Congratulations on reaching this milestone! You have completed countless tests, quizzes, projects, and homework assignments. You have won and lost many sports games, through which you developed life long friendships. You have been members of many clubs, school plays and bands, ones that have helped you developed your passions. Through many friendship and relationship changes, sick days and skipped days, through all the ups and downs you have made it! One chapter of your life has come to an end, but the next is just beginning.
Now what do you do? How do you transition into the next phase of your life, and leave behind a place that has been yours for four years?
Be confident as you turn this page. You have devoted the past 12 years to preparing for this next step.Whether you are immediately entering work or choosing to further your education believe me when I say, you are ready. So, be confident in everything you have learned and who you are. It is not the easiest transition, but it is a transition of growth. In the next year, you will grow more than you ever have. You will say goodbye to many people, but you will also form many new amazing friendships. You have many more decisions ahead of you and it is bound to be an emotional first year, but you are prepared. Stay confident because there are thousands of young adults across the world who experience the same emotions and dilemmas you are. When you are nervous about fitting in at college, meeting your roommates, finding your classrooms, and/or who you are going to sit with in the dining room remember that every student (at least the freshman) around you has the same worries. You are all filled with many of the same fears and excitements, just everyone is trying not to show them.
As the parent chorus of Winslow High School sang to their children, "always stay humble and kind." Whether you attended a high school with a few hundred students or thousands of students remember where you come from. Always remember the many people it took to get you where you are today, the many teachers, coaches, administrators, family and friends. Thank them and never forget them. Phone home whenever you can, your parents have seen you every day for 18 years, it's not easy for them to let you go. Call and text just to let them know how you are doing. Tell them about your classes, friends and activities. However, always be honest with them. If you are having a hard time, experiencing homesickness or just generally down share that with them. They have been there for you for 18 years, they still are even though they may be miles away. When you come home from a school visit your teachers and thank them again, you will never know how much that means to them. Be humble and respectful, and you will go far. No one wants to work for or be friends with a person who has a, "I am better than you," mentality, so do not be that guy. Be proud of all you are and all you have accomplished but stay humble. In a world that dishes out cruelty all too generously, be the one to serve kindness as much as you can. Kindness does not have to be some large act, many small gestures are enough to make a person's day. I encourage you to get to know the people in your classes, you are all going through an incredible time in your life together. Hold the door whenever you can, help a peer with an assignment, lift your focus from your phone and say hello to people as you walk through campus. If you see someone sitting alone at lunch, join them, there is no harm in being friendly. If you like that girl's outfit, compliment her, it might make her day. Every day you have countless opportunities to make a difference in someone's day, take advantage of them.
My own advice to you, would be to continue your journey being brave and curious, push yourself past your comfort zone. The school you choose to attend will have countless opportunities available to you, but it is up to you to make full use of these. They are there for you to utilize but no one is going to make you do anything, that is all up to you now. This is your chance to start fresh. Most of the individuals you will find yourself around, know almost nothing about you, it is a clean slate, a fresh start to be anything you want to be. If you are usually the shy, quiet student who finds him or herself in the back of the classroom, try to push past this little by little. Sit in front of the class, speak up when you have a comment, and always voice your questions. If you have not been the best student academically, now is your chance. You are surrounded my many intelligent students, professors, advisors and you may even have tutors available to you. Take advantage of all of these resources they are there to help you. As one professor of mine told me, "claim your education." That piece of paper you a striving for at the end of four years is worth what you make of it. Do not spend tens of thousands of dollars a year just to make it through take full advantage of all of the opportunities available to you. Join a few clubs or try a sport you have always wanted to because after four years you will only regret the things you did not have the courage to do.
Once again congratulations! Earning your high school diploma is a huge accomplishment. Now, take advantage of the next four years. College is an exciting time, but like most things in life it is what you make of it. So, good luck with everything you choose to do!