because it’s that time of year again, we recommend going to see the 12:00 showing of a debuting horror movie. Preferably one that’s going to have a big crowd. Movies like that are more fun as a communal experience, and what better “commune” to see it with than your friends from school?
17. Find your extracurricular(s)
If all you ever focus on in high school are your grades, you’re going to miss out on a whole lot. You have to find extracurricular activities that are of interest. Many of these will unlock talents and experiences that can help shape the rest of your life and set you up for success in the real world.
The only thing you need is a willingness to explore. Once you begin exploring extracurricular activities in-depth, you’ll find one that resonates. From there, it’s important to give it your all and hone your leadership abilities within that particular system.
18. Cook dinner for your family
Come from a traditional(-ish) household? Does your Mom or Dad (or both) take turns cooking meals for the family after a long day of work? If the answer is yes, don’t you think that’s tiring for them just like it would be for you if you had to come home from school every day and do two or three more hours of homework?
That’s what parents in these situations are facing, and it will help you develop an all-important sense of empathy to step into that role as caretaker from time to time. Cook something, even if it’s a couple of frozen pizzas. Not only will it help you experience what they experience at the end of a long day, but it’ll also bring all of you closer together and help them appreciate what a special kid you are.
And if you come from a family that doesn’t cook much, you can modify this suggestion by paying for a meal out from time to time.
19. Do a project related to whatever interests you
Doing a project that interests you in a class is great. But don’t let it be confined to that. School is designed to teach to the middle, so it’s entirely possible the things you’re passionate about will never show up on the curriculum. No matter. If you can find a way to shoehorn it in for a grade, do so. If not, take on a project of interest to you ON YOUR OWN TIME.
One of two things will happen if you do: you’ll either love every minute of it and set yourself up nicely for a possible career should you keep traveling that self-starter path; or you’ll learn you didn’t like it as much as you thought and you’ll open yourself up to other interests.
20. Senior prank!
Don’t make it mean-spirited. Don’t do anything illegal. Don’t do it to the wrong “victim.” In fact, you shouldn’t even use that word in relation to a senior prank because if the subject of the prank cannot laugh about it, then you’re bullying someone. And that’s never a good thing.
Instead of risking it, choose your subject wisely and tailor the prank to their sensibility as well as any unique qualities they may possess. It’s incredibly fun to plan a prank, and it’s even more fun when it goes off without a hitch and doesn’t harm anyone.
21. Do your own laundry
You’ll likely have to start doing this in college anyway, so it pays to start early. It’ll be less you have to be anxious about when you go away for college and start assuming more independence over your life.
Plus, it’s entirely possible the acts of prepping the laundry, taking it to the laundromat, occupying yourself while the cycles go, and either folding or hanging after your done, will be therapeutic. It’ll give you time to slow down and to think about some things that have been on your mind. And it’s exciting to plan what you’re going to wear out of your freshly-laundered wardrobe.
22. Try for a school trip to a foreign country
We’ll admit these aren’t always doable. Sometimes they’re targeted towards high academic achievers. And even then, there is a considerable cost. If funds are tight in your family, that places you in the situation of having to find sponsors. While people are quite generous towards high school students, it can be difficult to ask.
Even so, you should try to do a school trip no matter what. Networking for sponsors will give you valuable experience for later in life when you start to network professionally. Getting the money will allow you to go. And going will give you a more complete understanding of the culture and events around a particular area.
23. Quit something you hate
Stick-to-it-iveness is a great quality to possess. But so is the ability to cut your losses and go onto a more worthwhile endeavor. Otherwise, you could spend years in a job you hate and completely waste more viable and fulfilling career paths.
Obviously, you don’t want to be a chronic quitter. Never go into something with the attitude of, “No biggie, I’ll just quit.” But do be aware of the warning signs whenever something you’re attempting doesn’t jibe with who you are or what you stand for. And if it fills you with a recurring sense of dread where the fulfillment is never worth the anxiety, then it’s time to drop it from your life.
24. Clean your room
The act of cleaning your room prepares you for all the responsibilities — little and large — that you’ll have to deal with as you go through life. Furthermore, a clean workspace allows you to be more productive and get the most out of your studies.
