|High School: From the Mentors
I think the biggest difference between middle and high school is the homework load and size of the school. I went from maybe fifteen minutes of homework a night to multiple hours, so I had to learn time management pretty quickly! Our junior class size is currently around 550, so being exposed to so many new people was a big change. Getting involved in clubs, sports, music, and other activities at school makes it easier to get to know people in every grade -- it's always useful to have an upperclassman friend!
The best advice I can give about the four years you spend in high school is to learn things for the sake of learning, not just to get a good grade. There have been so many tests that I've crammed for the night before, gotten an A, and now I don't remember anything. I've changed that this year, and I enjoy school so much more. Also relating to academics, don't take easy classes just to have a simple year. If you have a choice between AP Chemistry and "Racquet Sports," the first will prove to be a lot more useful!
While drugs and drinking might be present in some middle schools, they're definitely around in high school. I have a lot of friends who swore they'd never drink or smoke, but are now partying every weekend. You hear this all the time, but that's because it's true: don't give into peer pressure. If you have "fun" and spend your nights wasted instead of studying or hanging out with friends, you will regret it when you're applying for college and realize that you've thrown away the last few years. The "friends" who say you're a loser for not partying are really not your friends at all. It's hard to see your closest friends grow apart and go in different directions, but don't follow their footsteps. Create your own path in life and make your own decisions.
The social game plays a big role in the transition from middle school to high school. You have the influence of older kids around you and peer pressure hits hard. My advice is not to worry so much about trying to be cool; I had to learn that the hard way. If people are really your friends, they won't ask you to do something you don't feel comfortable doing or that's wrong. I almost lost my best friend because I wanted to be with the "in" crowd, but they didn't want anything to do with her. The things they were involved in didn't fit my definition of "right" either, but I was willing to sacrifice my values to be cool. Stand your ground about what you feel is right for you, even when everybody else seems to give in. Enjoy the new opportunities available to you, but don't push for all the doors to open too soon. Most importantly, remember how nervous you were entering high school and be nice to the freshman when you're a senior!!