During the three months between the end of high school and the start of college, there lies a vacuum devoid of responsibility, direction, or structure. For the first time there are no standardized tests to prepare for, no internships to hunt down, and certainly no grade point averages to maintain.
At the same time, we remain bereft of any knowledge of the future, with no tangible glimpse at the equally desirable yet frightening independence that awaits. Indeed, the end of senior year summer is our purgatory: we are too old to be high school adolescents but too young to be responsible adults.
The majority of students who have been on college prep lockdown for the past four years are, rightfully so, a little unsure of what to do with the newfound freedom of graduating high school. Be it a dream college, an Ivy League institution, or an athletic scholarship, the existence of an overarching, omnipresent goal has dominated, and to a large extent, guided our high school lives. As college freshmen – especially in liberal arts colleges – we are given an incredibly daunting array of courses to choose from. But, all the while we are encouraged to venture outside (the increasingly trite) comfort zone and take classes that we would have otherwise never considered studying. Compounded with the fact that majors are rarely declared before the end of sophomore year, the dilemma of pursuing a course of passion over a traditionally career oriented “Economics 101” becomes the subject of great debate, as we contemplate the advantages of completing all prerequisites and the desire to study something eccentric.
More so than the challenges of the academic overhaul that is bound to intimidate every new college student, high school graduates also must accept and learn that for the first time they will be leaving their family and friends for what is a completely new start. Many will move to new states or countries – hundreds and thousands of miles from home – the first steps into adulthood slowly but surely creeping into our evolution from children to adults. As a third culture kid who has attended seven schools in five countries over the last thirteen years, I can personally attest that, despite the overwhelming importance of social media in our lives, friendships will decline over time, memories will fade, and priorities will change. It is bittersweet and at times downright disappointing, but herein lays the harsh realities of life that we have yet to face in the insulated bubble of our teenage lives.
In college we will most assuredly be surrounded by more people than our high school classes. We will also likely have a roommate that we know little about (but paradoxically are compatible with!) and our best friends will take very different courses from us. Having yet to arrive on campus, not only do we have to balance the responsibilities of a complicated and long handed transition from secondary school to higher education, but we also have to decide how we are going to define ourselves in a drastically new environment where we are not confined by the walls of high school corridors.
I often lie when I say I have no responsibilities this summer. Even now, as I spend the last few weeks with the best of friends, I look forward, cautiously optimistic, to the people I will meet in university, the internships that I need to apply for, and the major that I will finally settle on. At the end of the day, it seems like high school all over again, but it is on a bigger scale with a smaller safety net. Maybe that is exactly what this is; the training wheels are off.