Put away clutter. Make sure everything goes in its place. Always be tidying up. Following these directions will ensure that you always have a place where you can do your best work and live your best life.
25. Tour a college
Taking a tour of a college while you’re still in high school does a couple of things. Firstly, it acclimates you to the environment you’re about to go in to, and you’re going to need that acclimation. While college is a wonderful thing and a great opportunity to own your life, it also comes with enormous responsibility.
The decisions you make in college really start to matter. They become consequential to everything that comes after. The person you marry. The number of kids you have. The job you do. The passions you pursue. That all starts to cement in college. So it’s best to know the environment ahead of time.
Secondly, touring a college will whet your appetite and give you a sense of excitement and purpose for the days ahead.
26. Rely more on concepts and less on technology
Don’t know a piece of information that would be ever-so-helpful in working a math problem or picking out a part of speech? Resist the temptation to look it up online. Sure, the answers are there, and it’s not like the Internet is going anywhere. But by staying analog, you develop a sense of confidence in your intuition and ability.
Also, you start to become more concept-focused. As a result, whenever you see a similar problem in another situation, you’ll be able to make the appropriate modifications and come to a conclusion without having to ask Google.
27. Get to know your teachers as people
They’re not people who stand at the front of the class, shout orders, and give tests/homework assignments. While that may be a part of who they are, it tells you nothing about their life aspirations, their family, the things they do for fun.
Take time to understand what their position is and why they have some of the demands they do. Put yourself in their shoes. And above all, talk to them. By getting to know your teachers as people instead of overseers, you’ll be in a great position to network later in life.
28. Take the SAT, ACT, and AP Subject Exams
Seriously, most colleges require at least one of these, so what are you waiting for? Also, don’t take them just once. Take them as much as you can. Colleges focus only on the highest scores, so you really don’t have anything to lose in doing so. Furthermore, you may find in taking these exams that college isn’t for you.
The good news there: many viable career paths exist — and they’re even growing — on the technical side. In other words, you don’t absolutely have to go to college to be successful. Taking these exams will shine more of a light on what your strengths and weaknesses are. That insight can be vital to your future.
29. Assume a leadership role
It could be on a team, in a class, or as part of a club. Find something you’re the most comfortable with and start small. Offer suggestions. Throw out ideas. Provide input on what others have to say. This is the “soft sell” approach, and it’s the easiest way for introverts to assert themselves.
If you’re not an introvert, then just go for it. One word of advice, though: don’t buy into your own hype. Realize there are other opinions and ideas in the group, and, yes, many of those you’re leading may know more than you do. Be open to that, and establish yourself as a facilitator of ideas. That will ensure everyone accepts you as their leader.
30. Get your driver’s license
While it may be true that the youngest generations are showing less of an interest in driving, the driverless cars are not here yet. And they probably won’t be mainstream in our lifetimes. Therefore, it’s a pretty good idea to acquire this skill.
If you’re intimidated by driving, consider taking a driver’s education course with an instructor who can make you feel more comfortable behind the wheel as well as with all that goes along with it (i.e., traffic laws, changing a flat tire, etc.).
31. Realize the concept of time and your place in it
Time moves fast, and that sensation only gets worse the older you get. The reason it moves so quickly is this. As we learn more stuff, we begin to hone our attention to what we’re good at and passionate about. This creates less “markers” along the way that cause us to slow down and say, “Wait a minute, what’s this?”
The sense of discovery tends to “slow down” the feel of the time. But high school and college and career aren’t about senses of discovery. They’re more about defining yourself and figuring out what you’re good at. As a result, we let go of that discovery side. And before you know it, 20 years have passed since college graduation!
Realize now that you’re in a place to enjoy the concept of time more. Embrace your sense of discovery and throw yourself into as much as you can. You won’t enjoy all of it. But it will lead you more to the things you do enjoy, and it’ll allow you for the last time to experience each moment.
32. Volunteer your time
It may not seem like you have much, but there always are others who are worse off. Finding who those people are and volunteering of your time helps them, but it also helps you. It does so by giving you a sense that there are causes bigger than yourself and people can see in you more than a high school student.
They can look at you as a caregiver, a savior, a genuinely good soul. The act of volunteering can connect you to others as well. People who are making a difference in the lives of others as do-gooders, job-creators, or a mixture of the two. These are valuable people to know as you get older, and they may even be your first (or best) employer one day if you continue to nurture the relationship.
33. Start a blog
You don’t have to have a defined sense of what your blog is going to be. Not starting out. A blog is your way of claiming a little digital real estate in an environment removed from the social networks. It teaches you that you can still have control over your own ideas.
It also can be a great creative outlet that leads to some pretty valuable realizations, as countless professional bloggers have discovered over the last 15 years.
34. House party!
House parties are musts for the high school experience. They allow you and your friends the safety and comfort of a controlled environment with the freedom to move around and interact in ways that are respectful of your burgeoning adulthood.
A well-planned and properly-executed house party also teaches everyone involved something about staying true to one’s responsibilities and obligations. After all, no matter how crazy they can get, you know there’s a line you don’t cross if you hope to avoid serious repercussions.
And if you overstep that line, well, the house party teaches you about how bad it sucks to lose your freedoms.
35. Ask a dumb question in class
“There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” While we’ve all heard that from a teacher, none of us really believe it or we’d be asking a lot more questions about the things we don’t understand. But here’s what you have to remember about “dumb” questions.
You’re not the dumbest person in your class. Seriously, the odds of you being the dumbest are really small. And even if you are the dumbest, there are people in the same classroom who are pretty close to you in intelligence. Asking the supposedly “dumb” question will demonstrate your confidence, and it will make them more confident to ask their “dumb” questions.
Pretty soon, these “dumb” questions will trigger answers that lead to “smarter” questions from some of the “smarter” people in the class. When this ball gets rolling, no one really remembers the “dumb” question. They remember what it was they learned in class. And it’s something they learned AS a class.
So, your dumb question is a) never as dumb as you think; and b) a way to build a sense of community among the members of your class.
36. Drama – take it, don’t create it
High school is loaded with drama creators — the students who go around looking for causes or fights to get involved in. But you don’t have to turn into one of these annoying people. Instead, consider taking all of your drama to an actual drama class.
Drama gives you an opportunity to live out the dramatics that high schoolers often get themselves involved in through fictional narratives. It allows you to “play” at drama instead of bringing it with you wherever you go.
And if you’re not an actor or actress? No worries. Drama class has backstage things you can get involved in that are fun as well.
37. Get a part-time job
Emphasis on part-time. No one wants to be a carhop for the rest of their lives. School and learning valuable life skills should be priority-one, no matter what. But your part-time job can give you a way to put a little money away and maybe even enjoy a weekend shopping spree or random good time.
38. Talk to your custodian
Custodians of your school can be a wealth of life information. Talking to them, you can get a sense of where they come from and what they’re about. You also can develop a respect for the people who keep your school a place worth being proud of. Best of all, they can offer additional insight into just how important attaining your education is.
39. Dress down for school
If you’re a girl, don’t wear makeup for a day. If you’re a guy, wear something non-flattering. This isn’t about being subversive. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and sending a signal that we’re all imperfect, but those imperfections don’t have to hold us back from being confident and sure of who we are.
40. Skip a class
Yes, it’s against the rules and you’ll probably get into trouble. But it can be 50 of the most exciting minutes of your life as you wonder what comes next.
It also throws you into the deep end of the pool when it comes to digging yourself out of the messes you’ve created. That’s an important life skill, believe it or not.
41. Interview your principal
Most students never want to end up in their principal’s office. But if you go there by choice instead of demand, it’s a much better experience. One way to get there is to interview your principal as a careers project. Ask him to tell you about some of his job responsibilities, including ones you don’t know about but nevertheless affect you in very real ways.
He or she will enjoy the opportunity to talk about themselves, they’ll respect you for showing interest, and it will build a closer overall bond with the most powerful person at your school. Can’t be a bad thing!
These High School Accomplishments Before Graduation Will Definitely Prepare You for the Next Level
Hopefully, these high school accomplishments will trigger a list of your own that you can keep up with and work towards during the however-many-semesters you have left. What are some that you would suggest? Share with us in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by NASA]