The Brown Girl’s Guide to College Part 1: High School Never Ends

college guide

College. Take that in, high school students. In a span of time between three years to six months, all of you will be walking across the graduation stage, and before you know it you will be attending your first university class, making new friends, and going to “extremely awesome social gatherings.”

Yet, going from point A (high school) to point B (graduation) is an arduous task. It’s easy to get distracted and freaked out from the stress of starting a new chapter in your life. I clearly remember having one major breakdown every month of my senior year due to stress related anxiety. I panicked over things that, honestly, don’t really matter now.

And, it wasn’t not just me who was doing this; practically everyone around me was just as jumpy and burned out as I was. I found comfort in talking to friends who were already attending universities, and who could talk me through my problems and remind me that senior year was just eight months of drudgery leading up to the magic that is known as, COLLEGE.

Thus, I’ve made an exhaustive list in order to help budding collegiate brown girls tackle the obstacle of applying to college and tips to handle the stress that comes with it. Hopefully, you will not be overwhelmed by all of the paperwork and essays you have to do now.

Let me remind you that your journey to higher education starts the moment you step foot into your first freshman high school class. What you do during your first three years is just as important as your senior year.

For that reason, I start this college guide with tips on what you should do with your time in between the fall semester of ninth grade to the spring term of eleventh grade.

[Read Related: Say Your Name, Your Real Name: my Back-to-School Advice for Roll Call]

This first part is a way to get your fundamentals down for college before the summer of twelfth grade, so you won’t have to cram a lot of activities and work into your final year of high school, and will thereby make your high school years a bit easier.

Maybe you can even avoid all those meltdowns that most seniors face by using this guide!

Everything you’ll read in this article and the articles to come, stem from the experiences of many former high school seniors.

In order to make the most of every moment of high school, I urge you to:

1. Don’t forget those grades.

That’s the first rule of college admissions. Make sure your GPA never tanks. If it does, work as hard as you can to get back to a respectable number. Also, keep it consistent. Don’t let it steadily drop as the junior year ends. Every final report card grade will be seen by colleges in your final transcript. Just make sure that you have the GPA that you want for every part of your high school career.

2. Join clubs and organizations that interest you.

Do activities that you are passionate about. Start your own club if you can’t find one that you like. Do things because you like them, not to fluff up your common applications. You’re more likely to feel annoyed and bored by a club that you don’t want to go.

Colleges can tell when you are passionate about an activity from your level of involvement. So, in finding something that you actually enjoy, you can slay two birds fabulously with one stone. You achieve passion and happiness in your endeavors and the college admissions offices will clearly be able to see your ambition and enthusiasm displayed at its highest level.

3. Develop meaningful hobbies.

Colleges like to see who you are outside of your academic profile. So, a meaningful hobby is important. It can be any hobby, and similar to point No. 2 the idea here is to make sure that you like the activity you choose. You can, cook, play baseball, ride motorcycles, play an instrument, or whatever your heart desires—just don’t forget to have fun while you are doing it.

In the greater scheme of events, these activities/hobbies can also act as de-stressors, which is especially helpful during stressful exam periods.

Avoid the destruction of your mental health by taking a break once in a while.

[Read Related: ‘Dare to be Distinguished’: Rush Sigma Sigma Rho Sorority, Inc. 2017]

4. Look into colleges that interest you.

Attend a college fair, visit universities, and talk to your guidance counselor about careers that might suit you. Basically, start creating the foundation for your future.

Start by asking yourself these questions: When do you want to graduate from college? Do you want to go to graduate school? What do you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?

I was at a Muslim Students Association sponsored halaqa—a type of Islamic group discussion—a few weeks ago, and the speaker quoted theologian Fredrick Buechner:

“Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”

Plan for yourself, but allow your plans to change as you mature.

5. Get your standardized tests done early.

The faster you get a score that you are happy with, the better. So prepare early!  Buy prep books, do practice exams, or even hire a tutor if you feel that it will give you an extra edge. I suggest that you get your books from Amazon or from an older friend who will not need them anymore.

Unless the format or material of the test has changed, it’s totally okay to use old practice exams. The older the book, the cheaper it will be. So keep that in mind when you’re out buying them. Never pay for a prep book full price; always get a used book!

So, that is how you begin to endure the freak show that is high school. Despite what people may say, it is not always the best time of your life.

It can be grueling, however, the lessons you learn and the experiences that you gain will stay with you forever. Be sure that you make every single school year, and the summers in between, count.

This is the time when you learn what kind of person you want to be. So, use your time wisely as you are not going to get it back once it is gone—and it does go by quick.

Before I finish the first part of the series, I’d like to thank my roommates Jessica, Alexandra and Kushbu for helping me put this article together and give them an additional thank you for their insights on the next few pieces in this series.

By Marina Ali

Marina Ali is a medical student, writer, poet, and blue lipstick enthusiast. She is the poetry editor for Brown Girl … Read more ›