A letter to the Class of 2021: You’ll end up missing high school

Treasure the time you have

Dear Class of 2021,

Some of you may know me, some of you may not. Either way, I’m hoping that you’ll take five minutes out of your day to read this. I was in your place just one year ago. I had sent out my college applications to the UK and Italy, but still had a few more to send. I was taking the IB (s/o to anyone doing the same) and had just submitted my extended essay. I had IAs coming up, oral exams, interviews, essays, tests, projects… the list could go one forever. I felt as if for every item I ticked off my to-do list, I added two. I would never have free time again. If you’re feeling the same way, don’t worry. It gets worse.

That’s probably the worst way to calm someone down when they’re stressing out. But let me explain. This is your last year in school. For most of you, it’s the last of 15 years in school. You’re probably dreaming of that one day, six months from now when you’ll finish your final exam, leave the exam room, and feel free. Or just a few weeks later, when you’ll throw your caps in the air, shouting with joy as if you were throwing off the chains that had tied you down for so long. Those moments will come, and you will probably feel just as happy as you imagine you will. But there are still six months to go, and I want to tell you that you should enjoy each and every day that you have left.

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Why? Because you’ll end up missing high school so much more than you had thought you would. You’ll miss your friends, (some of) your teachers, your daily routine, being able to go home and not having to worry about cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing your clothes, going shopping, and so on. College is great. You’re independent. You’re free. You get to manage your own budget. But that can also be a curse. Everything you now take for granted, soon enough you’ll have to do on your own. And on top of that, you’ll spend your monthly allowance in your first week and then wonder how you’ll make it through the rest of the month. Oh, and the work load is worse. Yeah, you read that right. If you think you’re busy now, think again.

So I want to urge you to enjoy every day you have left. Treasure the time you have. Spend time with your friends while you still live in the same city. Hug your family a little tighter. And enjoy what you’re doing. That history essay may bore you to sleep, but next time you hear something about Stalin, it’ll be the first thing you think back to.

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Some more advice? Follow your heart. You’ve spent most of your life in school, so you probably know how important it is to go to a good one and study what you like. The same goes for university. Everyone is looking at the rankings and the names, and I can’t say I’m innocent of this. But follow your heart. Go where you think you’ll be happy. If you know that what you want is a small university, then go to a small one. I’m sure Stanford is great, but what’s the point of spending four years somewhere if you’re not going to enjoy yourself? Of course, you can go to Stanford and be happy (though possibly very sleep-deprived), thousands of students do it every year. But take a moment to message that one friend who goes to that one university you’re thinking about. Take a moment to look into your choices a little more.

For now, pause for a moment the next time you’re walking into school, or down the street, or towards the metro station. Look around and take it all in. You may have lived in the same city your whole life, or you may have moved every two years. Regardless, you never know what you might be missing out on. You become so accustomed to your routine that you take it for granted. So just get the most out of the time you have left, and next year when you’re in my spot, I hope you’ll encourage the Class of 2022 to do just the same.

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Columbia University