I had the honor of attending a few high school graduations earlier this month. I love graduations; the joy, the pride and love that is shared amongst students, families and teachers is a wonderful thing to witness. I spend most of my time working with students counseling them and their families on making the right or best choices. There is so much fear and stress around making the “wrong” choice, not getting a good enough grade or score, or making a misstep. Being at graduations reminds me of several things: high school is about trying new things, challenging yourself, seeing how you can contribute to your community and setting yourself up for the next chapter. The students I spoke to were exceptionally happy and proud to share whichever college they were moving on to. I loved hearing kids stop and share their favorite memory from school, tell me how great a class was that they never expected to like, or why ASB was “the most fun” part of high school.
As I was roaming around after one ceremony, there was a teacher waiting outside his classroom to greet students. The pride and pure happiness on his face when he saw his students walk by was remarkable. His words over and over again were, “I’m so proud of you, and be happy”.
To me, this is what high school is all about. It reminded me of what Heidi Stevens wrote in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year, “College doesn’t define you. College shapes you. College takes the high school you and molds it into a grown-up you. But the key component there is you. Your ideas. Your work. Your voice. You bring all of those things to college, and college helps you figure out what to do with them.”
So, to all those high schoolers out there here’s my advice: find teachers at school that inspire you and develop relationships with them. Go to office hours, lunch tutoring sessions and get to know them as people, not just your teachers. Lean on your friends and spend time around people who make you a better you. Believe in yourself: try new things or things that think you’re bad at, take the harder class (but not all the hardest classes), join a club, and don’t forget to sleep and play! Take advantage of what’s around you and find out how you can contribute to your community. Not because it looks good on your application, but so that you can get to know yourself.