Dear New Students: A Message From an OHS Senior

Hey new students! It’s Marie. Welcome to your first year at OHS.

Everyone will tell you that time flies fast, but honestly, my first year felt like forever ago. I struggled through school for years, and each day was draining. I struggled because I was too stubborn to listen to the advice that was given to me. I was young and I thought I knew it all. Because of my stubbornness, my grades suffered and some of my relationships with my teachers went down the drain.

Now, as a senior going into my fourth year at OHS, I have learned how to succeed in this unique learning environment, and I am here to share some of my real, practical tips to survive first year that you might not hear from your teachers or your friends. These tips can help you get good grades, have time to pursue your extracurriculars and still have a social life

But first let me mention that these are my own opinions in a huge, diverse school of 800. Take them at your own discretion, and know what worked for me may not work for everyone.

1. Prioritize planning.

Everyone told me that I needed to plan, but what I did not realize was how much I had to plan. Winging it at OHS is not an option, unless you want to stress, forget your deadlines and miss important assignments. Planning is a skill that you will need.

At the beginning of each week/month, Take a whole day to plan out what you are doing to do in every class. Plan when you will complete each task, even the discussion based ones. See how long it takes you to complete an assignment, and then schedule the specific time that you are going to do a certain task to complete it each week. The more detailed and consistent you are at planning, the better you will be and the more time you will find in your schedule.

Here is a secret about OHS homework: Most homework is not that hard, there is just a lot and it is time consuming. What causes stress is being surprised by deadlines at the last minute.

In class discussing philosophy with my peers.

2. Attend office hours

One day I woke up junior year and realized all of my friends had become friends with their favorite teachers. I had never considered that teachers would be available for more than the late night panicked email, so this was weird to me. My friends would email their teachers the second they needed more time, or if they had just had a rough day, or talk to their teachers casually about non academic interests like sports.

I was annoyed that my friends were so close with my teachers, but then I realized that they had worked consistently to build a relationship with these teachers. I started going to office hours more and I swear there was a direct correlation with the number of times I went to office hours and the success of my grades.

Everyone is going to tell you to reach out to your teachers by attending their office hours. I could not agree more. You do not have to do it every week, but if you go at least a couple times a month you will make a lasting impression on your teachers. Teachers are also more lenient with extensions and can assist your growth when you communicate with them.

Reaching out to your teachers will also be useful for junior year when you will need these teachers so they write your college recommendations.

Here are some tips on how to meet with your teacher:

  • If it is a class or a teacher you like, just go to their office hours to talk about the class subject or life. For example, you could say “Hey Dr. Blank, I was wondering if we could talk about my ideas for this essay,” or even “Hey Dr. Blank, I was really struggling with this idea or problem. Could you please help me?”
  • If you are awkward like me, or the teacher is awkward, just go to their office hours twice per essay or major assignment. Go once to brainstorm and then again to review your draft. Your grade will thank me!
  • If meeting them is overwhelming, send an email (which can be as short as three sentences!) with any questions you have or to let the instructor know you would like to continue a discussion that got cut short during class. When you need an extension, let your teacher know as early as possible.

3. Make time to do the things you want to do

The best thing about OHS is that it gives you time to explore, especially during your freshman and sophomore years. Teachers and colleges aren’t as worried about specialization, and in your first two years of highschool you do not have college apps to worry about. Join some clubs inside or outside OHS that feeds your passions. Take an electives in subjects that you are dying to know more about. Dedicate time to the extracurricular you love.

Do not spend all of your time studying unless that really is what you want to do. When you feel exhausted, take a break, even if you have not finished everything on your to do list perfectly.

Time spent doing things that you love and that make you happy will be just as beneficial to your well being as doing your homework.

4. Make friends

My friends and I at prom.

People at OHS are really nice and open. In life, I typically avoid most people, but I always enjoy talking to OHSers. Know that at the OHS there is a person for whatever type of person that you are.

Be sure to join Skype, because that is where so many OHS interactions start! On Skype, students talk in class chat and answer questions, clubs plan for meetings, and there’s a Skype group for any possible passion or interest. Check out this directory of Skype Groups you may want to join!

The best way to make friends is to ask them to study call with you on Skype or Discord—at least that is what I did. People are really into study calling at OHS. The best part is that study calls always divulge into other kinds of conversations, and though you may be initially be chatting about MSB, you may eventually find yourself making Tik Toks.


Freshman year, I thought it was edgy and cool to get four hours of sleep a night and pull all-nighters before exams. I thought that I had to do it to get every single thing on my agenda done. I spent seven months on five or less hours of sleep, and I thought that I was fine, until my lack of sleep caused me to completely burn out second semester.

I am here to be honest with you: you do not have to perfectly read every article and take perfect study notes to participate in class, complete your assignments and get good grades. Even our adviser Ms. Shields agrees with this statement.

It is recommended to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. To make sure homework does not take over your life: limit discussion preparation homework to an hour per class. Take good notes in class. If you can even complete part of the reading, you will know enough to get good participation grades in the class. (The exception here is English. For this class, read the entire assigned reading.)

6. Never Struggle Alone

Always know that the counseling team, your teachers, and your community are unique resources at the OHS which exist to support you and to improve your experience here, and they really do help.

Sophomore year, I lost my friend. I did not know how to handle my grief and demanding schoolwork. At the end of sophomore year, I finally reached out to the counseling team, and they helped me talk through my grief, and communicate my needs to my teachers. My counselor was there for me. Now I meet with her once a week and it has been the catalyst for my growth and success at OHS.

Do not struggle alone. Let others know when you are struggling.

I hope these tips will help you survive and thrive at the OHS. But perhaps the most important bit of advice I can offer is this: Be kind to yourself. The OHS is supposed to be challenging, and you are not supposed to have it all together. When it gets to be too much, you can always reach out to me or a friend.

Good luck with your first year!