Soon-to-be high school graduates,

First and foremost, I'm so proud of y'all. I remember being a high school sophomore and watching you get lost in the hallways during your very first week. Since then, we've taken elective courses together, co-starred in theatrical productions, gone on coffee runs, spent the night at each other's homes, and have stayed in touch despite the fact that I wasn't a student at your school anymore.

I can't begin to count the times that we've talked about college admissions, majors, AP scores, SATs and ACTs (and how I advocated for the ACT over the SAT), and everything related to this next step in your life. That time is finally here, which means there's one more conversation I need to have with you before you start your freshman year at college.

Take your summer vacation and make the most of it. Hang out with all of your high school friends, and even the ones that you may have drifted away from if you feel it's appropriate. This will be the last time in a while that everyone is in town at the same time, so take advantage of that. Go to Cook Out late at night, audition for community theatre productions, plan trips with your friends (or if you're Stephan Patterson (hi Stephan!) go to Europe), and if you want to save some money before school, get a summer job that you would enjoy.

Don't think of summer vacation as your last few months of "freedom" but rather a period of crossing the threshold. Have as much fun as you can!

Once August rolls around and you're moved into your dorm, you'll realize how much has changed in so little time. While some embrace being away from home, others need anywhere from weeks to months in order to overcome their homesickness. I can't predict how you're going to deal with that change, but I can tell you a few ways to make the transition easier.

First, try to reach out to anyone you meet at orientation. This will be your first time interacting with other kids going to your school that aren't from high school, which provides a useful glimpse into the kind of people you'll meet over the next four years. Even if a friendship doesn't last throughout your first year, making some connections that will get you excited for school will be crucial during your first semester.

Secondly, spend as little time in your dorm as possible. Go to general board meetings for student organizations, study at the student union, and do literally anything you can to find new people. It's easier in high school when you likely have to be with similar people in multiple classes, but in college where there's far more variation in scheduling and people, it can be daunting to find new friends. If you don't want to leave your dorm room, LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN. Go into your residence hall's GroupMe/snap group (if it exists) and tell people to stop on by.

Typically, if you meet one person, you'll meet their friends too. I made most of my college friends after I stopped by someone's open door in my residence hall, and from there I was introduced to people who introduced me to more people. I wouldn't have my current friend group if I didn't walk by the open door, so be brave, my lovely introverts!

This part is probably what you're most concerned with going into school: majors and minors. It's totally okay if you don't know what you want to do yet! You have more time and flexibility than you think in terms of which classes you can take. Before fully committing to a major or two, spend your first few semesters taking classes in all the subjects that interest you. While it doesn't seem likely now, your passions and interests are going to change. A lot.

You might get bored with a subject you were wild about during high school and find yourself drawn to a subject you didn't care much for during those same four years. Be open to the idea of possibility and change because keeping yourself locked on past aspirations and connections will inhibit the opportunity for growth, which is what will make college the most enjoyable.

When you walk on graduation day and get your diploma, know that the next four years ahead of you are subject to change. You'll look back on high school graduation a year from now and realize how different you are, and it'll be great.