How Attending a Public High School Changed Me

Every type of high school student portrayed in movies and TV shows? My high school had them.

About two weeks ago, I received an invitation to my middle school reunion. I was quite surprised and shocked, to say the least, as I have not contacted most of my classmates in four years. As I browsed through the list of my classmates, I barely recognized most of them. I began to wonder: Did they change? Or did I change over the past four years? How much did going to a public high school change me?

I attended a small private middle school. For those four years, I felt very sheltered and comfortable. I knew each and every one of my sixty classmates. As a result of the small class sizes, I had a more one-on-one learning experience and felt like my classmates became my family.

Instead of continuing to attend private high schools like my fellow classmates, I decided that I would attend a 2000+ student public high school located much closer to my house. When I told my friends and other classmates this, they were in shock and did not quite believe me. They were surprised that I wanted this public school experience.

Going to a public high school taught me so much outside of academics.

On my first day of high school, I was very scared and intimidated. I did not know what to expect. Of course, the transition from middle to high school was rough, but the transition from private to public school itself, was a whole other obstacle. As I walked through the hallways of my new high school, I was overwhelmed by the amount of students there were. Each class size was around 30 students, almost double the class size at my middle school. The teachers could barely keep track of all of their students names. I yearned for the one-on-one learning experience that my private school provided.

However, I soon realized that attending a public high school was a blessing and not a curse.

One of the key skills I learned was how to get along with everyone. It didn’t take long to distinguish the various groups of people present in my high school. From the athletes to the popular groups, my school had it all. Every type of high school student portrayed in movies and TV shows, my high school had them. I embraced the diversity. I enjoyed talking to different groups of people and soon made friends in all the groups. I learned how to come out of my shell. Instead of being the shy, introverted girl my middle school classmates knew me as, I became very outgoing and extroverted.

I also learned how to be more independent. I learned that it’s okay if you and your friends do not agree on everything, it’s fine if you are all in different clubs, and that you don’t have to belong to a specific group. I discovered that in order to succeed you need to listen to yourself first and then others. I learned how to fight off peer pressure and have my own opinion on topics.

I discovered that in order to succeed you have to listen to yourself first and then others.

Most importantly, I learned how to study. I was spoiled by the teachers at my middle school. Since class sizes were so small, the teachers were able to ensure that each of us understood the concepts. On the other hand, public high school teachers have so much responsibility and more students. As a result, I learned how to study on my own. I no longer relied on my teachers. This allowed me to feel more prepared for college.

These are all skills that I would not have been able to learn at a private high school. I would never be able to grow up and discover my true self. During high school, I was given the opportunity to mature both academically and socially. Without this experience, I would never have become the person that I am today: confident, independent, and social.

In hindsight, I realized that I made the right decision to attend a public high school. I am glad and relieved that I did not listen to my middle school classmates and didn’t let peer pressure cloud my judgement. While each person will have their own experience, I believe that attending a public high school changed me for the better.


Also published on Medium.

Tingting Bi has lived in Arizona for 15 years. This fall, she will be...