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I know how you’re feeling. I was in your shoes once, drowning in homework and preparing for finals, wondering if it would ever end. I daydreamed about becoming a senior, walking across the stage and finally being able to turn the tassel toward my future – toward freedom.

Now, as I’ve hung up my graduation gown in preparation for that day that is only a few weeks away, the “cliché” sentiment that I’ve always disregarded in the past, holds truth – although you may not see it now, high school flies by. Four years may sound like an eternity right now, but in retrospect, it feels like it was over before it ever truly began. Your time in high school, whether you believe it or not, is ticking away, and you’ll thank yourself as a graduating senior if you just make the most of it.

1) Appreciate and listen to your mom and dad.

I know what you’re thinking. “But mom – you just don’t understand.” I used to be you. In all honesty, I still sometimes struggle with this. However, over the years I’ve learned the hard way that your parents were once your age, and their advice is based on life experiences. Listen to what they have to say. More importantly, appreciate what they have to say. Your parents care about you more than you can comprehend. They truly only want the best for you. Spend time with them. Talk to them. As you’re getting ready to part ways with your parents, you will realize just how much you will miss the home-cooked meals, advice, and comfort. Take advantage of the time you have now.

 2) Don’t let fear stop you from stepping outside of your comfort zone.

High school is a time for personal growth and learning. Whether it’s trying out for that team you’re not entirely sure you’ll make, allowing your voice to be heard on issues you’re passionate about, or even talking to that cute boy in your Spanish class, don’t let the fear of rejection or embarrassment prohibit you from trying something new. Even if you don’t succeed, anything that you made an effort to do or try isn’t a failure. It can only serve as an experience or a lesson. In the end, you will never truly regret something that you tried, only the experiences that you let fear stop you from trying.

 3) Your GPA will follow you for forever, and the work you put into in the classroom now will reflect upon it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can always work harder as a junior or senior because chances are, it’ll be too late. College admissions take a holistic approach, looking at each year – from the moment you walk through those doors on the first day of your freshman year, to the moment you walk across the stage to receive your diploma. Creating good study habits, learning time management, and avoiding procrastination now will continue to benefit you throughout the rest of your schooling. School won’t always be easy. In fact, it only gets harder from here – keep on going. Don’t give up. You won’t remember all the nights that you lost sleep or you crammed, but you’ll definitely remember all the accomplishments you achieved. Continue to work hard, and I promise you will reap what you sow through college admissions and scholarships.

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 4) That being said, your GPA doesn’t reflect who you are as a person. Balance is key.

While schoolwork is a priority, it should not define who are you. You can only truly grow as a person by venturing outside of your studies to spend time with friends, experience life, and by taking time to yourself as well. Do the things you enjoy. Spend time with the people you love. Go out on a weeknight to dinner with friends. Enjoy the coffee dates and late milkshake runs. Your mental well-being and happiness is more important than your GPA. While your GPA lasts forever, the memories you make now will as well.

 5) Sit in the student section at the football games. Go to Prom. Dress up for Spirit Week. Experience high school.

You won’t regret it. These are events to enjoy, and to cherish. Take in each event and every moment. Make it a point to attend games, concerts, and plays. Your classmates and friends work hard in these areas, and your support means more to them than you realize. In the end, you have nothing to lose, only to gain. Someday you will want to tell your kids about your Senior Prom night and how it’s a night you’ll never forget – not that you regret not going.

 6) Make a difference.

Your time in high school will work to shape you as a person, try to do things that count. Volunteer work serves to be rewarding, and a lot can be learned from it. Take the time to give back to others – even if it’s in a small way. Make your time matter.

 7) Don’t stress about the things you can’t change.

You will make mistakes. Some things will be out of your control. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Missing a deadline isn’t the end of the world. Losing friends is sometimes inevitable. While everything may not always go your way, don’t dwell on the past. Continue to move forward, and know that when you feel like everything is going wrong, things can only get better.

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8) It’s okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life.

You’re young. Graduation is not a deadline to have your future mapped out – in all reality, nobody has it all figured out. While some may find their passion in high school, the majority of us don’t. Your major in college will not be set in stone and it is okay to change your mind. We’re all still learning about the world and ourselves, and these things take time. Explore your options and pursue your passions. The world is in front of you.

 9) Slow down. Enjoy your youth, and make the most out of your high school experience.

Before you know it, you’ll be in my shoes: wondering where the time went as you stare at the graduation gown in your closet, preparing to walk the stage toward a new, unfamiliar beginning – away from the comfort of high school.

Mikayla R
Mikayla is a student at Florida State University where she spends her time studying political science and religiously watching Fox News. As a Republican girl in a Democratic world, Mikayla can be described as "fiercely patriotic, and unapologetically sassy." When she's not busy defending the Constitution, you can find her drinking sweet tea, listening to Taylor Swift, and enjoying living in the south.

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