An Open Letter To Next Year's High School Freshmen

An Open Letter To Next Year's High School Freshmen

How to make the next four years of your life amazing

Dear incoming high school freshmen,

At this point in your lives, you have reached your first big transition. Many attended different elementary schools; however, more commonly, children attend the same elementary school through eighth grade. You have spent approximately nine years at this school, and have created a bond with your class and the teachers. You cannot imagine leaving this, and do not believe it is possible to have anything like this in high school. I am here to tell you that you are wrong. You will make some of your best friends in high school, many of whom you did not know in elementary school. It is a fascinating time. You are discovering your interests and who you wish to become. These four years are more important than any portion of your elementary school experience. Right now you are around 14 years old, and you are entering the stage in your life that you will miss the most when it comes to an end.

Just four short years ago, I was in your shoes. I was preparing to start my freshmen year in high school with more anxiety than I had ever experienced. All of my friends were attending private, charter, or technical high schools, leaving me at my local public high school. I saw myself as lesser than them because of this. Their schools had a better reputation than mine. I now know that the school you go to does not define you; rather, you define the school you go to. High school is what you make it. If you do not try to learn, you will have a negative outcome. You will have poor grades, few friends, and you will struggle to get into college. If you start out strong and study hard, you will create an amazing starting point for yourself. You can only improve. Many view freshman year as a trial run, but I can tell you believing that will become your biggest downfall. If you do not give it your all freshman year, you will go into sophomore year with a low GPA and it will be hard to get it to a point that reflects your true abilities.

You have heard every single guidance counselor, teacher, student leader, principal, and even your parents tell you that you need to get involved. I will admit that I was pretty tired of hearing that by the time I started freshman year. Spoiler alert: you will hear it again throughout the whole college touring process. Freshman year, I did not heed the warnings of these people, and I did not get involved. That is by far one of my biggest regrets. Freshman year I came home after school, did my homework, and watched Netflix. I did not meet my peers through clubs and I was pretty bored. I joined a myriad of clubs sophomore year. I started with Model UN, and found that it was not for me. I found my niche in peer leadership. I was involved with leadership and community service in different ways for the remainder of my high school career. By trying out different clubs, I found where I belonged and what I loved to do. Also, joining clubs should not be solely for the purpose of putting them on your college applications. Colleges know when you join ten clubs senior year just to put them on your applications. As you fill out the Common App, it becomes clear how involved you were. It was kind of frightening that it showed that I had nothing for freshmen year. I made up for it sophomore through senior year, but do not put it off. Join early because you will probably meet some of your best friends through activities, while concurrently discovering where you belong.

You do not have to do anything you are uncomfortable with. High school is depicted in movies as being full of parties and drinking. Sure there are parties and more likely than not you may find yourself in a situation that you do not know how to get out of. My first tip is to be honest with your parents. If you find yourself in a situation where there is alcohol and you are uncomfortable, call your parents to come pick you up. They will be glad you called. If you are able to, leave the situation. You may be worried about other people judging you for leaving, but chances are they will be too drunk to remember you were even there, never mind that you left. Many high schools have an “in the presence of” rule. This means even if you were not drinking, you can be punished for being in the presence of alcohol - especially for athletes, being caught can be detrimental to the rest of your year. Just a reminder, your permanent record starts as soon as you step foot into freshman orientation. There are no warnings. You do not want to make a silly mistake as a freshman and have colleges hold it against you four years later. If you are uncomfortable drinking, do not be afraid to let your friends know; chances are they will not judge you and will not force you to do anything you do not want to, but with this comes a sense of mutual respect. You should not judge your friend for drinking if they respect your choice not to. Do not risk your life or those around you. Never drink and drive, or get in a car with someone who has been drinking. Everyone in your life from your teachers and peers to your family is rooting for you. They all want to see you walk across the stage at graduation and head off to your dream college.

