To the Recent High School Graduate

Recent High Grad

Summer, summer, S U M M E R!  It’s HERE!

Congrats, you finished your final year of high school. It took four years to assemble this life milestone, which directs you now to hurdle into higher education. The college or university you’ve selected for your next chapter has many new and exciting memories awaiting, but before you embark on this journey, take some advice from a freshman year veteran.

Lucky for you, novice, this list comes directly from experience. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I was shipped off to college, but I was wide of the mark. You’ll find more out on your own than I can offer you from this simple ranking, but at least what I provide will be a good starting point.

This list of lessons isn’t meant to stress you out—because believe me, school will do that to you on its own—but rather help you adjust to the college life a little easier. I was really appreciative of the advice that I gained from friends prior to starting my freshman year, so I hope you finish reading this feeling like you gained something beneficial.

1. Make friends, but also don’t forget your old friends.

It is SO important to find solid friends in college. These people become your family. But, if you also had strong relationships in high school, don’t forget about these friends. Stay in contact—we have technology to thank in our generation, because it requires little effort to keep updated on your earlier friend’s lives.

2. Lacking labels allows freedom to be whoever you want.

Everyone is new to the school again, and you’ve got a clean slate. Maybe you fit into a certain category in high school, and with years of those cliques forming, you didn’t really get a chance to decide on your own. College is the time to decide who you want to be and what “group” you fit in—and the best part? Every other college freshman is going to be experiencing this same transition.

3. Don’t be discouraged if your GPA is different in college.

Being a straight A student in high school definitely requires work, but sometimes it is even harder to accomplish in college. You really have to work for your grades, and study, study, study more than you ever thought possible. You must go into college with motivation (because you’re PAYING the big $$ for these classes), but also go into it with an open mind. If your GPA ends up fluctuating a little from what you’re used to, that’s normal. Just make sure you’re still maintaining what you need to keep scholarships, stay in your program, et cetera.

4. A syllabus becomes your lifeline.

Remember those pieces of paper your teachers gave you on the first day of class, that were either recycled or lost? Yeah…about that… you will look at these every day next year. Print them out, make copies, post them all over your dorm room, whatever you must do to ensure you can recite them word-for-word. Due dates, assignment points, policies, office hours, EVERYTHING you need to know about your classes are on these valuable documents.

5. Shower shoes… a necessity. 

I don’t think I want to explain this one… just bring them.

6. Get to know your professors.

This might be a little harder to accomplish at bigger universities, but not impossible. Emailing them and going into their office hours regularly helps them remember your name and allows you to feel more comfortable asking questions.

7. Stay involved.

By the end of your senior year, you probably had a million experiences on your resume (which I’m sure scholarships and colleges loved). Don’t let this fizzle away! Continue staying involved in clubs and volunteering in college, the opportunities there are endless. (Living on campus your first year will also boost your involvement in school, guaranteed!)

8. Set alarms.

I took morning classes (the earlier I took them, the quicker I got done with my day), and if you have any 8 am classes this coming semester, you’re going to need to set a couple alarms. Mommy and Daddy aren’t going to be there to ensure you make it to class, so this is your responsibility! Don’t forget, you’re paying for this $$! (Also, you’ll need alarms for LAUNDRY, because college kids are impatient and take out your soaking clothes and will not put them in the dryer for you.)

9. The freshman fifteen… avoid it. 

I know meal plans make life difficult, and stress eating is a real thing, but eat as healthy as you can. When given the choice between the pizza bar and the salad bar each day… weigh your options.

10. Lastly, be smarter than the average college freshman.

This adjustment is a big change, and a time you might feel pressured to fill social qualifications. Whether you choose to go out on the weekends or not is your choice, but be smart about it if you do. Never go anywhere crazy alone, always have a safe plan to get back, and don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. I will just add that weekends are a valuable time to get studying done, because the dorms are pretty empty these nights. 🙂

That’s all I have for now, good luck to you—college is tough but it is also one of the best times in your life! Take advantage of the great opportunities it will bring you.

Signed, Mak D

5 thoughts on “To the Recent High School Graduate

  1. Sage advice! I think the college dimension that surprised me the most (decades ago) was the new elements of opportunity and freedom. My university had a great film program – free films every night of the week – and a robust concert program, classical, jazz, amphitheater rock. It had a student radio station, all sorts of clubs, way too many new and interesting people to meet – and that was ignoring greek life (which held no interest for me), which can be an enormous distraction and the oft-correlated partying. And boys/girls – let’s not forget the new, giant pool of pheromones in which you now swim. Yes, there are many opportunities and the freedom to choose, but every minute you occupy with one of those activities lowers the probability that you will do well in classes, for which you and/or parents and/or loans and/or scholarships are footing the bill (as you so admirably say). Be wise and realize that the classes and the learning they cause will pay dividends that will earn you more freedom and opportunity when you are REALLY out in the world. College feels real, but your first real job, partner, mortgage, child (cumulative responsibilities) are the “real” real.
    On your professor note, get to know your professor as a source of intellectual enrichment and try to avoid sycophantic behavior. They will recognize it and probably be wary of you if you are there to “suck up” to the teacher. Be real, be yourself. If you haven’t read – and particularly if you haven’t understood – the material addressed in the syllabus, don’t try to fake it. The professor is giving you the highlights of what they know on the topic and will know that you are there for the CliffNotes version in an instant.
    On GPA: Your GPA is not the ultimate measure of your knowledge, it is a surrogate marker of what you are learning. You need to critical thinking and analysis skills from the classes you are taking, whatever they are – core OR major requirements. Push your mind to appreciate the work you are doing in the moment. Don’t try to fake your way through. If you work more you will be more useful to your eventual employer and to your family and community. Be the best version of yourself (whoever said that) during college as it is an unbelievably great experience to have available and you will benefit enormously.
    A really excellent post, Makenna! I apologize for going on for so long. After ten years of post-high school college, I just wanted to say “what she said!”


  2. “Don’t forget your old friends”, 100% agree! I can assure from my own experience: keeping touch with your schoolyear friends is one of the best things than can happen to you! As for me, there is one of my closest friends whom I know since I was just 4, and we keep on meeting from time to time. Life couldn’t be better!

    Liked by 1 person

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