Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my future. Whenever I do, there is a pit in my stomach when I consider just how much I have ahead of me. College? A career? I have no idea where I want to go to college or what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Honestly, the time after my high school graduation is one giant question mark. This is partly due to this whole pandemic, which has basically caused many of us high schoolers to lose a year that we could have used to collect accomplishments to put on our college résumés.
This is what mainly upsets me when I reflect back on almost an entire year where I have been staying at home and social distancing. Regardless, I cannot really control that, so I have to make the best of what I have, and I can say that I am extremely thankful for everything I do have.
I recently read an article in a magazine that had a checklist of things you should do to prepare for college while in your freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years in high school.
I am a sophomore at Santa Ynez High School, and so I decided to go through each bullet point on the sophomore checklist and reflect on whether my peers and I are likely to have done it.
When I think of a “spark,” I think of passion. I think of doing something I love so much that it creates a warmth in my entire body, and makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning and get right to it.
1. Challenge yourself (wisely)
Everybody has various challenges that they may face, but I do think it's important to challenge yourself right now.
First, I think it is important to challenge yourself to have a positive attitude but also to focus on grades and school. So far, I’ve been challenging myself to have a positive attitude, since the perpetual Groundhog Day of school has been depressing to me and a lot of other teenagers I’ve talked to. I find that focusing on that first, and then grades, has helped me a lot.
2. Speak up in class
In my opinion, it is harder to speak up in class when I’m in virtual school. It seems like even when I do have the answer to the question, someone is always faster at pressing the unmute button than I am. Even though I am attempting to make an effort, this is definitely something I find to be difficult.
Just last week I learned four self-defense moves should someone ever attack from behind. I would have never learned that in school.
I know anxiety can also play a large role in not speaking up in class, which I understand every single teenager has experienced at one time or another, but I still think everyone should make it a goal for themselves to speak up at least one time every class period.
This is very important, at least for me. I’ve never been one of those people who is able to function after only five hours of sleep, and usually if I do only get that much, then I can’t focus on anything the next day (no matter how much coffee I consume). It all depends on how much sleep is good for you, but I usually like to get at least eight hours.
4. Refine your route
Looking into your future classes is important. I always like to feel organized, and at least a little bit aware of what I’m working toward, so I always take part in planning what classes I want to take. Whether these are challenging classes, extra classes I want to take during the summer, or a class I want to take for fun, it helps to know what classes I will be taking in the future.
This can be a chore, but I’ve been able to do it. Some of my classmates and friends also have begun doing it.
5. Learn from the masters
If you’re interested in any kind of career path, find someone who can guide you and talk to you about what it's like being in that profession.
In my opinion, this is the most important thing to do once you have an idea of what you want to do, because you need to know what it's like before dedicating four years of your life in order to be in that profession.
Teenagers and adults, alike, can only remain hopeful that a vaccine will soon be available, because I honestly don’t see us returning to normal without one.
I don’t want to get into a job and realize that I didn’t know enough about it to understand what it’s actually like.
Since I don’t have a set idea of what I want my profession to be, I have not done this yet, but I’m always on the lookout for adults who will be able to help me through my high school career and act as a sort of mentor.
6. Put together an activities list
Keeping track of all your hobbies and extracurriculars is both a good idea in order to build up your college résumé but, also, to look back and see what you have accomplished.
I’ve been doing this a lot lately, especially when it pertains to school and my 4-H club, because I like seeing all that I've accomplished.
7. Make your summer matter
This is something I really struggle with since I usually take the summer to relax and unwind from the stressful school year, and don’t like to do much of anything. Again, losing this past summer to quarantine was frustrating since I was planning on doing some community service and getting a job. But I do plan on making the best of true summers leading up to my high school graduation while simultaneously attempting to wind down from the school year.
8. Settle on a testing strategy
I haven’t yet taken any kind of PSAT or AP test, so I don’t have an opinion on this yet, but I’m beginning to prepare for an AP test that will be arriving in May. I just remind myself to breathe — since it can become stressful at times — and keep things in perspective.
Those are my tips and reflections on college that I hope will help someone in the long run. Thank you for reading, and stay safe and healthy.
It’s so strange to think that only last year, my friends and I were fantasizing about how great and fun 2020 would be. Now I would do anything to go back to 2019.