Sims 4 recently released its High School Years Expansion Pack, its first Expansion Pack since 2021. But navigating the DLC might be as confusing as freshman year homeroom. You need tips from a worldly senior, who is me, in this scenario.
But first, some context: the Expansion Pack’s release coincided with a major base game update that added, among other things, a layer of scruffy realism with maintainable body hair options, customisable sexual orientation, curved walls, and unwanted cases of incest. Yeah, you read that right. For a week, both the base game and High School Years have been patrolled by icky bugs, like Sims wanting to court their family members, ageing rapidly, and randomly becoming celebrities.
This isn’t a renewed season of an exploitive TLC series, though, it’s the Sims 4. When the community cried out against the icky bugs, Maxis swiftly released some “growing pains” patches on August 2. Sadly, much like cystic acne, some problems don’t clear up so easily. Creepy crawlies continue to run our High School Years, I’ve noticed, but I’ll tell you what to look out for and what to expect from Sims high school. And then I’ll give you a wedgie.
Don’t be old
Teens rule Copperdale, the new world included in High School Years that has three major attractions — the pier, the school, and the shopping centre. All Sims can travel to these locations no matter their age group, but only teen Sims can attend class.
You can think of High School Years as a lifted veil. Typically, you ship teens off to school when prompted, they melt into the ether, and then they return home when school’s over. Now, you can check out what’s so interesting about the ether and guide your teen Sims through attending classes, studying for exams, extracurriculars, and even prom-posing.
But if your preferred Sim is a decrepit young adult, though you can’t engage in most of High School Years’ actual high school stuff, you’ll still get access to a host of cute hairstyles, outfits, items, and Euphoria-ready makeup looks. Kids and toddlers can also cash in on some of those hairstyles.
Interestingly, young adult Sims can still join the high school cheerleading or football teams, which seems illegal. Young adult Sims can also get access to the High School Years careers “streamer” and “influencer,” which, as you know, anyone under 25 in the real world is mandated to pursue by divine law.
Lose your mind with meta screen time
High School Years introduces Social Bunny, essentially a Sims Twitter you can access by clicking the phone icon in the bottom left of your screen. Different events, like eating cafeteria food or reminiscing about a party, will prompt you to create different pre-written status updates that you can customise by setting a tone, like embarrassed or happy. You can also accept and send friend requests to Sims you meet and DM them friendly, flirty, or mean messages or tag them in posts. But think before you type — targeted messages can affect your relationship with Sims for better or worse.
Bug warning: I Social Bunny’d often with the hope of boosting my following as a career streamer, but despite all the angry emojis that got left on my homewrecking character Beef Beefers’ posts, that follow count did not budge. No hate follows? Very unrealistic, and, I suspect, a product of a bug.
I also noticed that sent DMs and their replies appeared out of order and that my Sim started DMing themselves. I know that social media can easily create a sick mind, but damn.
Buy new stuff
You’ll be cordially invited to ThriftTea, a new store where you can hang out with and meet your fellow kids, sip on eight-simolean teas and pick up new outfits to style and ship out on Trendi, a Depop-backed fashion resale app. Generating enough buzz for your looks earns you money, and more importantly, notoriety as a Simfluencer.
But if you’re more of an interior design girly, there’s stuff for you to buy, too. High School Years comes with a waterfall of new home and school items aimed at teen sensibilities, including cute figurines and a balloon arch to customise special events like prom, graduation, and weekly pep rallies. You can raze Copperdale High to the ground, rename it, assign it “characteristics” like “fast internet,” and remake it in Euphoria’s image with all this stuff and an unlimited school budget. I installed a speaker in the cafeteria that only played electronica.
Ordering High School Years before September 8 will also get you a gaming chair, LED panels for your wall, and a wireless speaker. Play infinite mirrors with your gaming Sims and God, why don’t you?
Work hard, if you can
Grades in High School aren’t all that important. Virtue of being a little person in a computer instead of a little person in the world, I guess. There are two classes per day — you can check what they are by clicking on your Sim, selecting the “high school” option, and viewing your calendar — but there are only two classrooms in the school. Active Sims will always be in the left classroom, but the bell ringing and a flashing whiteboard will indicate when and where class is starting.
Class isn’t very enriching. All you need to do to attend class is sit down at the right time and pray your Sim takes their notebook out. Occasionally, you’ll be given prompts about what to do with a hard exam question. You can complete homework by choosing it in your inventory, but I’ve noticed my Sims sometimes do it on their own. You can also attend study sessions in the classroom on the right after school on Wednesdays, or choose to study on your own with the “high school” option. Make sure you’re ready for Friday exams — the game tracks your grades, but the worst thing that will happen to you if you’re a cruddy student is you’ll get a stern phone call from your principal. The principal can also give you detention if you’re caught outside of your classroom for any reason during class time, but as far as I can tell, all students are allowed to graduate no matter what. Must be a Montessori school.
Bug warning: I went to school. I went to class. I sat down. Nothing happened. I restarted the game. I restarted the app. Nothing happened.
For me, getting high school to work was the most frustrating and time consuming part of playing High School Years. The only thing I was able to do during an active class was “prank the white board” by presumably writing the b-word (“butt”) on it. I was able to study and do homework since you can manually control those things, but my Sim never, ever, not once opened their book during class time, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Play hard, if you can
In addition to landmark events like prom and graduation, there are plenty of on-campus leisure activities you can attend and control, like science fairs, career fairs, and pranks. Every Friday, there’s a pep rally of sorts with a football and cheerleading competition. You can participate by clicking on a football or cheerleading mat, which are also items you can buy from your locker.
To claim a locker, click on one in the school. You’ll be prompted to buy an item from it or customise its appearance with different styles like “dark academia,” “goth,” or “gamer.” Yes, teens love “gamer.”
You can sabotage someone else’s locker by clicking on it and selecting “stink capsule.” Don’t get caught in the stink cloud, though — your Sim will literally die, and your high school will likely have a negligence lawsuit on its hands.
If you survive to see another day and get invited to an epic nighttime event, teen Sims can now sneak out of windows, which is cool and sneaky. All Sims will also gain access to a number of new WooHoo or, for teens, “mess around” spots, including on fairgrounds or on campus. These WooHoo spots may lead to another lawsuit, but I tried to romance my Sims’ teacher and couldn’t, if that helps.
Bug warning: I had some issues with fairs not starting properly or starting only halfway. Like, on one Friday football competition, plenty of Sims were in attendance and one was giving a speech, but the food stalls never opened and no one touched the footballs. My Sim was forced to mourn the lack of veggie hot dog.
The Sims 4 High School Years Expansion Pack is full of fun new items, gameplay mechanics, and locations to explore, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s still encumbered with bugs that make exploration less satisfying. So if you’re looking to relive your high school but make it better, you probably won’t be able to here. You might, however, find a book called Love in the Time of Sandwiches in the school library and have fun anyway. At least I did!