I’m not so sure it’s a secret that loved my high school experience (BTW, I won the “Most Likely to Show Up to the 50 Year Reunion” award), so when I attended my nephew’s high school graduation I couldn’t help but get emotional. Not just emotional because my cheesy Aunt side was showing, but because this is such an amazing time in these graduates’ lives and they have so much ahead of them! Next year is my 10-year reunion (SAY WHAT) and man, how much things have changed! it’s weird to realize how fast life moves. 2017 doesn’t sound bad until I realize 2007 was 10 years ago. That’s a little unsettling, not gonna lie. But of course, what comes with age is… wiseness. HA! JK but I can tell you that I’ve learned a thing or two since graduating high school in 2008. Here’s what I would tell myself back then if I could…

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“A lot of things that matter to you right now will not matter later.”

This is the most important piece to the growing up puzzle and everyone who has been out of school for awhile knows it. That boy that you think is everything right now is not. You’re going to meet so many people in your lifetime and you’re only at the beginning, especially if you’re heading off to college. You’re about to experience four more years that you think will be similar to high school but it’s actually the high school experience completely on steroids. Oh, and you have to learn how to live on your own, even when that means all you can afford to eat sometimes is bread and soda. True story, one of my college roommates can attest to this.

To think about how much I grew in just college alone is amazing. Then you tack on a few more years and it’s crazy to think about how much you cared about something before and now you’ve forgotten all about it. Like those times you lay awake at night thinking your life is over because you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up. Life will guide you where you need to be and you will be okay no matter what happens, I can promise you that.

“Don’t let money stop you but be wise about finances.”

Here I am… 9 years later… with a lot of student loan debt. Do I regret taking out these loans so I could attend college? Absolutely not. But I do wish I would’ve worked more in college and saved money to help pay for my loans.

To all of the kids graduating high school: If you want to attend a four-year university, then do it…but I would also advise you to help your parents wherever you can and start saving for things that you can pay for now like books, rent, school supplies, etc. For me, I wanted the complete college experience, but for some, money comes first. Maybe you choose a more affordable path, then work your way up to paying for it instead of accruing the debt. Post-high school grad life is different for everyone. I wish I would’ve tried harder to help my parents pay for things. If I would’ve, I might be on a 5-year plan or under instead of a 10+ year plan. Think of it this way, the quicker you get rid of those loans, the faster you can travel the world or buy your dream house.

Side note: Don’t let money hold you back from doing things, though. For example, I technically couldn’t afford spring break trips in college but I still went and I wouldn’t trade that for anything!

Last side note: I regret one thing from college and that’s not studying abroad. I tried to my final year but couldn’t pull the money together and my grades weren’t good enough for scholarships. I’ll always think about what could have been. Please don’t be like me if you want to travel the world!

“Parties are fun but decent grades are cool too.”

I know this will be different for everyone, but I had quite a bit of fun in college if ya know what I mean ;). I do, however, I wish that I would’ve balanced my social life out with my academics a little better. I had grades that suffered, not as a direct result of going out, but I didn’t prioritize studies as high as social events most of the time. I did graduate and that’s all that matters, though I did stumble along the way a few times with some rocky classes.

I also didn’t understand how different college studies would be from high school. Before entering college, I honestly never really studied for a test, minus once or twice, so I didn’t have a previous strong skillset to work off. It especially doesn’t help that I’m not the most studious human ever, either. I wish I would’ve tried harder right away to learn how to be a better student. Now, I’m almost 27 and I can finally say that I truly enjoy reading and learning. Definitely took a little longer than others to gain that grounding and that’s okay – it’s who I am, but if you’re going into college now, try harder and know that school is V. important, not to mention you could lose a lot of money if you fail a class. One time I figured out how much each class cost me and that was terrifying.

“Adopt healthy habits NOW”

One of the life-changing things that happened to me when I went off to college was learning how to be healthy. I had only been a pescatarian for a year when I started college and was still learning how to eat nutritionally because apparently eating pasta and Little Debbies didn’t suffice. If you’re attending a university and living on campus, adopting a healthy lifestyle couldn’t be easier at that time. You have food prepared for you every day (you just have to make the healthy choices of what you eat) and you have a free gym or rec available to you at all times. Also, take advantage of the intramurals if you’re interested! They are a ton of fun and an easy way to keep yourself movin’!

I still think the healthiest I’ve ever been was my freshman year of college. People try and tell you about the “freshman 15” but you can easily banish that myth!

“Take advantage of summers!”

If you’re going to school to become a teacher, this probably won’t apply to you, but if you’re like me, you can kiss summer vacation goodbye after college! Summer is already a great time to be alive, but if you’re graduating high school right now, take advantage of the fact that this might be the last time EVER that you have nothing to worry about school-wise. You might have more summers like this in college if you don’t take summer classes, but seriously, have fun and do all the things you never had time for in the summer. You won’t regret it.

I did take a summer class almost every year and that was a great decision for me and I highly suggest it for other college students! Summer classes are much more laid back and you only have to worry about one or two classes at a time – which is awesome.

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Now go out there and explore the WORLD!!!

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