DEAR HARRIETTE: I just graduated from high school, and it's starting to sink in that I’m leaving the town I lived in for 18 years. I’m leaving my friends, my family and the only place I have ever known for a college 2,000 miles away. I thought I would be happy when I threw my cap into the air. I thought I would look forward to new people, places and things, but now I’m just plain scared. I’m scared the college I go to will make me miserable and I’ll waste $80,000 on my unhappiness. I’m scared my friends will make new college friends and forget about me. I’m scared that I’ll struggle to balance my academic and social lives to the point where I flunk out. Perhaps I’m not as ready for college as I once thought, and maybe I need to take a gap year instead.
How do I know whether these are just plain nerves or I actually need to take a break from everything? What happens if I take a gap year and am even more scared to go to college the following year? -- Possible Gap Year Student
DEAR POSSIBLE GAP YEAR STUDENT: Take a moment to breathe. Look back at the past four years. Congratulate yourself on getting through one of the most difficult periods in our history and completing your high school studies. You should be proud of yourself.
You are now in a moment of transition. These can be frightening, primarily due to the uncertainty of the future. Instead of taking a gap year, which I know is popular, I recommend that you take a look at the plans that you have in place. Yes, college is expensive. Think about the school you have selected. Remind yourself why you chose it. What does it offer that appeals to you? Are any friends going there, or will this be a new adventure altogether? Are there summer activities that can help you get acclimated to the school?
Think about your friends. Make a pact to stay in touch during this first year. Be realistic. Agree to communicate once a month or occasionally via text or Snapchat. Do not obsess about what they are doing. All of you will be exploring and figuring out the college experience. Some may remain close as others naturally fade away. It’s all OK. Trust that you can take on this next step with excitement and enthusiasm. Don’t give up now. Stand up straight and forge ahead. You can do it -- and enjoy each moment as it unfolds.