Let me open up by saying you do not need anybody. You do not need someone to tell you what to do; you do not need someone to tell you where to go to school; you do not need someone to tell you how to live.
The most important thing for you to realize is that if you are not being your own person, then you are lost and will not be found until you change that attitude. If you listen to what everyone else is saying, you can learn a lot about what you don’t want to be, where you don’t want to go.
Every day you are told to go work, save money, hangout with your friends, take advanced courses in schools, and find a cheap college while majoring in something extremely practical.
That is not what you should do.
As far as working goes when you’re young and in high school, be sure to do it in moderation. Working 40 hours a week and working weekend nights are simply not worth it (not that you ever did). Always stick to the small jobs; stick to the babysitting, the refereeing flag football, and the cutting grass. Use that extra time to relax at home or hangout with friends. Those moments are far superior. You have the rest of your life to work and worry about money.
Speaking of money, be sure to save some. And no, I don’t mean putting every cent you earn into the bank. I mean by taking a portion out of every check you make. With every small job you do, you should be putting 10% of it away. Put it somewhere you won’t touch it. Somewhere that you can never get to it. Just 10% of everything you make – is that too much to ask? Obviously, since your bank account is extremely subpar today.
One thing that you were never good at is making time. Something that is so vitally important to you before you go off on your separate ways is to hangout with those people that helped support you to where you are today. Make time with your friends, and I don’t mean going out to eat at Applebee’s after every football game. Go travel, even if only for a day; go to festivals, even if the attractions are mediocre. Make time for those people, because I promise you each and every one of them has different plans for college and beyond. Not all of those plans have an end-destination in your small hometown.
While your school friends are important, so is your grades. You have to make sure you study, but don’t overbook yourself; schedule more art classes. Those advanced AP courses and STEM Physics class is honestly just not worth it for you. Most colleges could care less about what classes you took. The things that are important are your GPA and your ACT/SAT score. Spend more time studying for the standardized tests and take those tests more than just once – which I know you didn’t do. The AP courses in English are far more important than the others, but the AP Calculus’s and AP History’s of the world served only as stressors for fields of work you knew all along that you didn’t want to go into.
Next is finding a college. No matter what anyone says or thinks, just go with your gut. You don’t need to go to a big state school and become a little fish in a big pond. Just like in your hometown, you want to play a bigger role on a smaller stage. Like you did, you went to a small school. Somewhere that has a different feel to it; somewhere that you know no names.
Your major is also important, but it is not everything. You’ll switch your major multiple times before you find that one (or perhaps two) fields of concentration that interest you. Take your time and make the most of the experiences that your university offers. At those school clubs and events and conferences is where you will get the most of your education.
Finally, it is going to be increasingly important to keep a document of references. Whether it is acquaintances, teachers, employers, or just people you know – they all will come in handy one day. And since you chose a small university, they will also know you by name, know your story, and know your challenges.
The importance of patience during this time in your life will help you tremendously. The people you will meet and the opportunities that will be presented are what will drive you into a career.
Patience, patience, patience.