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Answer the tough questions

Last night more than 160 seniors walked across the stage at the Demopolis High School football field and received their high school diplomas.

Across the county, several hundred students took these very same steps toward their future in the last 10 days. They now embark on a journey down hundreds of different paths.

Eleven years ago, I took these very same steps. My path led me off to college. For those of you looking to enter a similar path, I offer you this advice:

1. Buckle down. If you got by in high school just by doing the minimum, you’re in for a rude awakening in college. I know I was. Colleges only accept the best students year after year and they expect a lot out of their applicants. Two words you never want to see on your transcripts: Academic Probation.

2. Have some fun. You can do numbers one and two at the same time and it’s really not all that hard. This may mean getting outside your comfort zone. Join a club or an activity that may not be something that traditionally would interest you. This is all part of expanding your horizons. The most fun I had in college was joining the Ultimate Frisbee Team at UAB. I didn’t know what it was at the time I signed up. I was just bored and looking for something to do a few nights per week.

3. Familiarize yourself with the campus. In most cases, you’ll have about 30 minutes to get from class to class. Your best bet is to know exactly where you’re going ahead of time. There’s no tardy bell. Class starts whether you’re there or not, and in many cases, no one cares why you’re not there.

4. Get a job. Unless you’re on a full scholarship, your parents are shelling out upwards of $50,000 to get you through college. You can help them out by picking up your own gas money, money for weekend fun or books. It also teaches you how to juggle multiple priorities and it prepares you to enter the workforce, which is part of what college is all about anyway.

5. Take that basket weaving class. Your schedule is going to be jam-packed with English, math and science classes. There’s nothing wrong with taking a class you think is “easy.” But be warned, it’s probably not as easy as you think. This is college, remember. There are no free A’s.

6. Do your own thing. This one is in direct conflict with numbers one through five, but it’s the only way you’re going to make the most of your college experience. For the next four years, you have a unique opportunity to learn from some of the best in their respective fields and meet people from all over the globe. If your mind and ears are open, those pages will be filled with more memories and knowledge than you ever thought possible.

Good luck to the county’s classes of 2009.

Jason Cannon is editor and publisher of the Demopolis Times.