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Nov 19 2015
by Taylor Laroche

An Open Letter to My Friends Still in High School

By Taylor Laroche - Nov 19 2015

Dear friends that are still in high school,

Yes, I miss you. In fact, sometimes I miss you more than I miss my own bed (No, that's not true, I miss my bed more, but you're up there). Unfortunately, though, when we don't see each other everyday, it can be difficult to keep up.

That being said, I feel that it is important for you to know the complete truth about college (or at least the first semester) as I know it. That is why, my young friends, I am writing you this letter: to give you the glimpse into the first semester experience that I never got. So, here are some things that I've learned so far that I feel it is important for you to know.

First of all, college is amazing. No, really. I know you may have heard it a thousand times, but college really, truly is incredible! You have so much freedom! You can decide to eat pizza for dinner. Every. Night. You can lay in bed and watch Netflix for a whole Saturday and no one is going to tell you to do otherwise. You can pick what classes you want to take and make it so you never have to get up before noon or go to school on a Friday. You can stay out all night and no one will say anything to you (as long as you remember your room key). Maybe your teachers let you call them by their first names! Maybe they curse like sailors in class! You never know! College is a magical place.

Also, college is hard. Like, really hard. Remember when your teachers used to draw helpful little diagrams on the board and spend time explaining to the class again exactly what they just said a moment ago because you spaced out for a minute? No longer. Friends, you had better start learning to draw those diagrams yourself and drink lots of coffee because in college the teachers do not slow down. They do not repeat themselves. They do not draw helpful pictures. You may be psyched that your class only meets once a week, but it may meet for three hours or more and then you'll have to spend at least that much time on one homework assignment before the next class. Balance that with five other classes, the work for them, and eating, sleeping, and exercising, and you'll be surprised by how busy you get! College is great because you have a lot of free time when you're not in class, but the hardest part is figuring out how to manage that time to keep you on top of your work as well as healthy.

Going along with that, movies lie. College is not one huge party. In fact, depending on what school you go to, people might actually go elsewhere to find parties. Cramming for mid terms and finals is not an adorable montage of beautiful people scribbling in notebooks and sipping coffee until they fall asleep on their books and then wake up late and rush to their test looking only slightly disheveled. Oh, no, friend. If you don't plan your studying, you are looking at doing your laundry at three in the morning while you go through those flashcards for the fifteenth time and read that chapter AGAIN because you didn't absorb it AGAIN and downing gallons of coffee, then taking your test with red rimmed eyes and hands that shake because of either exhaustion, caffeine overdose, or both.

But also, college isn't that scary either. Yes, the previously described can happen if you don't keep on top of things, but you have a lot of resources to prevent those situations, There are libraries and tutors and office hours and study groups and tons of options and tools that you can utilize to, not only avoid failing, but actually excel! You can even make friends this way.

Speaking of which, don't be surprised if the first person you meet on campus doesn't become your best friend for life. Making friends is difficult and, sometimes, really scary, and often really slow. But it can be done. If you make it through your first semester of college and feel like you might have made one or two friends, you are normal. This is okay. You are a cool person. You are just feeling things out, like everyone else is. Just remember that everyone is in the same boat as you, and it may not seem so bad (Plus, you still have me! And all the other lovelies you left at high school after you graduated!). Don't force yourself into liking someone just because you feel like you haven't made any friends yet. Some people just don't jive, and that is okay.

Now, as for your roommate(s), I'm sorry to tell you this, but you might hate them. You also might love them to pieces! Living with people, especially strangers, is really hard. You have spent the last 18 years getting used to something, falling into a pattern, and now it's all different. Just breathe. It's going to be okay. Living in a dorm is not awesome. The beds are uncomfortable. It might be too cold or too warm at all times. But, it is a great bonding experience. If you and your roommate get along, this could be an amazing time for you, and you could really make a great friend! If you don't get along, that is perfectly okay and, honestly, quite common. Just learn to coexist and be civil, if not friendly. This is a valuable skill that those dreadful group projects have slowly been preparing you to hone.

Finally, my friends, don't be afraid to be scared. By that I mean do as the cliché says and step out of your comfort zone. Use this time to get your feet on the ground and figure out your routine. Then, once you've fallen into a pattern, begin to challenge yourself in little ways. Go to the gym, join a club, audition for a show, start writing for an online publication. Say yes. If someone asks you to be an extra in their film, say yes. If your teacher challenges you to step up and be a leader, say yes. Get your feet wet. Take some risks and trust that you have people to fall back on. You may be surprised at what you discover.

My loves, I miss you dearly. Your days in high school are numbered and the anticipation to cross to the other side (college) is exhilarating and terrifying. Enjoy your time now, even if it may seem frustrating and tedious at times. Enjoy your last year together and cherish the celebrations in your honor. But most of all, my dears, get excited, because everything that's coming is going to be just as important and wonderful, if not more. And don't be afraid to be scared.

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Taylor Laroche - Columbia College Chicago

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