There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is, you did it! You survived 13 years of the education system, which may or may not have taught you everything you need to know for college and life after. All your hard work, or lack thereof, payed off, and you get to move on with your life. And now that the government isn’t mandating how you spend your week anymore, you get to choose what path you take. There are many wonderful options to choose from, and each holds something new, exciting and life-changing.

The bad news is, now that you’ve completed all that hard work, and you’ve graduated, no one cares about what you did in high school.

I found that out all too quickly in college.

It didn’t matter to anyone that I had a 4.0, took AP classes, and was at the top of my class. It didn’t matter to anyone that I was in SGA, NHS, or Beta Club. It didn’t matter that I played soccer, or that I did a ton of service in high school. No one asked about it. It didn’t help me make any friends, nor get my professors to like me.

At first that was shocking. Wasn’t that why I was in all those clubs and worked so hard, because it looked good on my “college application”? And you mean to tell me after they check that off, I’m just in, and it doesn’t matter anymore? That everything I did was just for someone to skim over and decide if I was good enough to pay them $28,000 a year for an education?

That was really frustrating.

It seemed as though all the work and effort I had put in was for nothing. The recognition had faded. I was on the same playing field as everyone else, because they had done just as much, or more, than me. I became a really small fish in a really big pond. And I felt like I wasted my time, because some of the things I did, I didn’t really enjoy. I did it just for what I would get out of it, when I could have been putting my time into something I loved.

And then I realized that I was being really selfish, and life isn’t all about me. Maybe Beta Club and NHS didn’t really do a lot for me besides give me something to wear at graduation, but it’s what it did for others that mattered anyway. All the items I donated, the families we fed, the angel tree shopping and Christmas gift giving, that’s what mattered. That’s what changed lives. The help that SGA provided the teachers and school, the work we put in during homecoming week to make it fun and memorable, that’s what mattered. The friendships I made through the countless hours of serving together and playing together, those will be what make high school memorable and worth-while. The teachers and coaches that poured into me and invested in me to make me who I am is what mattered.

And that’s comforting knowing it wasn’t about me; it takes the pressure off. And while it’s a little frustrating knowing my achievements may not be remembered by anyone but me, it’s comforting to know my failures won’t either.

No one will remember the times I embarrassed myself, the times I got a bad grade on a test, the times I missed the shot I took. No one else will remember I didn’t get homecoming queen or valedictorian. Only I’ll remember that. But why should I? What is the point in remembering everything I didn’t do rather than what I did?

“The only time you should look back is to see how far you have come.”

So rather than sulking in what I didn’t do in high school, I won’t make the same mistakes again in college. And you shouldn’t either. That’s the other good news.

You get to start over. So do what you love. Since high school doesn’t matter anymore, you don’t have to be the same person. And because everyone figured that out in college, they don’t want to waste college either. Everyone does what they want and are who they want to be, and they leave you alone to do the same. So join the clubs you want to. Sing, dance or play an instrument. Play a sport. Or if you’ve spent all of high school hating those things, try something new. Popularity is a high school thing. In college there are too many people to know everyone and have a popular crowd, so there’s no point in trying to be cool. Confidence is cool. Kindness is cool. Success is cool. Loving people is cool.

Look back on high school if you want to. Remember the good, the friendships, the laughter. Remember your teachers and coaches. Remember the people who loved you and supported you. Remember what matters and what you love, and use that to guide your college experience.

And remember: “There are far greater things ahead than we ever leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis