To the high school grad not starting college this fall

The “congratulations!” letters have stopped arriving in the mail. The graduation party came and went. The cap and gown are tucked away. The excitement of graduation season has faded and the back-to-school craze is beginning again.

You pass the clearance rack at the store filled with “Class of 2017” keepsakes and see fellow high school grads filling their carts in the off-to-college aisle. They’re reminders of how you won’t be starting college with them this fall. And maybe that’s an unsettling thing to be reminded of.

I don’t know your story. But I can guess you may be feeling like you’re going directly against the grain of society. Like you’re letting teachers and guidance counselors down. Like you’re disappointing your family. Like you’re not living up to anyone’s expectations, maybe even including your own.

I don’t know why you won’t be starting college this fall. Maybe the funds aren’t there, the scholarships didn’t come through, an acceptance letter never came, no one was there to cheer you on and believe in you, or you just aren’t ready. Perhaps you realize college isn’t the right next step for you.

Whatever the reason may be, I know from experience that when life diverges from the road everyone else seems to be on, anxiety can sometimes creep in. And it can cast doubt on even the most confidently-made decisions.

Am I doing the right thing?

What will everyone think of me?

Is there something wrong with me?

Why do I have to be different?

If these are some of the voices you’re hearing in the back of your mind, know that you are not alone. I can guarantee there are a LOT of other high school grads not starting college this fall who share the very same worries as you.

When I graduated high school in 2011, I had no idea what I wanted to do. While it seemed everyone else was figuring out their plans for college, I was seriously stressed trying to figure out what God wanted me to even do with my life (which is a whole other story for a different day).

Toward the end of that summer with zero college apps completed, I met with my youth pastor’s wife and spilled my anxious heart out to her. While she spoke right into my fear and anxiety, she also didn’t pressure me into a particular decision or compare me to anyone else. She helped me see through the anxiety to think about what the best decision would be for me at that time in my life.

Turns out I didn’t start college that fall. Instead, I began volunteering with the youth group at my church, got my driver’s license, and studied to take the ACT. By the beginning of 2012, having given myself more time to grow, mature, and build confidence, I felt ready to start seriously considering college. That fall I began college—a year later than most others in my graduating class—but I did not regret it one bit.

Sometimes what’s right for you isn’t going to look like what’s right for other people. And sometimes the way your life unfolds is going to be drastically different from the way other people’s lives turn out. But you know what the beauty is about that?

Every story is different, and there is no wrong story.

Let me repeat that again.

There is no wrong story.

You are not wasting your life by not starting college this year. Please believe me on this! There are opportunities everywhere to keep growing, learning, and discovering your dreams, regardless of whether you’re moving into a dorm this fall or staying at home to figure out your next step.

So take a deep breath and repeat after me:

“I am okay.”

You are more than okay.

You’ve come an incredibly long way, and the journey is just beginning.

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