Four Things to Do Before Graduating High School

As graduation day approaches, there are probably a million thoughts and feelings running through your mind. The satisfaction of finally being done with high school classes and your excitement for the upcoming summer are likely clashing with a sense of nostalgia and feelings of sadness about leaving your hometown behind.

The mixed bag of emotions can be so overwhelming that by the time you walk across that stage (or onto campus for the first time as a college student), you’ll realize there’s a whole list of things you wish you’d done before graduating high school. Here are four tips that can help you prepare for college—and spare you from looking back in regret.

1. Be Blatantly Sentimental

I’m never one to go out of my way to take pictures of friends, let alone pose for them. But every time I come across photos from my days in high school, whether online or printed and stashed somewhere special, it always makes me smile.

Although I was hurrying to finish high school at the time, every note, picture, and vivid memory I have brings me lots of joy and perspective these days. Whether you’re counting down the hours until it’s all over or wishing high school would never end, someday you’ll be glad you went to all the year-end events and captured some special moments along the way.

2. Think About Your Network

I’ve always been reluctant to “network” for the sake of vague future opportunities. However, the reality is, that’s the way the world works. Whether it’s leaving on good terms with teachers who may be able to write you helpful recommendation letters in the future or updating your email address so you’re not messaging your college professors as “BiGBo!1234,” there are a few small steps you can take to prepare for the future. Also, it might be hard to think about what sort of internships or extracurricular activities you’ll be interested in, but it’s worthwhile to give it some thought and set yourself up for a successful college career before you get there.

Bonus tip: Don’t be like me and make your new, more “professional” email address annoying to spell out over the phone or at the cash register. While it may not be as embarrassing as whatever I came up with in eighth grade, my current email still gets mistyped or requires clarification way too often. The more straightforward, the better.

3. Clean Up Your Act

Just as you don’t want to show up with a hilarious (or embarrassing) old email address, it’s worth scrolling through your social media accounts to figure out what you can delete. You’ll want to keep some nostalgic pictures to look back on as high school winds down, but you’ll also be glad your new college friends won’t see the silly stuff that you posted when you were fifteen. It’s a weird time we live in, but what’s on the internet absolutely matters.

4. Start Planning Your Transition

I’m not sure why most of us start thinking about something we need to do months in advance, but wait until the last minute to actually get it done. You may have gotten away with procrastinating in high school, but when it comes to college move-in day, the sooner you start thinking about it, the better.

There’s nothing worse than finding out you need a meningitis vaccine before you can get your dorm keys, and the nearest pharmacy that offers one is an hour away. Or unpacking everything, only to notice you left your laptop charger and a favorite framed photo of your family back home. Trust me.

Your parents are probably nagging you about all of these things, but take it from someone who graduated college this century—it really does make a difference. From planning ahead to getting rid of random selfies from your emo phase, a little bit of thought before graduating high school goes a long way toward setting you up for success at college.