About to Graduate High School? Get Ready for Your Life to Change!

Reflecting on my first year of college, it’s been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. It’s such a life-changing transition that I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with upcoming high school graduates.

#1 ENJOY THESE LAST FEW MONTHS OF HIGH SCHOOL

Soak it all in. College is completely different. You may be thinking you cannot wait to be free of high school drama, cliques, and peer pressures, but you’ll get hit hard in the face with other difficulties and aggravations the minute you walk on campus. Challenges like how to manage time and all the freedom; trying to get to know professors who really don’t care that much about knowing you; learning all the ropes like where to go to study, where to park, how to print papers; controlling your diet (i.e. avoiding the freshman 15); doing your own laundry; missing friends; sleeping all afternoon and staying up all night; and yes, even longing to eat a home-cooked meal with your family will most likely be in your future. You can taste the freedom as you finish your last few months of high school ready to cannon-ball into the “real world”, but remember to cherish the feeling you have and prepare yourself for a whole new chapter of life.

#2 IS GREEK LIFE FOR YOU?

Decide now if you’ll be rushing a fraternity or sorority. Do some research over the summer to see what it’s really like to be a part of your school’s Greek community? If you decide it’s for you, be prepared. Don’t enter it half-heartedly or just because it’s what you think everyone else is doing. It’s a huge commitment filled with challenges and excitement you’ve never experienced before. Go ahead and fill out all the necessary forms, get recommendation letters, and learn the schedule for rush week. And here’s something very important, learn how to accept rejection. Rushing is like applying and interviewing for multiple jobs all at the same time. Some will love you and some will deem you “irrelevant”. Don’t take it personally, you will find where you’re meant to be.

#3 REVIEW YOUR TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM & OTHER SOCIAL NETWORK PAGES

Become more aware of what you put on your social media because as you meet more people, they’ll likely be viewing your pages. This is especially true if you rush for a fraternity or sorority. It’s how they’ll try to learn about you, and judge you. Regardless of whether you rush, however, keep in mind you’re entering a new world where most people won’t know you at all so it’s time to present yourself as a mature young adult.

#4 GET A SUMMER JOB

Having a part-time job not only allows you to earn spending money, it also helps you master several of the things you’ll have to do at college, like managing a schedule, meeting new people, developing a strong work ethic, taking ownership, and getting a head start on building your resume. Maintaining a part-time job while in college can be difficult at times, but it significantly helps better your time management skills and helps keep you humble and well-rounded.

#5 SUBSCRIBE TO NETFLIX

You’ll forget what a TV & remote control are. Netflix will help save your sanity and give you a break from reality!

#6 PRACTICE WASHING YOUR OWN CLOTHES

Learn how to wash clothes and how NOT to wash clothes. You don’t want to ruin that pretty new bra by putting it in the dryer with ten towels and four pairs of jeans nor do you want to turn that nice white new Polo pink by washing it with colors.

#7 THINGS YOU MAY NOT THINK TO TAKE TO DORM

It’s easy to find checklist of things to take for your dorm, but here are a few items that may not be on them or you may not think of.
– Medicines. Especially sleep aids whether natural or something like ZzzQuil.
– Fan.
– Lingerie bag for girls (and maybe some guys.)
– A good set of headphones and an extra pair for when you lose them and another extra pair for when you lose those.
– Extra phone charger.
– Extra set of car keys.
– Command hooks and tape.
– Suitcase with wheels.
– Comfortable pair of walking shoes like Chacos.

#8 TALK TO YOUR PARENTS ABOUT YOUR PRIVACY PREFERENCES

Do you know what FERPA is? Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The Act provides confidentiality of student records. In other words, you will be in control of what information your parents have access to. They’ll likely want access to it all if they’re footing the bill but ultimately it’s your decision – your first real adult decision! Have the discussion now.

#9 DISCUSS FINANCES/SET A BUDGET

Discuss with your parents how you’ll be paying for meals, necessities, entertainment, clothes, etc., and then agree upon a budget. No use having a budget if you don’t keep up with it. There are plenty of apps for managing expenses and income. Apps like MINT. Also, if you don’t know already, learn to balance a checkbook. Lastly, learn about the pitfalls of credit cards.

#10 HAVE A BACKUP PLAN

Most kids are so excited about going to college they aren’t at all prepared for what happens if they hate it and are miserable. Being so homesick you want to come home after a week, partying way too much, bombing your GPA are all common things that might change your plans. Talk to your parents over the summer about possible scenarios and what your plan is if they become reality. Don’t put pressure on yourself to stick it out if it doesn’t feel right. College isn’t for everyone, or the particular college you chose may not be for you. You may just need to take a semester off or switch to a smaller school or pursue a different career path like the military, a technical college, earning certifications, or starting a business.

ABOUT HALEY BURTON

Haley Part-time writer, full-time student and all-around force-of-nature, Haley Burton is a Tennessee native whose style and perspective belie her age. Haley’s writing, rooted in her experiences as a young woman entering the world of higher education, has been published on a variety of platforms. She is a routine contributor to The Odyssey, as well as a regular columnist on the popular career blog ApplicationBling.com, where her columns on the issues facing young people in today’s job market are among the site’s most widely read features.

Currently a freshman at the University of Tennessee, Haley serves as corresponding secretary to the Phi Mu fraternity and an ambassador to the Student Government Association.

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