To: My Younger Sister, a High School Senior

Alright Kenzie, you’ve made it. You’re now a senior in high school — and you’re about to make a few big decisions in the next few months. I probably should have just talked to you about these things when I was home last, but I guess it kind of slipped my mind. Not only that, but now I’m getting a blog post out of it. So thanks for that, I guess. Let’s just call it even.

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you some advice I’ve got for you. Because I’m a senior in college (and I’m your big sister), I like to think that I’m qualified to be telling you these things of what I wish I would have done, or kept in mind, or whatever when I was in your position four years ago. So here we go I guess:

  1. Manage your time wisely (especially when it comes to scholarship applications)
    I should have spent more time researching scholarships or on those applications in general — but I didn’t. I poured almost everything I had into Spirit and the Presidential Scholarship applications, and my internship with KAXE. There’s nothing wrong with those three things, I think (as you know, Spirit is still a huge part of my life, I received the Presidential Scholarship and that’s made attending Columbia more possible, and I still reference so many things from my first internship with KAXE in applications/experiences/interviews today), but it would have made the financial strain a little less tough, and I’m sure I’ll be dealing with that a lot more in the next few years.

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    Never got “board” at the station 😉 
  2. Save up as much money as you can/work more
    To piggy back off that, don’t go out to eat after every single pep band event, don’t buy random things at Target/Walmart just because “you can,” and try to get 10-15+ hours/week in at work. As long as I’ve been in school, I’ve always had a minimum of that to work/week, and at first, my academics suffered. BUT if I had learned how to better manage that time/stress/exhaustion in high school, I think I would have been at least a little bit better off.

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    One of the highlights of the internship – getting exposed to great music and meeting the people behind it! Ex: Tim Saxhaug from Trampled by Turtles


  3. Draft your resume and get help with it before you move out
    One thing I wish I would have done before moving out was getting some help from mom and dad/the counselors at school on my resume. That way, when you get to wherever you’re going and start to set out for the job hunt, you at least have a baseline and can hit the ground running (whenever you’re ready) right away. There’s less stress at home, and it’s much easier to get help in person, rather than over email.

  4. Join message boards/contact current students at your top two-three choices
    The best way to make your college decision and get a real feel for the school is to talk to people who go there now. Usually you can easily find the contact information for that school’s student government or student organizations, and that’s a good place to start. If you don’t get a response right away, just hit them up every few days — if they love their school, they’ll get back to you really quickly.
    Another way to get a feel for the school is research some of the professors on RateMyProfessor.com, or just search hashtags relevant to the school. For example, I’ve gone through the Columbia College Chicago tag on Tumblr a few times, and when I was on E-Board for SGA, I spent quite a bit of time reblogging/talking to people who had just been accepted into the school. I’m not saying there’s someone like me at every school, but odds are there’s at least someone who would be more than willing to talk to you. And if not… who says you’d even enjoy it there anyway, right?
    This also should maybe be its own point, but just be sure that the school you chose has the option to study abroad. My biggest regret in college is already that I didn’t take a semester abroad – even though I got a little fix of traveling in one or two week bursts, I wish I would have been able to take a few months abroad to really learn about the culture and truly immerse myself. You might think now you don’t want to study abroad, but just keep the option open for yourself.

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    Trying to jump away from the decisions I had to make
  5. Keep a journal
    I wish I would have written as much in high school as I do now. I’m not saying that I love reading my old work, but it’s kind of fun to travel back in that time — especially knowing what I know now. The boys I liked, the things that stressed me out, and the events that made me excited and/or nervous. Even going back to some of my blog posts from Freshman year is fun, and that was only three years ago; I truly wish I had more privately written pieces from high school.

  6. Don’t party
    I had a blast my senior year and I’m happy to say I was never under the influence of anything besides sometimes an overload of sugar. You really do not need alcohol or other drugs to have fun, and there’s really no point in it at all. I don’t worry about you getting involved in that crowd, but I just had to say it. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth it at your age, and the time will come soon enough where it’ll be legal and you’ll have the opportunity for the rest of your life to do that. But don’t try and grow up too fast, and ruin the rest of your life for the now. That’s all I have to say on that.

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    Prom 2013

    Also… don’t take prom too seriously. I saved major bank Senior year and still had a great time – and don’t be afraid to find your own date. Import them from the cities or something.

  7. Take pictures…and get one of those dumb memory books for your grad party
    Mom got me one of those dumb memory books, and that’s the closest thing I have for a journal from my senior year. It’s chock-full of good memories, but I’m missing some photos… so just take as many pictures as you can this year. Then you won’t be scrambling when it comes to be time for your grad party, or when you move out and want to have pictures of your friends in your room (if you’re anything like me, you’ll have them plastered all over).

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    Random picture from my “last day”
  8. Over-sentimentalize everything
    In the next few months, you’ll do so many things for the last time. Don’t take that lightly. I didn’t take anything lightly, and I still regret absolutely nothing. I cried for so long after my last marching band weekend, and I lingered for awhile at the end of the last pep band event. Even after the graduation ceremony; Trevor, Laura and I drove up to the school and spent some time just standing on the practice field. Then a group of us ran up the bleachers of the stadium and took pictures at the top — oddly enough, those are not only the last few memories I have from high school, but they’re also my fondest. Make more of those memories this year.

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    The gang that ran up the bleachers

You didn’t ask for any of this, but I just wanted to give my big sisterly advice. I don’t get to tell you what to do much, and we’re going forward into the rest of life in completely different fields, but here’s what I hope you’ll find applicable. Don’t forget that I’m here if you need anything — really, that should have been number eight, but I didn’t have anything else to say about that besides “call me if you have a problem.” I might be far away, but remember, I can get home in about 12 hours if I absolutely need to. Good luck, have fun, and make smart decisions.

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Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship, but right now just talking too much about running shoes and a Masters Student at DePaul (Journalism). Training for the marathon with various podcasts. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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