To the High School Class of 2020
You did it! Decisions have come out and you are most likely weighing your options, wondering how and where to take this next step. You may be happy about a lot of your choices, and almost certainly disappointed by a few.
I wish I could tell you what to do or provide some more concrete guidance during this time of your senior year, but the truth is, all of your experiences will be vastly different from my own and what was true for me may not hold for you. Instead, I leave you with a few suggestions to do both as you figure out where to commit and how to close out this chapter of your life. Though certainly not an all-inclusive list, these were things that I did (or wished I did) this time last year.
1. Thank the important people in your life who got you to where you are. For many of us, that will be our parents and/or guardians. The people who got food on the table, drove you places, and made it possible for you to graduate high school. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so also send out thank-yous to whoever helped along the way—other family members, teachers, and mentors. Virtually nobody gets anywhere in life alone. Since coming to college, I've realized more and more how much I owe to those who have put time into me, and how much I treasured their company. With everyone in quarantine or otherwise impacted by COVID-19, a few nice words would brighten anyone's day immensely.
2. Go through all of your old stuff and choose just a few things to keep. This primarily gives you the chance to throw other things away before you move to college (check with your mom before doing so, if she is anything like mine), but it also is fantastic for seeing where you've been and how you've grown. Remember when learning long division was the hardest thing you had to do? Life is really a journey of growth and though your childhood is now finished, what you learned during this time and the person that you became will forever be influenced by the earliest years of your life. This summer will be the last year you qualify as a "child." What else do you still want to do?
3. Look at the list of colleges that you have to choose from. Now that virtually all in-person visits are out of the question, you will rely on college programming and student interaction to provide the basis for your decision. As you make your choice, maybe keep some of these questions in mind:
- What is the most important thing to you in terms of an undergraduate education?
- How do you want to grow during college?
- What kind of person do you want to become, and what institution would provide the best environment to do so?
- If things such as money, prestige, or location weren't factored in, what school would you want to go to?
- With these things factored in (as much or as little as you think they should matter), what school is the best choice then?
- Why X College over Y?
- What is the best institution to give you the best chance at success post graduation?
- How would you quantify or qualify "success"?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for this?
- Where do you think you would fit in the most, having talked to current students?
- Do you want to go somewhere just to fit in?
Note this: there are no perfect choices. Even for me at Dartmouth, where I am happily settled in, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I went to another school or stayed closer to home. You will never know what would have happened if you had chosen another school, and that's a fact of life! No one school is going to be a perfect fit and every step is one step into the unknown, but remember that it is the intent with which you picked a school that will guide your path and hopefully help create the experience that you are looking for.
4. Plan a tour to say goodbye to your hometown. Stop by places such as your first school, the places you were at the most, and the places you wish you made more time for. With the virus, this may look a little different from when I did it, but it still is possible. Reflect on your past, and use your memories to help you make a decision about your next four years at college. Take pictures and soak it all in.
5. And lastly, I know that a good number of you are hurting. Some of you maybe didn't have Dartmouth as a first choice and are here on the blog, looking for some insight into this school. Others might have been denied or waitlisted and are struggling to move on. To both camps, I can sympathize with how hard it must be to have worked so long and not gotten the results you were looking for. I know that the world must seem so bleak right now, with college decisions on top of your senior year being postponed indefinitely and the general state of the world. I can't say when or how it will get better. But I can say that time will go on and you will continue to grow, learn, and improve, just as you always have. No one event defines you. Your character and the continual impact you have on the world is your legacy. You exist outside of societal structures of success, class, and prestige. Though we live within these institutions and use them to the best of our capabilities, it is still important to remember the person behind all of it. Continue to live with intention and be a community member and individual that you would be proud of.
Wishing you all peace, health, and happiness during these times. The Dartmouth Admissions team and larger Dartmouth community are on your side as we all look towards to a better future. This is it, High School Class of 2020! You've done it. Congratulations on your college acceptances and on all the work you've done so far. The fun is only beginning.