Words of wisdom from the Class of 2016

Words of wisdom from the Class of 2016

Marlee Baker, Editor-In-Chief

As the Class of 2017 nears graduation, so nears the long-imagined reality of independence, of adulthood, of college.  Though you once regarded these things with great anticipation, now they may feel overwhelming.  After twelve years of having to ask permission to pee, how on earth can you be expected to succeed in such a vast environment of endless possibilities?  But despite of how alone you may feel, there is a group of people who were in your shoes only a mere year ago, and who are ready to bestow their wisdom upon your anxious souls — the graduating class of 2016.

Bree Dobson was a former student of the Zephyr Journalism staff.  She now pursues a career in Journalism at CSU Long Beach.  Bobbi Loggins, once a highly active member of Leadership, now works on her Business Administration degree at UC Berkeley.  Also enrolled at UC Berkeley is the Class of 2016’s Co-Salutatorian and President of the Space and Engineering Academy, Ervin Baccay, who studies bioengineering.

Despite these students’ successful careers at West High, college is not to be regarded merely as a more intense version of high-school, complete with bigger parties, meaner teachers and more homework.  In fact, it can be argued that college is on a level quite of its own.  “I’ve found that the college atmosphere has a higher level of maturity and sophistication,” Dobson said. “Everybody is very passionate about their education and serious about their studies.  In high school, everybody is still young and enjoying their teen years.  In college, you’re surrounded by adults.”

In college, you also become an adult.  “You really have to use the skills you learned in high school and from your parents and just trust that you will be okay,” Loggins said. “You definitely have to work hard for good grades, but there’s a lot of help available if you need it.”

Baccay recalls the sudden increase of freedom he experienced in his first months of college, as well as the struggles that accompanied them.  “Despite being ‘free’ to do whatever I want, I was also given the sole responsibility to go to class, watch my eating habits, do homework, manage my social life, manage my finances and other minuscule details that a high schooler wouldn’t usually have to deal with.”

Dobson recommends keeping all these new responsibilities listed within an agenda.  “It’s easy to forget about an essay when you have a speech and a group assignment due the same day.”  Her personal tip? Use a separate colored pen for every class to “make it easier to distinguish between assignments.”

But always, she adds, remember to set aside a color meant specifically for yourself.  “It’s easy for your classes, job and outside activities to bring an overwhelming amount of stress into your life,” she said.  “Make sure to set aside a few hours during your busy week for some ‘me time’ so you can read a book, watch Netflix or do anything that you find enjoyable and relaxing.”

A common thread of trepidation that weaves itself within the hearts of many graduating seniors is the uncertainty of future friendships.  Like Loggins said, “You have to find the right people for you and that can sometimes be hard to do.”

“I was worried about not making any friends in college,” Baccay said.  “I went to a large university so I thought that interpersonal connections would be hard to come by.  They were actually easier than ever!  I made amazing friends in my major who help and support me throughout my studies.”

Dobson shared a similar fear.  Having lived in Tracy her entire life, the prospect of suddenly being in an environment where she knew no one was “terrifying.”  However, the forced independence has led Dobson to healthily adjust to living alone.  “I’ve found comfort in my solitude,” she said.  “I’ve become self-reliant and therefore I’ve grown as an individual.”

But college’s greatest impact has been reignited a perhaps dwindling passion to learn.  “College really opened up my education for me because I realized there was so much more to learn . . . I love being able to learn what I want to learn,” Loggins said.

The freedom and autonomy of creating one’s own schedule around topics that are personally intriguing is invaluable.  “If you’re taking a class about a topic that you don’t feel passionate about, your notes will end up filled with doodles instead of sufficient studying materials,” Dobson said.  “When I wake up in the morning, I get excited for my classes because I know I’ll be learning new things about topics I enjoy. My newfound knowledge has inspired a new set of goals and dreams to achieve.  Overall, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before and more appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given in my life.”

College doesn’t have to be a scary, formidable mountain.  Follow the pathway past classes have paved for you, and you are sure to reach the peak safely.  Imagine the pride you will feel from reaching the destination you have dreamed of for twelve long years, and the peace you will feel from looking down at the vast distances you have conquered to reach this point.

Finally, and above all, Baccay urges seniors to always remember that “college acceptances do not define who you are . . . College is only a stepping stone into your final career; the first step. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re only at the beginning of your life. Whether you go to a prestigious Ivy League, a state university or community college, make the best of it. Take every opportunity given to you and run with it. Because it’s not where you go that matters, it’s what you do with what’s given to you that defines how your life will go.”