To the fresh-faced high school senior

“University is gonna suck you lifeless.”

Of all the many interesting, horrifying, and amazing sentiments that I have heard about university and what my life will be like post-high school, this was probably the one that I was scared of the most. Scared of, admittedly, but also curious. I was incredibly curious about this one, wondering if it was indeed true, and it also made me wonder if university was going to turn me into a jaded, education hating zombie that would eventually be toting around  thousands of dollars in debt while working in a field completely unrelated to my studies.

They tell you so many things about university; but, isn’t it so remisicent of what they told you in elementary school? “They won’t hold your hand anymore,” “They won’t spoon feed you information,” “You are responsible for your own homework,” “You can’t mess around anymore,” … the fear mongering is endless, and it all pops up again once high school students reach that coveted senior year and contract senioritis. They are itching to get out of the plastic chairs and high pitched warning bells to a place much cooler, much more independent, and much more adult-like.

To the fresh-faced high school senior, get ready for the shock of your life, because university is gonna suck you lifeless.

But, that’s only true if you let it.

You see, I was a good kid growing up; or rather, I would like to think of myself as a good kid. I was one of those kids that never cut class (well, except that one time in senior year, to which I say I’M SO SORRY, MOM AND DAD), always got my homework done, got straight A’s (at least once PE wasn’t mandatory anymore), and had good relationships with teachers. I volunteered and had extra curriculars to pad my resume. I had some work experience and was making decent money (for my age) even before I got out of high school. I tossed that mortar board, shook a few hands, and walked out of that auditorium with a diploma and a few scholarships. I was so, so ready to get out of high school. push past the immature teeny-bopper drama that I had gotten myself into and start my new life as a fierce and independent university woman.

I was so freaking cocky.

Confidence is one thing that I wish for all of you to have: when you walk into a room, own it. But, beware that you don’t mix up confidence with cockiness.

I knew, coming into university, that I was set – financially, grades wise, confidence wise, even potentially looks wise to find new friends. They tell you in high school in passing how much work there is in university, but what they failed to mentioned (or maybe, what I failed to listen to), was that high school work is pure peanuts compared to that of university. And probably somewhere down the line, spoiler alert, they’re gonna tell you that university is SMALL PEANUTS compared to true adulting and work in the real world.

I was cocky. I thought, who needs to read this text book? Who actually spends weeks in advance doing their assignment that’s due in November? Who actually, and I mean actually, plans out their essays? And really, 6 pages? No big deal. This is child’s play.

And just like that, everything burst into flames and university did, indeed, suck me lifeless.

homer simpson homer books study stressedIn my first semester, I got hit with my very first F in my entire life. I had barely passed a first year Statistics exam, but due to the ever life screwing-over-bell-curve, I failed. And this is a person that has never received anything lower than a B. I was devastated.

On top of that, my writing skills apparently sucked and they landed me shitty grade after shitty grade. 6 pages in my first year was apparently incredibly difficult (and, spoiler alert again, the papers get longer!), and I didn’t really get first year literature. You know how we have a syntehsis portion on the English 12 provincial? I rocked that exam like it was nobody’s business. But here I was at the end of first year, struggling to write a 10 page synthesis paper. I stayed up until 1 in the morning, two days before it was due, bawling my eyes out. I had no ideas, no plan, no thesis, and no paper.

community school study studyingTo add further insult to injury, I was behind on readings for all my classes. Weekly readings averaged to around ~40-50 pages x 3 reading intensive courses resulted in me, literally drowning in words that I didn’t understand. In grade 4 I was invited to take part in an accelerated writing and vocabulary class, and we worked with Wordly Wise 3000. I was a real smart ass, learning words like “dilapidated” and “pseudonym”. Fast forward to me being behind on all my readings, and my vocab list wasn’t as great as I once thought it was.

To the fresh-faced high school senior, please don’t be like me circa first semester.

Despite my atrocious habits, I got by with some B’s and even an A-, but I knew that if I had applied myself more, I would have been even better. And once I did apply myself in the following semester and year, I saw myself getting better and better.

Of course, you might shrug and say that the grades aren’t the only thing you are after. And this is where I say that confidence matters. If you are looking to make great and lasting friendships, be confident and say hi to people in your classes. Coming from 20 person classes to 200 person classes can be extremely daunting. Take a bold step and say hi. Start a conversation. Join clubs and get involved in school. Volunteer and get yourself out there; who knows, your bold step might open up pathways to best friends, job opportunities, even a potential soul mate.

To the fresh-faced high school senior, enjoy the time you have in high shcool while it lasts.

Just so you know, your desk space doesn’t really get any better from what you’re dealing with right now; in fact, some might say that it’s even worse. Enjoy the community that you have grown up in and the friends that have stuck with you for the past chapter in your life. No matter how good technology gets, unfortunately it’s easier to be friends with people that are within your vicinity. I’m not saying to cut off all ties to high school and start anew with a clean slate in university. But, love the people that you’re with. Smile more, say hi more. Mend broken friendships and rebuild bridges, Don’t let petty drama like wearing the same dress as another girl at grad, love interests, and other things get in the way of one of the greatest parts of your life. Because let’s face it: once you get out into the semi-real world that is university, your life will be turned upside down. Your study habits change, your schedule changes, your friends change; hell, you change.

Get ready for bigger and better things, my friends. As long as you apply yourself, keep your cockiness in check and really enjoy life, it’ll all be alright. University will only suck you lifeless if you let it. But if you stay grounded, I’ve also heard it said that university is one of the best times in your life.

Make it happen.

x R

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A Vancouver-based writer who won't let her height get in the way of her dreams! Lover of God, good food, coffee & beer, corgis, and exploring with family & friends. Producer & host of Y57 Media on Vancouver Co-op Radio, CFRO 100.5 FM and a weekly contributor for Curiocity Vancouver.

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