The 3 Surprising Traits That High School Graduates Have In Common

(they may not be what you think…)

By Jason Warnick ’98
Director of HAPA and Alumni Engagement

Navigating through our high school years is challenging. Making it through classes, athletics, parents, and our social life, (real world and online), doesn’t come easily for most teenagers.

Having spent 15 years working in secondary education I’ve witnessed a trend. There are three traits that all of those who make it to graduation have in common.

I’m not saying that there are some who graduate who don’t share these traits, and I’m not saying that there aren’t quite a few other characteristics required to successfully complete high school. However, in my experience these are the three traits most commonly found in teenagers who seem to maximize their potential (regardless of the obstacles) in high school and eventually snap the coveted family selfies wearing the cap and gown:

  1. Compassion
    High School is becoming an increasingly isolated experience where students spend more time engaging with smartphones, laptops and tablets than they do with peers and teachers. Compassion for others is now a quality that stands out in the crowd. Teenagers who care about their peers and their teachers find that same community supporting them. That support is critical, when your community wants you to succeed, your odds improve exponentially.
  2. Honesty
    There is a lot of “bologna” to wade through in high school. When you’re honest with others, and, most importantly, with yourself, you tend find the path to success. You get help when you need it, you’re honest about your goals and you are accountable to them. You don’t act like success isn’t important, not losing yourself in trying to be cool or please others. With honesty comes a real view of where you are and where you need to go, and that’s the road map to graduation.
  3. Humor
    This is too hard not to laugh! Teenagers who find the humor in life and in themselves tend to get less bogged down in success and failure. At my school we say, “take your job seriously, not yourself.” Teenagers who laugh a lot and enjoy the ride are displaying an awareness that all of the pressure and intensity focused on achievement and college acceptance shouldn’t take over emotionally. While formal success is an important thing, it’s not the only thing. Humor shows perspective and perspective allows us to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Compassion, Honesty and Humor; these traits might not be covered in an SAT prep class, but I bet you’ll find them in the vast majority of successful high school graduates. Experience has also shown me that these traits bode well for success in college too!