Graduation is truly an amazing experience. After years of hardship, frustration, and tedium, things begin to clarify and wind down. I've heard many things about graduating and preparing for what's next, and I'd like to put out my own experiences.

Mostly, I'd like to negate a lot of phrases that students will hear in their lifetime.

1. "These are the best years of your life."
Lord, I hope not. Academically, high school sucks. But I will admit, I had so much fun in high school, but here's why - it's because I learned to let myself have fun and laugh at the fashionable shoes of "cool" and "normal". I started as a little dorky freshman who had such low self esteem, she wouldn't look anyone in the eye. I was afraid to speak in class because I thought that I'd fail the course or something if I answered a question wrong. Then I dated, and though I wasn't ready for a relationship, that gave me such a confidence boost. And then I cut my hair. Long brown hair down to my butt - shaved off and dyed into a red mohawk. I had never been happier in my life! From then on I realized more and more that I should do what I want. I still had tons of friends, and better yet I knew those friends liked me for who I was, not because I was buying X brand of clothes. I fell madly in love with unicorns, I wore sombreros and giant sunglasses to class, I sang love ballads in busy hallways. I did have a great time, but it was full of a lot of suck, including a mental breakdown in junior year, when I realized I had to stop being a perfectionist.

2. "It's easy to get involved in __."
Can I just say how hard this can be? Sports, for one, are next to impossible to get into unless you've always been in them. The Fall sports start before school even begins, and you will not get the memo if you're new. Seek it out immediately and join. It's hard, but it's worth it.

In the same vein, music - join early and stick with it. I wish I had even known about music programs back in the day. There are awards that people get in things like marching band or sports teams for being in it for 4 years. Which means if you join a year late, you don't even get a chance. I love shiny awards at the end of the year.

Clubs - stick with them, but especially in senior year. I didn't really have time in my senior year for clubs, but I should have made time. Mainly it was laziness on my part. The trouble is, you could be the go-to person for your club one year, but if you're not in it senior year, no one cares. I joined the school's Honor Society in my senior year. Best choice, because I get all of the nice awards and none of the mandatory meetings.

Senior year is the time to jump through hoops to get your awards, and also volunteer because...

3. "Go to college."
No. College isn't for everyone. Think about it. If you only want to go to college to study some sort of liberal arts philosophy basket weaving thing, you're wasting your time and money. Sure, it might be a good experience, but college is damn expensive and in this day do you really think you're going to get a job as a philosopher? To be honest, I would rather go to a community college and learn how to work on cars for a living than go off to college for women's studies or something whose job market is an abstract concept.

4. "You can afford to go to any college you want."
Yeah, right. I've been told I'll get all the financial aid I need to go to school. My family has no income, I have no income, and I have no college fund. Currently I'm hoping like hell that the last scholarship that hasn't come back yet will come through for me. It's a big one, but there's still a risk that I'll be short 6,000 or more. That'll have to come out my pocket. And by that, I mean I'll have to take out a loan now (and assuming I get the loan at all) and then hope like hell I get a job when I graduate so I can pay off my student loans for years to come. I was literally told by my financial guide that choosing between schools meant "deciding how much debt you want to have." I want no debt at all! But someone like me is screwed because we need help and don't get it. Choosing college wasn't even a thing when I realized there was a 20k difference between my options.

5. "Apply to Scholarships"
This one is not a lie. The lie comes from them not promoting scholarships enough. Apply like crazy. Stay on scholarships as soon as senior year starts, like an angry hornet. Tackle every single one you might be able to get, big or small.

Scholarships tend to look for these qualities:
Academic decency
Atheltic goodness
Community service **
Financial need
You are a woman

To be honest, academic seems to be the least important thing on the list. B students are usually in the clear (okay, well this is coming from an A student so I'm biased). There are many scholarships for athletes but most important of all is the community service part. Scholarships seem to go crazy over you being able to show that you spoon feed old ladies every weekend. DO VOLUNTEER WORK IF YOU PLAN TO GO TO COLLEGE.

6. "You may hate ___ now, but you're going to miss them when you graduate."
No. I'm really a bleeding heart over lots of things, and I'm certainly not a staunch "My class needs to die" person, though I've probably said it at least seven times. As class marshall, I get to stand up in front of the class and direct them. I get a sense of pride when my class marches in, left right left, and they all sit down at command. We clean up nice. But will I miss them?

First of all, I don't really get to pal around with every single person in my class. There are, amazingly enough, a few I've seen just now and I have no freaking clue who they are or where they came from. The nice thing about highschool is that it breaks you apart from your friends. You may have 3 classes with someone every day for a semester, and then your schedule changes and you never see them again. There are kids I haven't seen in so long I didn't even know if they dropped out or not.

So when I see these people graduating, they make look nice for a change but it doesn't make them nice people suddenly. The drug abusers will still be drug abusers. The bitchy assholes will still be that way. The annoying kids will still make my skin crawl. The mentally unstable will still be prone to screaming outbursts. They may change years later... but not in one day.
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