It scares me when people say that high school is the best four years of your life, because that means it doesn't get better. High school will have ups and downs, and those four years will be some of the best years of your life. Make the most of these next four years because they will be over before you know it. I know as a freshman I did not believe everyone when they said that. I had a senior tell me that they were jealous that I was a freshman and to be honest, at the time I thought they were crazy. I understand what they meant now that I have graduated. You have four years of amazing memories ahead of you. You have four years of seeing the best friends you will ever meet every day and being surrounded by the best teachers that you have ever met. When you graduate it should not end, but in all honesty a piece of it does. I went from seeing my best friend every day to not speaking for a few days at a clip. I graduated from high school two weeks ago, and I have yet to see my best friends in person since then. When you graduate something changes and you lose a little piece of something. You will forever hold onto your memories and you will remain friends with those you have encountered along the way. You leave with an overarching sense of nostalgia, excitement, but also regret. You will wish you had taken more art classes (I know that’s one of my biggest regrets) and you will wish you tried harder in your sophomore English class - once again another regret of mine. You will now become an alum of a place that you were once a member. Even with the inevitable small tinges of regret, you will realize that these past four years are more than you could have ever dreamed of.

Make the most of it and good luck,

A Member of the Class of 2016
Cover Image Credit: SHS Class of 2016 Facebook

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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10 Pieces Of Advice From My Parents That Have Helped Me Survive This Thing Called Life

I don't like admitting that they're right, but they've helped me through more than they'll ever know.


As I've entered my 20s and have made it halfway through college, I've learned that life can be hard and challenging at times. Like many kids, when I was growing up, I could care less about what my parent's advice or opinions were. Nine times out of ten, I would do the complete opposite of what they said. Once I got older and actually started listening to their advice and put it into perceptive, I learned that they're right more often than I'd like to admit.

1. Don't take things for granted

leonardo dicaprio

I've learned to cherish what I have because I might not always have it. It's easy to take life itself and many things it involves for granted. They've taught me to take a step back from this crazy life sometimes and be grateful for all that I have.

2. Don't be afraid to put your heart on your sleeve


My parents have taught me that if you feel something, don't be afraid to say it or embrace it. If you love someone, then tell them. Don't be afraid to put your heart out there just because you might get hurt.

3. Be vulnerable

risk taking

In life, in relationships, in your work. Take risks, get shot down, and then try again. Being vulnerable is scary yet so powerful.

4. You can never have too many shoes


Otherwise known as it's okay to treat yourself. Life is hard, so take care of you. If that means going on a shopping spree every once in a while, then so be it.

5. You're going to be okay

finding nemo

Whatever it is you're going through, you're going through it and you're going to come out on the other side. It may seem horrible now, but you'll learn from it and be okay in the end.

6. You have to have friends in life


It's important to have people to lean on, especially on your bad days, and to celebrate with on your good ones. You can't just have you or a significant other to rely on.

7. Never be afraid to share your opinion

laverne cox

Don't be afraid to put your thoughts and opinions out there because they might be wrong. They could have a huge impact on someone or something.

8. Don't stress over things you have no control over

don't stress

Everyone is on their own path, which means everything will work out the way it's supposed to, even if it doesn't make sense right now. Again, you're going to be okay.

9. Happy, healthy, wealthy, wise


My dad always says if you tell yourself every day that you're happy with yourself or your life, you're healthy and strong, you're wealthy in love and surrounded by great people, and you're knowledgable or wise, then you can achieve anything in life.

10.  S*** or get off the pot

pitch perfect

My all-time favorite piece of advice. Making decisions can be hard and scary, especially if the outcome could be getting hurt in the end. So, you either make a decision and roll with it no matter the outcome or you walk away.

Thanks, mom and dad for always being a phone call away when I need it! Just know that your advice and words of wisdom don't go unnoticed. For others, your parents have been on this planet much longer than you have and most likely experienced the same situations that you're dealing with. They don't have all the answers, but they are there to help.

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