Franklin and Marshall College President Daniel R. Porterfield has some advice for students about to enter their freshman year of college:

If you attend college determined to make learning and growth your priority, if you regularly take the risk to try new things, if you go meet your professors personally, and if you claim the campus as your home, the odds are very high that you will walk across the commencement stage in four short years with a profound sense of satisfaction.

You have the power to create long-term mentors and lifelong friends. You can grow in ways you’d never wish to trade away. You can develop your adult identity and your voice. Every college offers all this—but no college can do it for you. The greatest learners create the education they seek.


As for those entering their senior year of high school, questions need to be asked — and answered — definitively:  What will you do after you graduate in June?  Will you live at home and commute to work and/or  college?  Will you pursue training in a technical field?  Or, will you go away to college? (And if so, have you made your list of schools you want to visit?  Have you discussed with your parents what’s reasonable and affordable from their standpoint?)  You don’t have to know exactly what field of study you want to focus on.  You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life.  But you do need to make some decisions very soon.

In choosing the right school, Dr. Porterfield understands how hard it can be:

Senior year of high school can be truly spectacular. It’s a time to take advanced courses and excel in activities, from Model UN to athletics to drama. It’s a time to be a tone-setter in the student body and create a strong school culture. And it’s a time to deepen relationships with friends, teachers, and family members as you look forward to the growth that college will bring.

But, there’s the rub. For too many students, the college application process drains the joy out of senior year. Where should I apply? Where will I get in? How will we pay? And, perhaps most vexing, laboring under the weight of expectation, some students judge themselves harshly and feel like failures before they’ve begun exploring all the great colleges out there.


This senior year goes very fast, so there is no time for “senioritis”. While you are weighing your future options, visiting colleges (or taking an online “virtual” tour), and then diving into the application process, you still have to get your schoolwork done, play for your chosen sports team, immerse yourself in your important school activities and clubs, and behave yourself as the respectful and responsible young man or woman we adults and parents expect you to be.  There is only so much time in a day!  So Dr. Porterfield has two more important pieces of advice for students as they begin their last year of high school:

[T]alk to the people who care about you, especially your family members. Too many seniors fall into a cone of silence about college, not wanting to show their vulnerabilities or disappoint their parents or seem competitive with their friends. This is understandable, but shutting down or suffering in silence are rarely the best approaches in stressful times.

The Class of 2015 brings so much to the table, and we in higher education can’t wait to teach you. Well, actually, we can wait—one year, to be exact. There’s still a whole year of high school ahead of you.

Therefore, one last piece of advice: Don’t let college mania dominate the only senior year of high school you’ll ever have. Actively make meaning that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life—and then go do the same in college.


This is your time.  Now make it happen!


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