Well, Class of 2015, congratulations on graduating high school. In a few short weeks, you'll be headed off to college. When you get there, you'll be met with an interesting concept: no one cares what you did in high school. This sounds overtly negative when you first read that no one cares, but the main point of this statement is in high school.
Commencement, a noun, means "beginning" or "start." The day you walked across the stage and got your diploma, your future started. Doors were opened to you on graduation day that you can't yet fathom. When you left high school, you embarked on the journey you've been preparing to take for the last 18 years: college. You're ready, but to better understand this transition, here are some thoughts on preparing for the changes college brings.
1. You can be whoever you want to be.
Your hallmates, people in your classes, and your professors know little to nothing about you. There's something freeing about this idea. No one knows about that embarrassing hair cut you had in fifth grade or the horrible nickname your friends called you. This doesn't mean that you need to reinvent yourself or lie about the past, but rather that you get a fresh start. If you played sports in high school, try out for a play. If you were Student Council President, go out for an intramural sport. College brings so many new chances to get involved and find your passions, but you have to be willing to try.
2. College is not 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Long gone are the days of asking to use the bathroom or even being required to attend class. You shouldn't walk out on a lecture or watch Netflix instead of going to class, but you have a newfound freedom. Your professors can teach classes about the importance of Beyoncé or how to brew beer. Better yet, you get to take those classes. You could have a night class or a Saturday lab too, but your schedule is much more flexible than it was in high school.
3. College is a whole new league.
Are you used to being the smartest kid in class? Get in line, my friend. You and your new peers are all National Honors Society members and High Honors students. While this may seem intimidating, it's also exciting. You'll be pushed to question your beliefs, conduct research alongside a professor, and go far beyond your high school academia. Don't get intimidated by a rigorous syllabus – rather, embrace the all-nighters you'll do to finish a 25-page research paper. If you don't like coffee, start now.
4. The "popularity contest" is over.
You were a cheerleader in high school? Great. You threw all the parties on Saturday nights? Awesome. You had the most friends? Congratulations. No one cares who you were in high school. Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This is so important because 10 years from now, people won't recall a conversation but a feeling instead. The "popular" people in college are the friendly, kind, and hardworking friends you can count on. There will always be someone prettier, smarter, and more athletic than you, but no one will ever be you. The best thing you can do is be your true, authentic self, and everything else will fall into place.
5. College is a time for exploration.
Never left the country? Try studying abroad. You're a business major? Take an art class. You'll find that on the surface, business and art classes couldn't be more different, but pushing yourself to think outside the box and create connections through various disciplines will make you more adaptable. Adaptable means employable; the job you'll hold in 15 years might not exist yet, so become as adaptable as possible.
6. You're in charge of your future.
Being in charge of your future brings a new expectation: grow up. Your professors will not hold your hand though every assignment and make sure you've turned in the homework. That doesn't mean they don't care, and by all means visit them during office hours if you need extra help, but it's your turn to take charge of your education. You get to decide your future, take classes that interest you, and, most of all, pursue something you love. High school gives you very little wiggle-room in your curriculum, but college allows you to try out new classes and find your passion
Everyone and their brother wishes they were in your shoes. As a college freshman, you have a whole world of opportunities right at your fingertips. It's okay to love the things you did in high school, but now you have the chance to find new passions. College gives you the opportunity to break out of the box you've stayed in for the last four years – remember, no one cares what you did in high school.