Four pieces of advice for high school grads

Congratulations! You?ve made it through 13 years of lessons, homework assignments, extracurricular activities, early mornings and late nights. And now you have a diploma to prove it. That?s no small accomplishment.

It seems like it was just my turn to walk across the stage, move my tassel and throw my cap in the air, when in reality it occurred two years ago. As you now probably realize, time goes by fast. High school passes in a blink of an eye and it doesn?t slow down from there.

In the past two years I?ve learned a lot. I?ve expanded my knowledge when it comes to history and literature and science, but some of the biggest lessons I?ve learned have been outside of the classroom.

As you embark on your own post-high school journey, whether it includes college, the workforce, the military or something else, I want to share with you a few lessons I?ve learned through my own journey.

I hope these four pieces of advice will help you and encourage you in your new chapter of life.

1. There will be hard times.

To be honest, my freshman year of college was really hard. I went from being surrounded by family and friends to being surrounded by a college of people I didn?t know.

My big plans for my life were shattered after only three days and I didn?t know what to do. I went through some terrible roommate situations and overall I felt very alone.

Throughout this time, though, I learned I wasn?t alone. Many people told me they had hard freshman years, too. Often, people only talk about the fun parts of being a college freshman, of which you?ll hopefully have plenty. But know there will be hard times, and when those times come you won?t be alone.

2. It?s OK to make mistakes.

Hannah Montana once sang, ?Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.? These words aren?t just lyrics to a catchy song; they?re a universal truth.

This isn?t an excuse to go do stupid things and then shrug them off because ?everybody makes mistakes.? However, it does mean there will be times when you say the wrong thing, make the wrong decision or just plain mess up.

When these mistakes happen, own up to them and, if you can, try to fix them. Most important, always remember that no matter how big the mistake, you still have a purpose and life does go on.

3. Don?t be afraid of change.

When I was a fresh high school graduate, I remember my cousin giving me this piece of advice. At that point, I sort of brushed it off because I was dead set about the path I was on.

In the two years since then, I?ve switched colleges after only three days, am pursuing a completely different major and just registered for classes at the one college I insisted I?d never attend. I think my cousin knew what she was talking about.

Some of you might end up exactly where you plan to, but a majority of you will probably end up with a story a bit like mine. You?ll start classes and realize your passion lies somewhere completely different than what you thought.

Don?t be afraid to change your major or your college. And don?t be afraid about what others will think. I was so nervous to tell people I was no longer attending a top journalism school or pursuing a career as a successful journalist. But when I did I was met with so much support that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

4. Put God first.

The best decision I made when I began my freshman year was to get involved with a campus ministry. College is a time when your faith can either strengthen or fade. If you want it to become stronger, you have to make an effort: get involved with a campus ministry, find a mentor, join a church, participate in a Bible study, etc.

If you put your relationship with God first, the hard times are easier to handle and the awesome times are full of more joy. God has big plans for you and he wants to use you during this time. Be open to the situations he puts you in and the people he places in your life.

One of my cousins wrote the following song lyrics by Sidewalk Prophets in a graduation card she gave me. I think it?s some of the best advice for college and life in general, so I leave you with this: ?Be strong in the Lord and never give up hope. You?re going to do great things, I already know. God?s got his hand on you so don?t live life in fear. Forgive and forget but don?t forget why you?re here. Take your time and pray. Thank God for each day. His love will find a way.?

Bailey Kaufman will be studying at Tabor College this fall. She can be reached at baileykaufman@tabor.edu.