GraceNotes: Lessons learned as a senior

What students say about senior year is true: it is the hardest year of high school. In the past few months, I’ve been flooded with college applications, a somehow increasing workload, hope, despair, excitement for graduation and misgivings about my future. 

Though the second semester of senior year has been one of my most unpredictable times in my admittedly short and uneventful life, I am able to say that I learned a few things through this stressful process. 

Literally, I learned the importance of setting and keeping deadlines, a harsh jerk to reality that I’m sure many seniors experienced. Though I understood this on the surface, I had not internalized it. All of my regrets came crashing down as I typed frantically on my laptop in a Starbucks throughout Thanksgiving break, my birthday and Christmas while chugging an iced caramel macchiato. 

Though I hate to admit it, one regret that I have is that I had been distracted by prestige. Partly egged on by parents, partly witnessing the immense success that previous students had and partly driven by pride, I found myself shotgunning to many colleges with a shiny name. Sure, there were aspects that I enjoyed at every school; however, I have a suspicion that I had altered my perspective of myself to see myself attending these colleges in order to make myself believe that I will fit in. 

I wanted to apply to these colleges, but I don’t think that I had actually wanted to attend. In fact, when I had made two lists of all the colleges I applied to—one factoring in the college name and the other purely based on how much I wanted to attend—the lists were different. 

Had I not paid attention to prestige, there are quite a few colleges that I would have added to the list and taken out, and there are moments where I am filled with regret for not applying to a certain college. And recently, I somehow ended up falling in love with a school I considered a safety. I’m ashamed to say that when I sent in my application to that college, I had not given it much thought. I am lucky to have applied to this certain college because I know I have an acceptance from somewhere I will enjoy four years at. 

 In hindsight, I wish I had stopped to enjoy high school. Many seniors have less than a year left until adulthood, and we have less than two months until we’re thrown into the real world as college students. I missed out on so many things—orchestral concerts, theater productions, walks in the morning, time spent with friends—just because I was stressing out over my grades and standardized tests. Definitely, in college, I will cherish my time, rather than obsess over something that probably won’t even matter in 10 years. 

Something that gives me peace in this emotional month of college decisions is that my future is ultimately dependent on what I make out of college. I understand and accept now that prestige doesn’t matter, although it may give you a leg up in the process. No matter where I end up, I think I’ll be able to happily develop a stronger narrative for myself based on everything that I learned about myself from high school.