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Work Equals Worth

Senior Shannon Batliner (middle) played Taylor McKessie in this year's High School Musical.

Senior Shannon Batliner (middle) played Taylor McKessie in this year's High School Musical. "Trying new things" produced Shannon's best memories from high school.

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12 years; 4,380 days; 105,120 hours; 6,307,200 seconds; and now it’s over. I have spent 12 years of my life in the public school system, and now I only have a short few days left.

We are trained to believe that we just have to make it through high school. Show up on time, do the required work, pass the class. What we aren’t told, however, is how much you have to do beyond just scraping by in order to be successful. Whether it be in the classroom or outside of it, the “bare minimum to graduate,” is not– and will never be– enough. If you know where to look, high school can have so much more to offer.

The time I have spent on field trips in Chicago or rehearsing an important presentation with my group members or staying up late finishing up a project reminds me that nothing worth having comes without hard work. For example, this year I took Engineering Design and Development, the senior level engineering course offered here at PR. I knew it was going to be challenging and that it was going to test me as a person and as a student, but I had no idea how many hours I would  spend making sure our final product and presentation were nothing short of exceptional. We met up on weekends and on our days off and we worked at school until 11:00 some nights. But on the day of that final presentation, we had something amazing to show our class, community, and families. The bonds and connections I formed with my group members and other people in the class were unexpected, and only came about because I put in the work.

Grades are undoubtedly important, as these four years compose the contents of your Common Application. However, they also compose a large part of your best memories. High school is a time of not only figuring out who you are, but also figuring out who other people are. You make some of your best friends in high school– ones that you’ll have for the rest of your life. I met my best friends at the end of junior year and we really became close once senior year started. We are all heading our separate ways on very different paths next year, but you can bet that we’ll still be telling each other everything and supporting each other every step of the way.

Leaving high school is a scary thing, but if you put in the hard work and plan accordingly, there’s no reason to be afraid.

What I thought I knew about college applications and deciding what I wanted to do with my life after high school was not accurate. I thought I would apply to a few schools I liked, spend a few hours writing essays, and have my future all planned out by December.

In reality, I applied to eleven schools, wrote 20+ essays, spent I don’t even know how many hours filling out and submitting applications, and my plans weren’t even certain until April.

It was by no means easy picking which school I wanted to attend next year, but I have no regrets about putting in as much work as I did. All of those words I wrote in my essays turned into dollars awarded to me by universities, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

So why am I writing this? To show you how I found the college of my dreams, how much work it took, but also how much fun I had along the way. My path is not the right one for everyone, but everyone has a different story, and I wanted to share mine with you.

High school is meant to prepare you for college. The experiences I remember the most from high school are the ones where I put myself out there and did something new: playing Taylor McKessie on stage in High School Musical, winning the Epic Race, the night of senior prom, yelling until my voice was gone at football games, bus rides home from soccer and golf matches, placing 1st at state for Science Olympiad, performing in a poetry slam. Sure, most of these memories are from my senior year, but that’s because I didn’t really start appreciating how great high school really is until then.

Don’t wait as long as I did. Try new things every single day. Spread kindness to everyone you encounter. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and test your limits. You only get one shot at high school, so make it count. And when the time comes to finally leave, don’t regret a single moment.

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