I’m a junior, but I still remember my first day of high school as if it was yesterday.

My life was incredibly different back then, but at the same time, I have remained the same person. My mindset hasn’t changed much; I still find myself questioning what I will be doing, how will I be doing, and where I will be going. One of the biggest concerns that I have on on my mind would be, without a doubt, college.

The prospect of going to college can either be an exciting one or an endless existential crisis. For me, it’s both. Although the thought of freedom from my sheltered life may seem attractive, I find myself worrying about the changes that are about to happen. The homework load is probably going to be more than I expect, the courses are going to be more difficult than they sound, and I may not have that much free time to spend with my friends.

My parents have stressed the importance of college since I was in middle school. They were both high school dropouts, making me the first in my household to attend college. Without college degrees, my parents struggled to have sturdy jobs. Their experience has motivated me to make the most out of my high school career so that I can get a college degree.

Although I have been told by numerous people to savor the high school experience and make memories with my friends, I unfortunately have had to turn down countless invitations to social events because of the enormous amount of school work on my plate. With school club commitments, rigorous course loads, the responsibility of taking care of errands outside of school, I always had no other option but to bail or decline. Eventually, I became excluded from most of my friends’ plans. As a result, I’ve lost friends because I missed most of the “memories” they were making.

As time progressed through high school, everything became harder and the stakes got higher. I became more concerned about everything I did, which was mostly academics. I did plenty of research on my own about what colleges look for in a student. Just about every page that I came across stressed the importance of having good grades. GPA, standardized test results, class rank, and just about every aspect that places a numerical value on a student made up most of the college acceptance criteria.

Teachers have done me a lot of good in the past, and I realize until later that I should have better appreciated the things they have done for me.

Colleges also examine non-academic things like extracurricular activities, discipline record, essays, and teacher recommendations. I may have a clean disciplinary record and generally get along well with my teachers, but I certainly am not a student that has the courage to speak up constantly in class, which hurts the chance of having good teacher recommendations in my college applications. Teachers have done me a lot of good in the past, and I realize until later that I should have better appreciated the things they have done for me. I didn’t accept the help of teachers who offered, because I thought I was able to handle everything on my own. As a result, my grades suffered. Refusing their offers has taken a toll in my performance over the years. I thought I was able to handle everything on my own, but it turned out otherwise. My declining grades, the number of lunch hours I had to give up to catch up on my work, and the numerous times of not being able to spend time with my friends because of my grades are definitely the consequences of choosing to not seek help.

As I head into my senior year, I hope I will be look back in hindsight to appreciate the treacherous path I have chosen to walk on. I plan to take the lessons I have learned over the years and apply them throughout my final year in high school. Hopefully, in a year from now, I could look back to this article I have written and be at least satisfied that I made the most of my senior year.