Advice for graduating seniors

Four years and one month ago I graduated from college. Four years before that, I graduated from high school.

Hold on.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been out of high school? How is that possible? Let me let that sink in a minute – for me, not for you.

This past weekend, I watched as one of my cousins graduated from high school. Next year, my youngest sister will graduate. Both of them I still think of as kids, which they obviously aren’t, as they both drive. That is weird for me too.

But as I watched my cousin’s graduation – and the one I covered for the paper Friday night, it got me thinking about the time, almost a decade ago – geez – when I was in their shoes, finishing up my high school years and getting ready to head off to college.

There’s some things I wish I’d known before I left and more I learned along the way. I will share a few of them with you now, so graduates, write this stuff down.

1. Do not take 8 a.m. classes. These are only a good idea if you are a morning person, a glutton for punishment, or you’re trying to win a bet or prove a point that you can totally stay awake for that whole hour-and-15-minute history class twice a week. And it gets really easy to just keep hitting that snooze button when you don’t have someone making sure you’re up and ready for school or who will know if you don’t go.

2. If and when you have to take some sort of physical education credit to complete your gen-ed requirements, there are some great options. I took volleyball, but one of the best class decisions I made was bowling. Easiest “A” I’ve ever made in a class. I promise. One day we got all 10 points even if we just knocked one pin down. Seriously.

3. Make new friends but keep the old. You might be sad now that you’re leaving some of your friends because they’re going to a different college. But it’s not necessarily such a bad thing. Think of the road trips you can take to go visit them. Or how fun it’ll be to plan get-togethers when you’re all back in town for holidays and summer. Join some clubs or groups or get involved somehow when you go to college. You won’t regret it. I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have from college. And I still have some from high school. It can be done.

4. Listen to your mom when she tells you what you need to bring back when you visit your parents for the weekend. Case in point, as I mentioned in my Mother’s Day column, my mom told me to bring back gloves, I said I didn’t need them, the next day it snowed. A lot.

5. If your parents ask you if you need groceries or anything when they come visit you, say yes. Even if you just went to Wal-mart yesterday. You can always use more groceries. Especially if you aren’t paying for them. Plus the parents will probably take you out to dinner, which is always good, it breaks up the routine of ramen and Spaghetti-O’s.

6. Take some FUN classes. There are a bunch of general education credits you’ll have to fulfill – unless you aced all your AP tests – and there are some really cool classes that fill those requirements. I took a class called Urban Folklore. It was about urban legends. I promise I did get a degree in journalism, even though it doesn’t sound like it from the classes I’ve mentioned so far.

But probably the most important thing I can tell you, with complete seriousness, is to enjoy these next four years. They will fly by and when they’re gone you’ll miss them. Except for that whole 8 a.m. class thing – I told you not to do that.

College is a whole new ballgame. You’re on your own and you worked hard to get here. Go to sporting events, take any and all chances you can to win free t-shirts (or food) and don’t lose your student ID. In fact, bring that thing home so you can get some discounts at places around here – movie theaters give discounted tickets for students. At one movie theater, I was a student until last year.

Whatever you do, have fun. Be careful and call your parents at least on Sundays just to check in. Oh, and good luck.

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