Letter to Recent High School Graduates
By: Austin Admissions Intern
It’s June 6th. Many of you guys have already graduated high school, and the rest of you are waiting anxiously for the final day of graduation which remarks the end of twelve years of schooling. I know that everyone is going through different emotions right now, and I just want to tell you guys a bit about my experience and thoughts preparing for my freshman year of college.
As I was waiting for graduation last year, it was hard to believe I was finally done with high school. I had wished for this day so many times, but I never expected it to come so quickly. I was a bit sad thinking about this chapter coming to close, but I was also excited for the new journey ahead. In some ways, I spent high school so focused on getting good grades and having a good reputation, that I didn’t just enjoy my teenage years as much as I could have. I always felt pressure to be at the top of my class, and I joined many extra-curricular activities for the sake of a “resume boost.” I felt like I was in a cage of expectations and ambitions, and I believed college would mean freedom. That’s what I was looking forward to.
I had decided to go to a prestigious university in California, and I couldn’t wait for the adventures that were waiting for me. When I began my freshman year of college, I was excited to meet new people and explore new places. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t tied down to a fixed schedule, and I didn’t have to report to my parents. This was the freedom I had craved for a long time, and I was thrilled to finally have it.
On the college move-in day, when I finally had to say goodbye to my parents, I wasn’t sad at all. My mom hid her tears, but I couldn’t resist smiling as I was excited to have finally achieved the freedom. After I kissed them goodbye, I rushed out to absorb the collegiate atmosphere and meet as many people as possible. I found my new classmates open-minded and social, so it wasn’t hard to make new connections. I quickly became good friends with the other freshmen in my same residential college and went out often to explore the city without having to tell my parents “who, when, and where.” I spent many nights in my friends’ dorms, and I was happier than ever to have autonomy and agency. I was relieved that my parents were no longer breathing down my neck.
As the semester dragged on, I prioritized socializing over studying. Going on outings, hanging out with friends, and doing whatever I wanted ultimately caused me to begin to slack off in classes. I started skipping my 8am classes, then my 10am, then even my 2pm classes thinking that I could just study from the lecture slides. I tried to learn everything right before finals week of the first semester, and I was devastated when I checked my GPA to see I had posted a 3.0. At my college, everyone was as smart or smarter than me, and I certainly wasn’t going to achieve academic excellence by coasting along. A consistent A+ student my whole life, I felt ashamed, and I even regretted choosing this selective university over easier colleges where I received full scholarship offers. It was a financial burden for my parents to send me to this school, and I treated the semester more like summer camp than an opportunity to better myself.
My parents had trusted me to do well, and I felt like I didn’t live up to their expectations. I felt awful when my parents stopped calling me because I had ignored their calls claiming to need time to study.
I spent the whole semester socializing and having fun, and I thought I messed up my entire semester of college. I was too excited at the autonomy I obtained that I wasn’t acting like a responsible adult. After I saw my unsatisfying GPA posted on Blackboard, I was overwhelmed with negative emotions. I was guilty, disappointed, and ashamed. But after ending my freshman year, I now know that I did not just “mess up” my entire semester of college. I learned a lot of valuable lessons that they don’t teach in school. Although my transition from high school to college was rough, my first semester taught me how to adapt to the college life. I realized that in order to be a responsible adult, I need to know how to balance school and social life. But out of every priceless experience I had, the number one thing is the genuine friendship. College helped me to step out of my comfort zone and to learn how to socialize with different types of people.
To the recent high school graduates getting ready for college, I want to warn you guys that college isn’t easy. You’re not going to get the same GPA that you had in high school. You will need to study harder than before. You may end up homesick, depressed, and even get the freshman 15 that I certainly did. Yet, at the same time, college is the most fun and memorable year that I ever had in my life. Enjoy the freshman year while it lasts – it goes fast.