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A Letter to the Class of 2013

Dear Class of 2013,

No, that’s not a typo. I realize that it’s 2012. I know you are still juniors. But I have some things to tell you and if I wait until next year, these things won’t be relevant anymore. If I wait until next year, this letter will be filled with statements that begin with “you should have” and “I hope you didn’t.” Next year, you will have plenty of people giving you advice. Next year, you’ll be sick of people telling you what they think.

So I’m writing you a message this year, before you are sick of hearing advice and while you still have one more year of high school ahead of you. While you still have a year to act on the things, I’m going to tell you.

Here it is:

Attend a School Event. 
Some of you have probably already done this. A million times. But some of you haven’t. Some of you are too cool to go to a football game because your school isn’t good at football. It doesn’t have to be a football game. Go to a chorus concert or a school play. Having trouble deciding what to go to? Go to something one of your friends is participating in. If you have a friend that devotes six out of seven days during the season to an activity, the least you could do is go watch her once. Years from now, your days in high school will be a blur. You probably won’t remember the ordinary everyday moments. But you will remember the time you saw your friend score the winning goal at his soccer game.

Thank a Teacher.
Chances are, by now, you’ve had one teacher that has made an impact on your life or at least your academic life. Let your teacher know. Write him a letter. Stop by her classroom and tell her in person. It’s different in college. You might have a professor that you really like, but there might be 80 other students in the class with you. There is a chance you’ll go four years without ever connecting to a professor like you connect with a high school teacher. High school teachers know your name–they know what sport or instrument you play. They had your older brother and will someday teach your younger sister. It’s different in college. High School teachers put in way more time than they are paid for and are often overlooked when it comes to praise. Go ahead and thank one. Thank them all. They will appreciate it far more than you realize.

Enjoy Your Weird Family Traditions.
Okay, so maybe it’s a little embarrassing that your dad makes everyone in the family listen to Jingle Dogs while decorating the Christmas tree. Maybe you hate the fact that every Super Bowl your mom insists you dress in the team colors of the team you are routing for. Do you want to know a sad truth? This is the last year you will have to do it. I know that doesn’t sound sad–it probably sounds awesome. When you graduate though, there is a good chance your parents will have to decorate the family tree without you. If you’re lucky, your roommate and you will agree on a small 2-foot fake tree that can fit on your dresser. When you are sharing two bags of chips with 20 other freshmen at your first college Super Bowl party, you’ll miss your mom’s homemade buffalo wings. Here’s another secret: there are weird family traditions in your house that you don’t even know about. Like the fact that your mom makes you say the high and low point of your day every night at dinner. No one is going to ask you that in college. So humor your mom for one more year. Answer with something more than “High point was hanging out with Chris” and ” Low point was taking my history test.”

Make Amends With That Friend.
I remember tensions were running high my senior year between my friends and I. Maybe we were stressed with college admissions and final grades, but I seem to remember a lot of bickering between us. I’m thankful that we never let that bickering get the best of us. I graduated with amazing friends. Though today most of them are merely Facebook friends, I don’t harbor any resentment for things said in high school. Apologize. Forgive. Do a little of both. Don’t let friendships go bad over a few harsh words said in the heat of the moment.

Don’t Stress Too Much.
This next year is going to be stressful at times. There will be college applications that will keep you up at night. There will be days of waiting for an email from your top choice school. You might receive great news. You might be accepted into your dream university. You might be offered a big scholarship. But you might receive bad news. The school you’ve been dreaming about since you were 7-years-old might reject you. You might have to attend your safety school. It’s going to be okay. No matter what life throws at you, you will survive. Lift that chin up. You have come too far to let this get you down. Despite the pressure you are feeling from your parents, they will still love you if you tried your best. I bet they’ll even love you if you didn’t try your best. They are your parents.  It’s their job to love you.

Celebrate Your Birthday With Your Family.
I get that you want to go out to dinner with your boyfriend for your birthday. I’m sure he’s awesome. He’ll probably even take you somewhere extra nice. But you need to tell him no. Go out another night and celebrate your birthday. Celebrate with your family this year. Depending on when your birthday falls, this could very well be the last time you celebrate your birthday with your family on your actual birthday. Family dinners will be replaced with a phone call and a card sent in the mail. If you’re lucky, your parents will figure out a way to deliver a cake to you in college, but it won’t be the same. You’ll miss the look on your parents’ face when they marvel how you’ve grown another year older. So this year, celebrate with them. They are the reason you have a birthday to begin with.

I don’t know what the future holds for you. But I do know this is your last year living at home. (Okay let’s be honest, we know that’s not true. In this economy, you’ll be right back under your parents’ roof when you graduate college. But it will be different.) This next year marks the final chapter of your childhood. Do me a favor, enjoy it. You’ll spend the rest of your life buying your own groceries, paying your own bills and making adult decisions.

People will tell you that these are the best years of your life. I think they are wrong. I think the year I married my soul mate was pretty awesome. The year I held my first child for the first time was pretty great too. The year I gave birth to twins was crazy, but still amazing.

But there is something about your childhood that you will always reflect on. Good or bad, your childhood is what has made you the person you are today. You don’t forget the moments that define you.

You have one more year. Make it a good one.

No pressure.


Sue Hyer

Susan Ward, you are wise beyond your years. I applaud you!


This is great Sus-
I’m going to share this with my niece Kailyn, who is going to be a Senior in High school next year. And BTW, I will never forget doing “highs and lows” with you at the “dinner table” in college every evening- even though I always complained at the time :)

Susan Ward

Thanks Linds! I think we can agree that “high/lows” were the best part of meals in college.

karen Earnest

susan- this is so wonderful!!!! and so very true – I am going to have Kailyn read it today and going to give it to Krysta too even though she just completed her freshman yr at college… thank you for sharing

karen Earnest

this is wonderful!!!

Cynthia Lopynski

Well said!!

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