I was 15 when High School Musical first premiered. It was a cold, snowy night in Chicago, and my best friend Laura and I had talked about this new DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) that was going to rock our socks off. The weather was so bad that our cable went out (pre-DVR), and we ended up catching the end. What we didn’t know was that it would become a worldwide phenomenon and launched a never-ending obsession with a young unknown named Zac Efron. After watching it more times than my age, I can readily admit that I can shamelessly quote and break into dance moves from that first movie.

Ten years later, Zac is still the most well-known and most swoon-worthy actor of the franchise. The franchise spawned two sequels, the latter of which premiered in theaters. Watching it now at 25, besides laughing at the super cheesy moments, I see that the movie examined plenty of life lessons on growing up:

1. Always try new things.

When Troy and Gabriella are spontaneously paired for “Start of Something New”, neither of them knew the other made a great karaoke partner. As the song progressed, both Troy and Gabriella grew more comfortable not only singing in front of a crowd, but in front of each other. The experience obviously had an impact on Troy, as he wanted to try out for the school musical. The moral is not to be afraid to take risks, no matter what stage you are in your life.

2. Know who your true friends are.

When Troy is explaining to his dad that he tried something completely different (singing) and is worried about what his friends will think, his dad said that if they weren’t supportive, then maybe they weren’t his true friends. Eventually, they learn to accept Troy’s other talent, but Mr. Bolton has a point: your true friends have your back through thick and thin and look out for each other, and if they can’t support you, then it’s time to cut them out.

troy and chad hsm

3. The fairytale relationship does not exist in high school.

In Gabriella’s ballad “When There Was Me And You”, she laments that Troy can’t be with her because he’s too focused on basketball. It’s a cycle she endures for the next two movies until they decide to go off to colleges that are close in distance. In real life, I salute those who have stayed with their high school significant others, but for the rest of us, we do most of our growing up in college and in our twenties, and we may not get the fairytale until much much later.

4. Take time to de-stress before completing a task.

Before Sharpay and Ryan Evans sing “Bop to the Top” for their callback song, they have a few quirky pre-performance rituals. Whether that’s taking a few deep breaths, doing some form of exercise, make sure to release any tension and present the best form of yourself before accomplishing a big task.

5. Ignore the haters.

Sharpay is the queen bee of East High, and if there’s one thing she taught us, it’s to put out your best self and blow away the competition. She won’t let anyone get in her way of succeeding and is always motivated to get to the top. A dash of pink and sparkles doesn’t hurt, either.

6. Keep your focus.

While it is good to have multiple hobbies, pick two or three that are in similar fields and “Getcha Head In The Game.” Keep yourself focused on no more than two tasks at the same time, less you have your co-workers serenading you about your lack of focus.

7. Don’t judge someone before getting to know them.

In “Stick to the Status Quo”, math nerd Martha reveals she likes hip hop. Basketball star Zeke reveals he loves to bake. Just because someone fits into a specific clique doesn’t mean they don’t have interests outside of what they excel at. It’s all a part of growing up.

8. We’re all in this together.

As cliché as it sounds, there is no “I” in “team.” Surround yourself with your #squad as an incredible support system to tackle your next assignment; win or lose, you still have your friends to lean on. Despite the callback being the same time as the game and the decathlon, Troy and co work together to make it all work out. The decathlon team cheers on the basketball team, and the basketball team cheers on the drama club. Dreams have no limitation, and your friends are there for you every time. In song and dance, of course.


Hannah Gettleman is a bubbly twenty-something living in Chicago. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Journalism. Don't tell her that print is dying--she's already made the switch to public relations. As a Midwest girl, winter happens approximately 80% of the year, so she knows a thing or two about a good pair of snow boots. She lives for summer weather (even though she can never tan), Boy Meets World reruns, and an unhealthy addiction to dark chocolate and online shopping. She's a die-hard Chicago sports fan, even though she's well aware the Cubs always end up in last place every year.

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