Going into my fourth week of classes at the University of Georgia, it is crazy to think that my old high school does not begin class until tomorrow. They have had four extra weeks of summer than I have, and are in store for the rude awakening that includes classwork, homework, projects and papers that I have already went through for four years – and continue to struggle with in college. While I will always look back at my high school days and smile, there are a few things that I noticed throughout my senior year and general high school career which made my time a little bit more memorable.
So for all of the Class of 2020, here are twenty things I wish I knew prior to senior year:
1. It is never too late to make new friends.
Yes, senior year is the beginning of the end, but that does not mean that you can not find new people who you wish you met sooner. Up until the final quarter, final bell, or even throwing your cap at graduation – it is never too late for a stranger to become a friend.
2. With that said, remember to keep your old friends close.
You may have friends which you have been inseparable with since middle school or even just a few months – make sure to cherish those friendships and allow them to grow throughout the school year. While new friends may sprout up along the way, nobody can replace the people who have remained by your side for four whole years.
3. It is okay to remove toxic friends.
A little contradictory to the first two, yet also different. Whenever I would "drop" a friend during my senior year, nobody understood why. What's the point of unfriending a person senior year? Well ... I am here to tell you that it is one hundred percent okay! If a person is not treating you right, do not feel obligated to maintain the friendship just because it is your final year. You want your senior year to be spent with people who you will never forget, not people who you are excited to forget once you graduate high school!
4. Stay on top of your assignments.
The first few months of senior year will be filled with application after application until you finally commit to a university. But just you wait ... after you commit, you will have to write as many scholarship essays as possible while also balancing your schoolwork, extra-curricular activities and social life. Make sure to procrastinate as little as possible and look ahead, so that you can spend your weekends with your friends instead of your pen and pencil.
5. Try new things.
It may feel awkward to try out a new sport, club or extra-curricular activity your senior year, but I promise – some of your best memories will come from the new experiences you encounter.
6. Stop caring.
I am not telling you to stop caring about school or priorities, but I am telling you to stop caring what other people think or what you think about other people. As a senior, you can do whatever your heart desires and will not get thrown in a locker by an upperclassmen because guess what ... you are the upperclassman!
7. Look ahead but remain in the moment.
As a senior, you may think that you need to know what you are doing for the rest of your life. What college you decide will either make or break you, right? False! Look at all of the options for the future but use this year to also look at all of the opportunities and resources you have in high school to get you to your future goal.
8. Form lasting friendships with your teachers.
The biggest difference between high school and college is teachers versus professors. In high school, it is easy to form bonds with your teachers while college professors take a little more warming up to. Make sure that you have at least one teacher by your side to make senior year a little more bearable. I am lucky to still maintain contact with a handful of my teachers who guided me through my final year of high school – some of whom even wrote me college recommendations!
9. Not everybody is at the same level and that is okay.
You may look at the student-athlete sitting next to you and think how lucky they are to commit to college in tenth grade, but remember that everybody has their own journey of life. Some people may look like they are completely set on their future while others are not even close. Always remember that your path will be great too, as long as you continue to move forward instead of standing still to watch others.
10. Don’t forget about your college friends, but also don’t think only of your college friends.
My first few months of senior year, I was focused on my friends who were still in high school and pushed the "old college kids" to the side. At the moment, it made sense – it was my time to shine and they already had their moment last year. However, as one of those "old college kids" I understand that it is not that I want to relive high school or my senior year but instead want to have the opportunity to guide the current seniors and help them to find their future (Example A: right now). So while it may seem pointless to remain in contact with people who are hundreds of miles away – I promise – it is not.
11. Use the resources that are at your fingertips.
From your guidance counselor to your parents, right now more than ever, you have an abundance of people in your corner – hoping for nothing but the best. Make sure to form a relationship with them because it will not be as easy to get help and advice in a few short months.
12. Being single is not a sin.
I went into senior year hoping to find a boyfriend, but quickly realized that a relationship is not necessary to the whole high school experience. If something forms naturally, congratulations, and if not, that is great too – now you do not need to deal with long-distance in college!
13. School is not for everyone.
Right now, you may be struggling to get by and not looking forward to senior year because it means you have to deal with more and more work that you do not understand. However, school is not for everybody. Not everybody is book-smart and that is completely okay! If school is for you, do not look down upon those who struggle because they will find success in other ways. And for those who struggle to get by, realize that you only have one year left and then get to decide what path you take!
14. Do not slack off and get senioritis.
As a person who jam-packed their schedule senior year with four AP's, two college-level courses and no lunch, I thought that senioritis was impossible. Truth be told, by March I was caught napping in class at least once a week because "I'm already accepted into college." While this may be true, put as much effort as possible into finishing out your high school career strong! Teachers want to see you try and enjoy class instead of nap!
15. Put your best foot forward.
Similar to the last one, walk into senior year with a smile from cheek to cheek, excited for the year to come! It may be exactly what you expect or may be filled with detours along the road. Regardless, as long as you try your best and accept senior year with open arms, you will be in for the ride of your life!
16. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
It may be a cliché, but is the truth. You do not want to be known as that mean person who constantly bullied your other classmates, so be as nice as possible. That being said, also do not let people treat you like garbage. This is your year to shine and nobody can dull your sparkle!
17. Bask in all of your high school glory.
You may feel like you are on top of the world this year or may be the complete opposite and excited to leave. Whatever your feelings are, remember all of those amazing times that you are only able to experience in high school. From athletic events to the school musical and anything in between, attend everything! You can always go to an event as an alumnus, but the feeling is not even close to the same as it is right now!
18. Have school spirit.
Go full out for every spirit day and event. Remember to have pride in your school and community because the closely-knit family you have right now will not be as close a year from now.
19. Take lots of pictures and videos.
At the end of the day, nothing beats the real thing; however, when you want to look back and remember your senior year, it helps to have digital souvenirs. I am not saying to live behind your phone's camera your entire senior year, but also believe that a couple camera flashes and videos will help you recall your "glory days" of high school a little better.
20. "It’s not what you take, its what you leave” -All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My final piece of advice is a quote from a book I read this summer and instantly thought of senior year. You may not realize all of the amazing moments and experiences that high school gives to you. From that inside joke you have with your chorus class to the bonds you have formed with your favorite teachers, you have made a lot of memories these past few years of high school and learned so much along the way. During your four years in high school, you may feel unstoppable – like nobody will ever be able to forget the days when you walked through those narrow halls – truth is, they will ... unless you give them something to remember you for. Take this year as a final chance to leave a lasting impression on your teachers, classmates and school environment. If you want something to change, change it. If you want to be remembered, give people a reason to remember you. Make sure to give everybody a dose of your happiness, humor and spirit. Life is not about what you take but instead what you give to the people and places around you.
This list is definitely not everything I learned in high school or everything a person needs to know prior to senior year. The beauty of high school is that you are given the resources and time to learn from your own experiences – what you decide to take away after the final bell rings is completely up to you. This year, you will laugh, cry, learn and fall down from time to time, but I promise ... senior year will be one for the books. As Coach Whitey says in One Tree Hill, "don't be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble, to fall, because most of the time the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you'll get everything you wish for. Maybe you'll get more than you ever could have imagined. Who knows where life will take you. The road is long and in the end, the journey is the destination."
Enjoy your senior year – all of the lasts and even the firsts. Enjoy the moments, memories, experiences and friends. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and use this final year to do everything you hoped and dreamt of doing during high school. Now is the time to let your cares away and your mind run free because a year from now, life will be different. You will not be returning to the building you have grown to love with classmates who have grown into friends. What you will be doing is up to you, and that my friends is the most important thing to learn these next few months.