With decision day fast approaching for high school seniors, the junior class is not far behind. Being a member of the class of 2024 means college tours are just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking a little more seriously about our futures. It’s both terrifying and overwhelming, but it can also be exciting. Making big decisions can feel like a huge weight is on your shoulders, but it’s important to preserve both your emotional well-being and an optimistic outlook on the life that awaits you. Whether you choose the career of an architect or a mechanic, a hairdresser or a teacher, a musician or an astronaut, your role is equally as important as anyone else’s.
If you choose to continue your academic or athletic career at a university, it is likely that you’ve already been visiting schools of interest, joining Zoom meetings, or getting in contact with the student bodies there – and if not, you still have time! During my sophomore year, I visited a university and fell in love immediately. However, my longing for acceptance turned into panic attacks over my grades, tallying my extracurriculars, and centering my worth around a possible rejection from the school. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream school, but you must remember: you’ll end up where you’re meant to be. Hearing that as an underclassman felt invalidating and completely untrue, but experiencing the college process thus far has proven the exact opposite. Every step, every day lived, is an accomplishment whether spent at Harvard or at home.
Another thing I’ve learned is that pushing yourself to the max between the hours of 7 and 3 is a demanding lifestyle that requires balance. I’ve also learned that a “bad” grade is not the end all be all – it is all about the effort you put forth. It is only possible to work at your full potential when you give yourself breaks, both physically and emotionally. These grades are not the things that define us. We are defined by the way we treat others and the way we treat ourselves. No percentage or acceptance letter will change your core values, and holding onto that is vital in the process of developing your future.
As I fill out my transcript now, looking back on the many clubs and classes I have participated in over the years, I reminisce most prominently on those that may not necessarily be “impressive” to colleges. These blocks of time were where I made some of my best friends and learned some very valuable lessons. This made me realize how important it is to fill your time with things that you actually enjoy instead of doing what you think others will value. Only then can you find true success within yourself. I definitely struggle a great deal with living for myself rather than for the future. When my time was consumed with such crucial decisions, it was easy to lose sight of what I genuinely wanted from my life. Isn’t that what matters most? Even now, it can be hard to set aside time for my hobbies. I have to consistently remind myself that everything I work towards is not for an admissions office but for my own happiness. These things can co-exist.
Today, there are so many pressures of society that warp our visions of reality. There are financial demands, judgmental peers, and stressed-out parents that make us wonder if we can ever really turn our dreams into a supportive living. We lose sight of life’s joys and crowd our minds with how we can pay for groceries and if we can make rent on our first apartments. Though these are valid concerns, it’s important to trust your own abilities and work ethic. A job you love will never be work. Though it’s easier said than done, prioritize your honest desires instead of what you believe will make you the most financially prosperous or impressive. At the end of the day, the only things you’ll take with you are the memories you create along the way.