Note to the Underclassman

The funny thing about memories is their ability to condense time. In the present, events feel slow, sinuous and never ending, but in retrospect, they seem to end too suddenly. September felt like a millennia ago, but the first day of freshman year feels like it could have been yesterday.

It’s a lot to think about, but I am happy that I have the opportunity to share with you some of my high school reflections as I prepare to go off to college.

My first piece of advice is to think about and balance your values. Freshman year I did not have many wide-span goals. I saw high school as a direct path to one big goal – college. I went through the motions of what I needed to do; I was devoted to my academics, I focused on my coursework, and little else. Though I joined a club I enjoyed, without a clear sense of direction, it didn’t mean much. Life without ambition is stagnant, and I ended my first year feeling underwhelmed. So, set a vision for yourself, and consider how you will get there. Do not let fear hold you back. Change those “I can’t” statements into “I will” ones.

My second piece of advice is to think about and balance your life – do not become overwhelmed in the hustle. Have goals, but make time for breaks because you will remember the fun stuff — explorations of The Ave on half days, hunting for hidden rooms in the North Building, running from geese (they’re particularly vicious), or exchanging stupid riddles during music rehearsals.

For most of us, and really across the country, it seems that the primary goal is admission into a good or great college at any cost! This year in particular we have heard about scandals such as  the T.M. Landry Prep scandal, a small Louisiana prep school, where the owners falsified records in order to get students accepted into prestigious universities, the Hollywood college admissions scandal, where celebrities and prominent business leaders paid millions to falsify A.C.T. and S.A.T. scores, and manufacture athletic profiles, in order to send their children to elite universities. Unfortunately, in America today, more people seem willing and eager to cheat and bribe their way into college.

But are they thriving? Are they successful? Often we lose sight of the idea that high school is more than academic learning. If we concentrate our focus on tests, essays, and projects, we miss out on making new friends and deepening the bonds with those we already have, or being adventurous and trying new things that are as much a part of our transition into adulthood as our classes are in preparing us for the higher learning ahead of us.

I do not remember Freytag’s pyramid, or stoichimotry, or Newton’s Second Law. What do I have though? The memories of walking to Bergen PAC loudly singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” with my friends, getting out-danced by the elderly at the Senior Citizen’s Prom, and staying up all night making bracelets out of little plastic beads for March Madness. These are the things we keep through thick and thin.

So, to the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022, cherish the little things throughout your pursuits because before you know it, it will all be over, and these are the things you are going to miss, and these are the memories you are going to cherish.