High School Grads: 10 Things You Should Know Before Life Changes Forever

Just a few "realities" college-bound kids should know...

by Nancy Reynolds

Dear High School Grads, 10 Things You Should Know Before Life Changes Forever

Written by: Morgan Hill

Congrats, grads! You did it! You made it through the rigor of high school, you’re waving goodbye to a life you’ve known for years and you’re about to venture into new, exciting territory… COLLEGE.

If you’re like all the other college-bound high school grads I know, you’re looking forward to the freedom of college life, you’re really excited about getting away from your parents (ahem, and all their long boring lectures), and being able to do what you want, when you want minus the rules and restrictions.

But heads up grads, once you get settled into college life a few “realities” might start to sink in. So, my dear grads, before your life changes forever, here are 10 things you really ought to know.

Dear High School Grads: 10 Things You Should Know Before Your Life Changes Forever


1. WAIT… I Miss You!

You know all those times you mumbled under your breath, “Omg… my family is SO annoying!” Well, when you head to college, you’re going to miss them. (Hard to believe right!?) What you don’t realize… yet, is that there’s comfort in being surrounded by family who knows you, loves you, and accepts you just the way you are. When you come back, that hokey family game night won’t seem quite so cheesy anymore.

2. You’re Gonna Miss Mom’s Cookin’

Brace yourself… the array of dining hall food might seem cool the first few weeks but after a while, you’ll start to wonder what you’re actually eating (that’s chicken!!?), and your taste buds will be craving all the comfort foods of home. Suddenly all those meals you took for granted – mom’s homemade meatloaf, pot roast, or her special pasta dish will be calling your name, ‘cuz family-cooked meals will never be better than college food… ever.

3. Get Ready… “Adulting” is Your New Norm

As much as you fought it at times, your parents always had your back. They kept tabs on you, made sure you finished your homework, helped you stay on track with your future, laid down rules in your best interest, and made sure you ate “relatively” healthy.

Well… now, it’s all on you. It’s your turn to take the reins, and trust me… it ain’t easy.

Now it’s up to you to set your own schedule, drag yourself out of bed without your mom nagging you, get your assignments in on time, and do your own laundry. Pretty sure those days of being a kid might look pretty good once you’re managing life on your own. (Don’t worry… you’ll get the hang of adulting!)

4. Big Decisions Are on Your Shoulders Now

“How do I handle not getting along with my roommate?” “What should I do when I get behind in school?” “I lost my ID card – my mom used to handle stuff like this for me!”

New life, new responsibilities, and chances are a whole lot more stressful. Of course, your family will be there to fall back on, but it’s time to start problem-solving on your own. Get advice from friends, talk to your professors, chat with school administrators, or just follow your intuition. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and, guess what? You have both now. 

5. Old Friends Will Fade Away

You signed each other’s yearbooks BFF4EVA and you have more memories with them than you can count! You’ve texted, talked, and hung out with them for most of your high school years. But it’s funny how life shifts when you venture off to college. Sure, some friends might stand the test of time (and distance), but sadly, many fade away. The good news is, your new college is filled with young adults just like you looking to make lifelong friendships, so put yourself out there, open your heart, and have fun! 

6. Being Sick and Solo Sucks

Heads up, you will get sick… a lot. College freshmen are like germ magnets. When one kid gets sick, everyone else drops like flies. And, let me warn you in advance, being sick and solo really sucks.

You’ll never wish you had your mom by your side more than when you’re throwing up or hacking up a storm… alone.

The best advice I can offer you is this…make sure you’re stocked up on cold and flu supplies and Covid tests before you get sick. Then check out your school’s health services hours and location. Have an urgent care number ready in case they’re closed. And, don’t forget, you can always call Mama for advice and comfort –  day OR night.

7. Finances Take Finessing 

In high school, you likely had a job that helped you earn a little cash or maybe you had a weekly allowance. But unless you take on a part-time job your freshman year, chances are you’re going to be… well, totally broke. Just remember, credit card companies will be clamoring for your business. (Who better to hit up than a hungry, “babe in the woods” college kid who doesn’t have a dime to their name?)

Be careful. Research thoroughly, read the fine print, pay on time, and be discerning with your purchases. Building credit affects the rest of your financial life, so do it cautiously and responsibly.

8. Ahhh… Freedom (Oh, But With it Comes Responsibility)

You know that sketchy party your dad wouldn’t let you go to? Well, now you can! You know how your mom used to crack down on you when you ate crummy and drank Red Bulls three times a day? Well, now you can! You’ll be running the show and it’ll be pretty cool. But guess what? You need to think through those decisions carefully.

Steer clear of peer pressure, don’t get wrapped up in the party scene, and do your best to stay healthy, safe, and on the right track in college. If you feel confident you’re making the right decision, go for it. If you’re not sure in your gut, it’s a no-go. Bottom line, don’t forget why you’re there. 

9. Just Do YOU, Babe

One of the best parts about life after high school is that it allows you to reinvent yourself. The slate is wiped clean. You get to choose who you want to be on your own terms. This is the time to shed anything about yourself you’re not happy with and become a whole new you. You can step out of your shell, do and be something new and surround yourself with the type of people who truly are good for you. Embrace this opportunity for change and enjoy every moment. Carpe diem! (Seize the day!)

10. This is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Oh, dear high school grads, it’s time to start your new life. Whether that means getting a job, joining the military, going to college, taking a gap year, traveling, or a different plan, you’re in charge of your destiny. Listen well, try hard, earn respect, and live your best life. This is YOUR time! And, remember… no matter where this life of yours takes you, you can always come home!

About Morgan Hill:

Morgan Hill is an essayist and humorist. She has written for many online and print publications including Insider, Your Teen Magazine, Revel, and MASK Magazine. She is the mother of freshman and senior sons in high school. When not writing, she can be found at flea markets, in her garden, photographing architecture, taking cooking classes, or eating the stinkiest cheese she can find. You can also find her on Twitter @MorganHWrites or Instagram @MorganHillWriter

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