My sister’s last first day of high school

vickyDear Vicky,

One of the drawbacks of such a small class size is that you have a limited pool of peers to be influenced by, to draw inspiration from and to compare yourself with.

During a time like high school – especially senior year – self-comparison is something that most people do, inevitably.

It’s hard to imagine now, but I hope that in a few years, you’ll realize that the world is much more than just a reflection of your high school community. This is something that I struggled to grasp through most of my high school experience, but was slowly revealed to me through my friendships with debaters from other schools. I got a glimpse into school systems that operated differently depending on whether they were public or private, where they were located and the demographic of students who attended.

In college and beyond, you’ll further explore your own personal style and preferences, and you’ll feel less confined by what others are wearing, what kind of cars they’re driving and how they spend their time.

Your first semester is going to be difficult. You’ll feel scrutinized about your grades and extracurriculars, and the college application process is harrowing for most, to say the least. Remember to have fun, think carefully about who is a positive force in your life and what activities give you genuine joy.

If possible, you should get a job during your second semester. I worked at a bubble tea shop for a few months, and it taught me so much about customer service, efficiency and hard work.

But senior year, which you’ve plunged headfirst into, probably feels like a make-it-or-break-it time that decides the direction the rest of your life follows. You’re definitely feeling pressured to make decisions, about which schools to apply to, what to write your college essay(s) about, what you want to study. It might feel as though you need to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, and stick with it, but you don’t.

I know I certainly felt that way scrolling through the lists of majors offered by different universities, wondering, how can I possibly make a decision like this now?

YOU DON’T! Though I headed off to college under the ‘poli sci’ label, I was woefully undecided. It took a few years and a lot more than just taking classes to discover what my strong suits are. I did some informational interviews, acquired real-world experiences and did some research and question-asking before deciding what I was interested in. It’s something that comes from hands-on exposure, not from sitting behind a screen, reading through webpages.

Of course, some people know from the get-go what they want to do for the rest of their lives. However, I’ve realized that there are more people in this world who think they know what they want to do in college and beyond, but start to doubt and rethink themselves once they take classes or do internships, than those who actually follow through with what they initially choose.

Indeed, you absolutely can pick a major, but you don’t need to stick with it. If you feel an urge to start exploring a subject area, don’t ignore that drive; see where that feeling takes you.

This is my last letter to you, concerning the high school topic. It’s crazy, reading through what I wrote in years past, how my own experiences have been either very relatable or completely irrelevant to yours. My own opinions about high school have evolved with each additional year out, and I’m not as…bitter as I used to be. I suppose that this final letter juxtaposes the hostile attitude I previously took towards my individual experience from high school.

<A Letter To My Sister on Her First Day Of High School – March 1, 2013>

<To My Sister, On Her First Day of Sophomore Year – August 12, 2014>

<Dear Vicky, You’re a junior now… – September 10, 2015>

:)

Catherine

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