I recently had to write an essay for a scholarship describing the advice I'd give to a freshman entering my high school alma mater, Elizabeth Forward.
My answer was short and succinct (due to the shortage of space on the application and the restriction that I had to hand-write it).
Rather than going with the cliche "be yourself" or "take as many AP classes as possible" advice, I opted for something way more valuable (in my opinion, at least)....
Travel—both intellectually and physically. Recognize that the world extends beyond the borders of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. Your mind needs to travel more miles than the walls of EFHS allow it.
Let Elizabeth Forward shape you as it will. Excel in the classroom, but know that it takes more than academic achievement to reach your full potential. Realize that although your grades and GPA will take you far, it’s your personal ambitions and talents that will take you farther.
Therefore, allow your mind to travel outside of the curriculum: ask challenging questions, do something different, and try new things so that you may discover your passions. Once you’ve discovered these passions, get involved in something that will help you to nurture them.
Then, go anywhere beyond Allegheny County to see how your passions fit into the bigger picture.
If you can, travel, no matter how far, at some point, during your 4 years in high school and get acquainted with embracing unfamiliar places as your own. Stepping out of your comfort zone will prepare you to apply yourself and create a career out of your passions from wherever you choose to study.
Traveling enriches the mind and ultimately helps you attain knowledge and experiences that you cannot get from the contents of an academic classroom. By traveling intellectually and physically, you create character that makes you stand out and succeed when continuing your education beyond high school. Most importantly, you discover how your passions can make a difference in the world outside of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
There you have it. My advice for any freshman entering Elizabeth Forward High School.
For those of you from my hometown, would you agree with my advice? Do you have something to add? For those of you elsewhere, what advice would you give to an incoming high school freshman? Let me know in the comments below!