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High School Wisdom From the Senior Class of 2017

The CollegeXpress Student Writers Class of 2017 shares their top tips and advice for surviving high school, getting into college, and more.

Congratulations, Class of 2017—and a special congrats to the more than 60 current and past CollegeXpress Student Writers who are graduating this year. We are so insanely proud of them, excited for their futures, and thankful for all the amazing work they’ve done for us so far. That’s why we’re honoring this year’s senior writers and sharing some of their wisdom with you. This advice for high school students is the real thing—hopeful, realistic, determined, funny, and sometimes even a little sad. It’s well wishes and hard-won lessons. It truly captures the high school experience. And you’ll be better off after reading it. Congrats again, Class of 2017. Sharing your stories on CollegeXpress means the world to us, and we’re so proud of you all!

Handling high school

Remember that while grades and taking classes that will challenge you are very important, you need to find a balance. Take a few classes that you'll enjoy! I personally turned down IB Biology so that I could continue to be in my school's band. That's perfectly okay! Madalyn Chapman, Kennebunk High School

Invest in yourself. If I could give one piece of advice for underclassmen, this would be it. Learning happens just as much outside of the classroom as it does in. So, make investments in rigorous course work but also in organizations, teachers, friends, and—last but not least—yourself. Investing in these people and activities means more than just showing up because you have to or joining a club for your résumé; investing is a commitment with purpose. Spend time building relationships. Commit to meaningful projects with your favorite clubs. Take care of yourself. Every single purposeful investment will be worthwhile, because not only will you reap rewards but your future self even more so.” Sarah G. Hill, Seneca High School

Do not simply wing classes like you do with eyeliner. Do your best. Every grade, every course, and every test counts toward your GPA. I know school may be boring, and some days you may feel that you cannot get through the day, but take a deep breath and do those assignments. High school is a test run for college success; do not take that for granted. Enjoy your high school years, because they fly by fast like the wind. Never procrastinate so much that your grades start dropping. Always remain positive! And realize your current situation is not your final destination!  Azucena Cortez Pedroza

Don't worry about missing out on things. Do what you can to set yourself up for your next stage in life. You will be a high schooler for four years, but you will work as a professional for more like 40. I made the mistake of not being future-conscientious. Starting in high school, your actions have consequences. Your high school performance directly correlates to your college, which directly correlates with your career. You can't get back those bad grades, poor study habits, or misdemeanors. Now is prom really that important? And please, don't do anything illegal. Dawson Vore, St. Mary Catholic Central High School

In high school there will be times when you want to cry. There will be times when you laugh until you cry. The strange mix of joy, frustration, and accomplishment can be overwhelming. Yet through it all, keep your head held high. You are on a path to success and nothing can stop you. Emily A. McKeon

Related: Video: How to Survive High School and Find Scholarships

Eyes on the college prize

Rising seniors: enjoy the next 12 months, but remember the end goal. Senior year is fun, but there can be a lot of distractions and discouraging moments. Making memories is important, but not at the expense of your future. Keep your eye on the prize, keep your options open, and ultimately choose a life path that is best for you. In the end, only you will know what that is. Don't be afraid to try for everything and be as successful as you want to be. This is your final performance—play the role with pride. Megan Ferch, Parkersburg Catholic High School

I would advise underclassmen to begin thinking about a possible major or career path. Although there is still plenty of time to explore, these first years of high school are not totally high pressure and stressful, making for a great opportunity to define the future. Take a class about something entirely new to you. Research interesting careers, or discover how your interests can translate into a career. Or get involved with a cool club/activity. You never know where your next venture could lead you! Kathryn Ziccarelli, John F. Kennedy German-American School

My advice for finishing high school and continuing your education? Work hard on it. Make yourself a great music playlist to help you jam out too. My favorites are “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack and “I Can Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules. Find a song that inspires you to never quit and never give up. Better yet, find a human being who inspires you to never quit and never give up! Mine helped inspire me into my career to help students from becoming dropouts. Find something to drive you and never give up on it. Emily Barylske, Gillespie High School

Dreams can propel you to success, but can also leave you crushed if they do not come to fruition. I myself had a big dream, and that was to attend Harvard University. When senior year came, I chased my dream and decided to apply. Days came and went until the decision letter came in my e-mail inbox. It was a rejection. A flat-out no. Of course, I was crushed; who wouldn’t be when you work for four years to achieve something and fail. I had to prove the admission panel wrong. The rejection only made me work harder to finish my senior year on a high note. Rejection goes hand in hand with dreaming. In order to fulfill dreams, you must prepare for rejection. Use rejection to fuel your ambition. Nelson A. Graves, Pottsville High School

Related: Spring College Planning Checklist for High School Juniors

You’ve got this

Be involved, be present, speak more, and worry less. Be focused on goals, and don’t let your peers convince you that you aren’t worthy. Find your passions and employ them. You don’t need to watch the shows everyone watches, wear what everyone wears, or listen to the same music. Be an individual, and don’t be afraid to talk about your passions. Do your research for college, take tests you need to take, plan a little more than you think you need to. Listen to your upperclassmen, because soon you’ll be one. Don’t emulate the people who slack off, and stay level headed. Pamela Rayburn, Simi Valley High School

Senior year is definitely a whirlwind of excitement and emotions and stress. But beneath it all, as you prepare to move on to that next phase of your life, as one era ends and another begins, there is nothing more beautiful than the feeling that everything you’ve worked for your entire life is finally falling into place. Work hard, chase your dreams, be kind to everyone, and don’t forget to have fun (within reason) along the way. These days won’t last forever, and they’re gone before you know it. Make all the memories you can, because in less time than you think, you’ll be walking at graduation ready to receive a hard-earned diploma. When you look back, I promise it will not be the stress and tears and late nights that you remember, but the time you got to spend with the people you love. Work hard, dream harder, and make all the memories you can. You’ll be surprised how far you can get in life with just those three things. Katie E. Warner, Circleville High School

After four years of high school, it all finally culminates to this day. After everything that we did or didn’t do, after all the honors we received or didn’t receive, after all the adventures we had or didn’t have, we’re here all the same. For these final few hours, we stand here, we stand together, a unified mass of black, blue, red, or gold, standing on the precipice of another world, another life, completely, wholly, beautifully unaware of what’s to come. We’re done. But it’s never the end, just another beginning. Ryan Nguyen, Aloha High School

Don't be afraid to aim for your dreams. Even if you don't make it, at least you know you gave it all, and that's all that matters at the end of the day. As Walt Whitman said, "Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find." Lydia Abedeen, Orlando Science Schools

Related: It's Time to Tackle Your New Semester Goals

Congrats to all the seniors in the CollegeXpress Student Writers Program!

High school is a challenging but rewarding time for most students, but what makes it easier and even more rewarding is when students pass down their wisdom and experiences to others. We hope these words of advice and encouragement aid you in the rest of your high school journey, and maybe you’ll pass down your advice to students in need one day!

Check out more great words of wisdom from other high school graduates with the tag “advice for underclassmen.”

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Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

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Lexie Knutson

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Maurice Whan

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