College from a high school sophomore’s perspective



You’re sitting at your desk in Freshman homeroom, the second week of September. Even though you no longer expect a real-life Breakfast Club, Mean Girls or Grease high school experience, the novelty of being at Niles North hasn’t quite worn off yet. You’ve traded your map of the school for a smug grin, because you know exactly how to get to your next class. And ever since you found out the truth about the fourth floor, purple stairwell, and getting pennied, your nervousness and fears have been exchanged for a sort of euphoric excitement, which for some reason still blossoms inside of you whenever you realize where you are. You are here. You are in high school. You are a Viking. Most importantly, you’re ready for anything.

Or are you?

As the teacher finishes taking attendance, she begins to make some announcements about upcoming events: Homecoming, the pep assembly, Recycling Club. You tune out briefly, closing your eyes, enjoying the last of the warm summer sunlight streaming through the window, when, offhandedly, she mentions something that sounds… strange, like it was hastily copied and pasted from another universe into this one, something out of place in your pleasant daydreams, something wrong. This uncertainty causes enough discomfort for you to open your eyes and ask her to repeat the last announcement, silently pleading that she said something else, anything else, despite a low-level voice that secretly knows that you heard precisely what she said. So she repeats it and quickly moves along the agenda, but you’ve already stopped listening. Her words echo insidiously in the air as you look at her with disbelief, and each echo brings waves entitled “responsibility”, “expensive”, and “Future-with-a-capital-F”. Those words grow and engulf the atmosphere, a thick, monstrous nimbus cloud, sparking, alive with dangerous amounts of energy. Little black tendrils creep into your view. Your confidence about school fractures and shrinks into an overwhelmingly heavy dread.

You’re hardly a high schooler, but from now until graduation, this faceless monster will haunt you relentlessly, lurking on the edges of meetings with your counselor and conversations with your best friend, who by now has made the same sudden and paralyzing realization: This isn’t something that only happens to other people. This is real. The lights dim on cue, signaling the end of the play, yet the audience does not applaud, as they, like you, know the performance is far from over. This is the word, which you struggle to assimilate into your vocabulary for fear of bringing it into reality: College.

Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but for many of us, that scene was all too familiar. I remember being there, freshman year, so excited to be a real high-schooler, when suddenly this unexpected weight, in addition to the heavy textbooks already carried in our infamous “freshman backpacks”, was dropped on us. The mere mention of the word college, a thorny, unforgiving word inextricably tangled with GETTING A JOB and GROWING UP, sends us running back into our dark, comforting caves, far away from tenacious claws of what is referred to as the real world.

For those of you who will be entering that world soon, I must admit that I am mystified by the transition from college-phobia to the “I can’t wait to get out of here” attitude so many of you have adopted. And when I consider the Juniors, who seem to exist in a perpetual fugue state, having slowly, painfully morphed into sleepless, frazzled automatons, afflicted with both crushing terror and Senioritis, I wonder if my initial apprehension was actually justified, especially when one junior tells me, in a rare moment of lucidity, I should savor the last year that I don’t have to seriously think about college “for realz”. So as a Sophomore, free of fear, and not yet immersed in application or apathy, maybe I can offer some perspective.

If I could send a message that would somehow miraculously survive the sea of doubt and bewilderment crashing through that Freshman’s head, it would contain the singular notion of “You’re going to be okay.” And I would be telling the truth. Because a few days after that scene in homeroom, they would learn that this whole, impossibly massive ordeal is cut down by gradual preparation. The sources that feed elegantly into college application, like AP classes, aren’t too scary. If you still don’t believe me, talk to your counselor. Set aside an hour to visit one of those college nights. Start paying attention to the college assemblies; they’re mandatory for a reason. Or even better, actually visit a campus. Contact some people. Renew your connections. Inform yourself.

Getting to college does not have to be the arduous, life-sucking process we’ve been made to believe. Making new friends, trying new things, attending parties, doing what many people remember as the greatest decision they made; this is the worth of your potential future. And for me at least, even with two more years of high school to survive, I look forward to exploring that potential.