On Seniority (or Lack Thereof)

The first day of school didn’t come easily to me — on August 19, I dragged myself out of bed to the bleats of my alarm clock and stood, swaying, before I went about the rest of my groggy pre-school day routine.

Luckily, I’d regained some energy by the time I’d entered Urbana High School’s (UHS) doors to embark upon the last of my First Days of School. With a long line of first days behind me (those half-remembered kindergarten days, elementary school, middle school), I’d finally come to what felt like the beginning of an end.

As fatalistic as that previous statement might’ve sounded, senior year is hardly an end. It’d be more accurate to say that it’s the gatekeeper from one world to the next. Moving forward from senior year, I’ll have the gathered experiences of life and the classroom to bring to my college life. And college, even, could be likened to a holding tank for the inevitable outside world.

Hence the quip that “change is the only constant.” It’s a turn of phrase that borders on the cliché, if only for its realism and relevance. Sitting in each of my four classes on the first day of school, I felt the change more acutely than I ever had before — shifts in responsibility, expectation and ability. On a more literal level, there were even minute alterations in my classmates’ appearances. The previous graduating class, a constant presence during my first three years of high school, had been scattered to a collegiate wind. “I can’t believe we’re seniors,” I heard other students say throughout the day. I could only nod in dazed agreement.

I’ll have been in school for several weeks by the time you read this, and I’ll still be coming to grips with seniority. New faces in UHS’s hallways, however, remind me again and again that senior year is blazingly real.

So, because I’ve got the space and my intentions are good, I hope you won’t think it presumptuous of me to offer the incoming class (UHS ’17!) a few words of advice:

Challenge yourself. Take AP classes. Take IB classes, if at all possible. Make sure you like what you’re learning. Then — pursue it with a vengeance.

Similarly, with extracurricular classes, use your freshman year to explore your interests. Join any club whose name sparks so much as a passing interest. Attend a few meetings. If the interest persists, grows stronger and flourishes, you’ve got a keeper.

Maintain this interest through all four years of high school. The time will pay itself back in full (and then some).

Do it for the sake of the thing — I’ve seen underclassmen bent on resume-padding to the extent that they’re dogging through meetings and struggling under the weight of their own obligations. You’ll thank yourself later if you invest your energies in the clubs, activities and extracurriculars you know you’ll truly enjoy.

Talk to your teachers. They’re your best friends. Buttonhole them after class if you’ve got a point to make or a question to ask. Pick their brains. They’ll be happy to help the eager student, the standout willing to make a stand for his/her stance on a topic. In short: communicate, and communicate well.

And that’s all I’ve got at the moment, though, should you ever catch me in the hallways during the school year, I’m sure that I’d be able to spout off another handful. So here’s to a successful year at UHS: for some, it’ll be the last. Whatever the case, make it one worth remembering.

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