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Dear 2016 high school grads,  

Congratulations! You have reached a significant milestone in your life, and you have done it alongside childhood friends, family, and loved ones. Before I begin, please accept my sincere best wishes for you and your future.

You’ve been preparing for this next stage for as long as you can remember. Sharing, reading, playing well with others, doing things on your own, handling lunch money, engaging in things you are good at and even learning to be a sport or resourceful enough at things you are not. But allow me to give you a little advice, from a college grad who has been out in the real world for a bit and wishes someone told me what I'm about to tell you. 

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Many people will tell you that you're prepared for the things to come, but I am here to say, “Relax. You are definitely not.” 

You're probably not ready to deal with the pressures of college life, but that’s why it's time for you to go. We are rarely ever ready or fully prepared for the tasks that lie ahead, but we need to proceed on anyway. Don’t get me wrong; you’re going to have fun, you’re going to grow up, but the process will be nothing like how you envisioned it. 

I’ve been there. The struggle is real, but if you keep an open mind and go with it, this is going to be the coolest thing experience ever. Here is a list of things that you’ll want to take with you:

1

Be present

photo: Antonella Saravia

College is almost like a fantasy life for young adults. You are provided for but you get to learn, socialize, and yet wander. Yes, you have many points from the grown-up world, but you are still encouraged to be young and explore. This is a very short period when you get to indulge in the best of both worlds. You’re on your own, but the world is still eager to help you out. Use this wisely. Enjoy it. Do the work. I repeat, do the work, then have some fun. Be present. This is the 'time of your life." So for the love of Thirsty Thursdays, have some fun!

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2

The Freshman 15

photo: Antonella Saravia

So, you’re most probably going to gain some weight. It’s okay. A lot of people do. In the end, this will be good for you because you need to figure out a few things. For one, learn to take care of yourself. NEWSFLASH: The metabolism you had in high school were your 'fifteen minutes,' and even then, some of us didn't get them.

You are what you eat. It’ll have an effect on how you feel and look. Bad food makes you want to sleep. Healthy food gives you energy. This will be the lesson that you can apply across the board. Good things, thoughts, and hobbies will give you energy. Also, try not to eat after partying . . . the Taco Bell muffin top is real. 

3

A series of unfortunate financial dramas

photo: Antonella Saravia

Learn how to your spend money and how to avoid fees. This will help you reduce the drama later in life. More importantly, pay before you go out! I over drafted and so did my friends. It’s a skill in college that few master. 

4

Forget what everyone thinks

photo: Antonella Saravia

You’re going to spend the majority of your adult life trying to deprogram what everyone thinks you should be doing with your life. Forget what everyone thinks, says, and expects. Ask yourself: What do you think? What is your stance? What do you expect to get? 

This is where you will learn. Figure yourself out, in all your glory. Maybe not everyone is doing it, but you should. 

5

Tricks of the trade

photo: Antonella Saravia

Every city, especially college towns have their tricks and quirks. Avoid that bus, that building, that professor. In the famous words of Eduardo Dominguez, who changed the way we all ate Jimmy John’s, “Hunter’s Club #10 with extra mayo, alfa-alfa sprouts, Salt &Vinegar chips, and Rima on the side. Please do not forget the extra mayo.”

Also, it is your duty to pass these down before you go.

6

Stayeth hence from lemons drops

photo: Antonella Saravia

This is as old as Shakespeare. Do not take lemon drops. Let others do this. Observe. You will understand.

7

The family you pick . . .

photo: Antonella Saravia

If you do college right, you’re going to walk off that campus with a second family. Your friends will be vital to your happiness and survival. 

My group of friends still meet up once a year to touch base and celebrate something — or anything really. These are the people that will get to know a version of you that most people in your life missed. They will know you during that brief period when you were half-child, half-adult; half-you, half-someone-new. In the years to come, they can be the people who have a magical/immature/nostalgic way of keeping that googly-eyed dreamer alive while also expecting you to evolve into that person you said you'd be. While others won't like you growing, these people will demand it.