Make Every Second Count

By Jelani Hayes on September 07, 2013
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There are a lot of paths you can choose to follow after graduating from high school and, while I cannot give you advice on how to be a soldier or how to apply for jobs, I can speak to you from the perspective of an incoming college freshman.

In approximately two weeks I will become a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school located in West Philadelphia. (This is generally when the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song starts to play in one’s head.) I am very excited about this upcoming year, but there are some things I wish I would have known while I was in high school. So I’m going to break it down for you, year by year.

Freshman year:

As daunting as this may sound, I believe it can be incredibly beneficial to put the most emphasis on freshman year. Before I get into why I believe this, I need to admit that my freshman year was my worst academically and toughest socially.

Perhaps this is why I look back on my freshman year and see so much room for improvement. Regardless of how amazing your frosh year may be, I believe it can be very beneficial to take it seriously.

You will have four years to set and change goals as a high school student, but if you set goals as a freshman you will be giving yourself the most amount of time to accomplish them. For example, if you know that you want to go to college it will be helpful to start thinking about which colleges you would like to attend.

If you want to go to UCLA, for example, start researching what UCLA looks for in a potential Bruin. Set goals over a four year period to help you be the most competitive applicant you can be.

I also find it helpful to aim really high. If you want to go to UCLA, aim to get into Stanford. If you don’t get into Stanford, chances are you will have done enough to be accepted into UCLA (and if you aren’t, don’t worry too much about it, college is what you make it. It doesn’t make you).

You have a fresh start. Take it!

Sophomore year:

This is the time to accomplish some of those goals you set your freshman year. If you did not start preparing for college your freshman year, don’t panic! You have three perfectly good years to do so.

Take everything I’ve recommended for freshmen and do it now! Take challenging classes, get involved in extracurricular activities and run for leadership positions.

Junior year:

Junior year can be very stressful. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that the hard work you put into earning A’s will pay off.

Do not stress too much over the SAT I or II or the ACT. Prepare for them in the way that works best for you and give yourself enough time to do so. Your essays will probably hold more weight in your applications.

Senior year:

This year should only be about two things: having fun and showing off everything you already know and have done. Surely you should continue to add to your resume of awesomeness as your senior year progresses, but realize most of the things in your application will be things you’ve already accomplished.

Lastly, apply, apply, apply! Don’t worry about which school you will be going to before you apply. If your finances permit (applications can get a bit costly), apply to every school that truly interests you and don’t worry about where you will go until after you are accepted. You won’t receive any school specific scholarships or financial aid until you get in, so don’t worry about that when applying. Just apply!


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Jelani Hayes

Jelani Hayes

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