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The Next Phase in Life – class of 2017

For all you high school seniors out there, you are ready to embark on a new stage in your life. For the first time, you will be in full control of your destiny and your day-to-day life.

While you may just want to jump into the college experience and see what it brings, I challenge you to do the opposite. Go in prepared. Know what you want to get out of it. Think about how you want to live your life five, 10 and 15 years from now.

Yes, life is messy and the path to success that seems like a straight arrow now will get twisted and turned around. You will have doubts and failures. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone; embrace that as an avenue for change and learning. But you must have a goal, something to aspire to, or you will just run around in circles.

College will fly by. Four or five years may seem like a lifetime now, but one day when you sit down at your college graduation, you will wonder where the time went!

It is not enough to savor each moment; you must take advantage of it and do more with it than you imagined possible. Your college will present you with limitless opportunities to learn, to meet people, to find your purpose in life.

During the summer, or even now, start looking through the course catalog — think about which courses you will need to take each year to fulfill your requirements. Think about the elective courses that most excite you as well. Look at the list of faculty and whom you would most like to meet. When you are there, ask them to lunch or to a coffee; at the very least go to their office hours.

Additionally, most colleges provide ample opportunities to hear speakers on campus or go to community events. Take advantage of these, as they will give you more exposure to different fields or ways of thinking.

Plan to get involved in college. Life is not about building a resume that runs many pages long, but rather about having experiences that are meaningful. And if you only go to college to study or to party, you will graduate unfulfilled. Get involved in leadership, sports, journalism, art society, a musical group, dance troupe, or the ultimate Frisbee club. There is not a predefined list that you must match. Rather, look for activities that interest you or will teach you something new. But do try to get involved in at least one community organization. It is always important to give back, but it is more important to stay grounded.

In college, you will be overwhelmed by opportunities that are not available to everyone. Find an organization close to your heart. If it is somehow connected to your future career, great, but it does not have to be. Even the best doctor, lawyer, teacher or engineer has interests outside his or her profession.

Do not let this phase of your life pass you by. Take charge of your life, and for the time being that means your college experience. Do savor every moment, but do it with purpose.

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