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Moving forward

Maverick Notes

HURLINAs the school year comes to a close, it's been difficult for me as a senior to adjust to the idea of moving on. I know I'm not alone; many of my friends and acquaintances have expressed the same sentiment. For four years, we've all been holed up together in a small school in small classrooms and gotten to know each other whether we wanted to or not. For four years, we’ve been around the same students, the same teachers, the same environment and the same place. Even for people who didn’t enjoy high school for whatever reason (such as myself), saying goodbye is hard.

They say that now is when “your life really begins,” and while I don't think that's necessarily true, graduation opens up so many new doors for you, especially if you end up moving out and/or away from your home. These aren't necessarily all good doors, but they're available, and we have the freedom to choose so much of our life in the next few years.

For college students, we are suddenly allowed to make our own choices when it comes to who we live with, what we eat, when we wake up and go to sleep, what we do with our time and how to do things alone. That’s exciting — but also intimidating, considering that, for the most part, we’ve been told what to do our entire lives.

My advice now is for high school juniors who are leaving their second-to-last year of high school interested in college, but also anxious and withdrawn about what has to be done to get there. While it seems like colleges are asking for so much — sports and hobbies and community service and academics and test scores — what they’re really looking for is commitment. They want to see that you played this sport or worked at this job for a decent amount of time and that you gave it your all. Three years of one activity looks much better than a few months of four. They want to know that you’ll dedicate yourself to your college career and whatever else you might get involved in during that time.

Academics are just as important as they’ve always been. Having a lot of extracurriculars doesn’t mean you can spend your senior year slacking off. Liberal arts colleges are taking an holistic approach — evaluating all attributes of a potential student instead of strictly academics and test scores. But in the end, whether or not you can handle the rigor of high school gives a strong sign as to whether or not you could scrape by in college.

In regards to test scores, the biggest reminder I can give is that they do not measure your intelligence. The way that the ACT/SAT is set up will only tell you how well you can study a certain subject. If you haven't yet taken a standardized test — or you're retaking it because you aren’t happy with your score — getting the score you want won't come from your natural intelligence, but from the studying you do for that test in particular. Buy one of the big ACT or SAT test guides that you can mark up and fill in, and pour over that thing before you take the test. I went from an ACT score of 26 to 31 with the help of the test book. It’s worth it.

There are a few other things — write a good essay, get recommendation letters, etc. — but much of it comes down to determination. If you want to go to college and you can go to college, go to college. If you start the process and realize you don’t, don’t. There’s nothing shameful or lazy about taking a gap year; there’s so much that people can do now. There’s AmeriCorps, international travel, internships, jobs and other ways to fill the time and prepare yourself for the next step.

As you prepare for your final year of high school, try not to be afraid of your future. The terror of applying to colleges and hurriedly sending in your Common App 10 minutes before it is due pays off in the end. This fall, I’ll be going to college and living with one of my closest friends after possibly the most stressful year of my life, and I can easily say that it’s all been worth it.

Riverdale High School senior Skye Hurlin is one of two Maverick Notes columnists. Contact Hurlin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..