By: Rayanna Shwom
I walked into High School East for the first time in the summer of 2017 to receive a tour from a current senior. Overwhelmed and intimidated, I looked around the huge school and instantly felt lost. I was jealous of the senior who was touring me around, as she was almost done with the long, difficult journey that lay before me. Now, with the insight I have gained, I would do anything to start again as a scared little freshman. When I stepped into the building that day, I was only thinking about the beginning that laid before me. I never once took a second to think that the end would come so soon.
Throughout my high school career, I always had one goal in mind: get into a good college. With this mentality, I constantly missed out on hangouts with friends and important events with my family so that I could stay home to study or do homework. Then, one day, staying home suddenly wasn’t my choice. When the pandemic hit and I was trapped in my room for months without warning, I began to realize the importance of living in the moment.
If there is one thing I could say to my freshman self, it is to prioritize happiness. When I look back on my high school experience, I don’t remember any of the test grades I got; what sticks out in my mind are the fun times laughing with friends and family. Throughout my first three years, I always thought that I would have the end of senior year to enjoy myself, not knowing how abnormal this year would be. I regret spending so much time focusing on the future instead of living in the moment.
Regardless, the memories that I have made over the past year have been amazing. Despite the pandemic, I was able to have a good senior year, even if it was not what I had envisioned. I am thankful to be having a real prom and graduation with my peers, and I know how hard the administration has worked to make this possible. I am also hoping to have a normal college experience.
Next year, I will be attending Washington University in St. Louis, also known as WashU. I had never even heard of this school before sophomore year, but as I learned more about it, I fell in love with the school and decided to apply Early Decision. Luckily, my hard work paid off! I got into WashU and ended my college application journey early, so it was not as stressful for me as it was for many of my peers, but this process was definitely difficult. To current juniors who are starting the college process – make sure to use this summer wisely. Finish your supplemental essays before the school year starts, so you do not have to worry about them while trying to maintain your first quarter grades. If you know where you want to go and are in a position where you are able to, I strongly recommend applying Early Decision. Doing so will greatly improve your chances of getting into your top choice and make the college process end much earlier if you get in. Finally, do not get discouraged if you do not get in somewhere. College decisions are very random and do not define you as a person. No matter where you end up, you will be happy in college and will be successful in the future.
To my future self – take advantage of all that college has to offer. Keep striving to reach your goals and remain driven. Ask questions, listen to different perspectives with an open mind, and take a leadership role in all classroom activities. Enhance the collegiate community by taking advantage of all of the resources available and encourage your peers to do the same. Continue to try to be the voice of reason amongst friends and the person they turn to in times of need. Instead of dwelling on things that you cannot change or control, try to find a way to make a situation better for others. However, do not let your fear of not being successful affect your happiness. Make sure to have fun with friends when you can, and prioritize your mental health. If there is one thing I have learned from the craziness of the past year, nothing is certain, so take advantage of opportunities while you have them.
Finally, I would like to thank the Thunderbird for all that it has done for me. I got involved in the Newspaper Club at the end of my Sophomore year. When taking AP Seminar in 10th grade, I realized how much I enjoyed writing about current issues, so I decided to join the Thunderbird. I focused on writing articles for the World News and OP/ED sections because I love staying updated with the news, and I became the editor for the World News section of the newspaper in my senior year. I would like to thank Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Davis for their guidance in this club. You both have helped me become a stronger writer and made the Thunderbird an amazing platform. I highly encourage current students to join the Newspaper Club: as I have proven, it is never too late!
As I move on to the next chapter of my life, this one feels oddly unfinished. While the pandemic definitely contributes to this feeling, I know that no matter what, I would not be ready to leave the people and places I have grown up with. It is hard to fathom getting on a plane to live in Missouri for the next four years when I have barely left Long Island for longer than a few weeks. However, I have high hopes for the future, and I know that the memories I have yet to make will be some of the best. I am forever thankful for my experience as a High School East Thunderbird, but I am excited for what is to come for me as a WashU Bear.