Dear Freshman Stephanie,

First off, one B in second semester Biology Honors isn’t going to tarnish your chances of getting into a Top College™, so stop crying over your 3.93 in your bedroom. (Cherish your GPA while you can, because it’s going to tank over the next two years.)

If you’re not doing that, then maybe it’s September and you’re sitting in Benjamin Bolaños’s fourth period World History, watching InFocus. The anchors introduce a new segment — it’s a message from the College & Career Center, with the list of colleges visiting campus today. You’re shocked: You’ve heard college names being tossed around like autumn leaves in the gust but suddenly — you open the front door and find all the leaves piled up on your doorstep. Big Future is Watching.

Of course, both experiences (no matter how shocking they are to you) are integral parts of high school. As time trudges toward May 31, 2018, you’re only going to encounter more of these experiences. Let’s face the facts: high school is going to be really, really tough — it’s going to change you in a thousand different ways.

You’ll be learning a lot in your classes, which will lead you to feel highly stressed. But listen: your worth isn’t measured by the number of extracurriculars you do, the titles in those extracurriculars, or the number of classes that start with “AP” or end in “H.” It’s measured by how much you challenge yourself, how much effort you put into everything you do, and the lessons you learn outside the classroom.

I need to emphasize the importance of this statement: get sleep.

It’s not cool to get under six hours of sleep every night — you do not need to validate your hard work by accumulating severe sleep debt. Health problems arise when you cut back on sleep, and your brain works at an awful efficiency when you’re that tired. In fact, being awake for 16 hours straight will decrease your performance as if your blood alcohol level were at 0.05 percent, according to Cleveland Clinic. It doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize the legal driving limit is 0.08 percent.

Getting more sleep isn’t the only outside-of-class lesson you’ll learn. Let’s start with an an example. AP U.S. History, as you will come to know, will be the most mentally exhausting and hardest class you’ll take in high school. That, coupled with your tendency to procrastinate and your tireless pursuit of various extracurriculars and hard classes, takes a heavy toll on your sleep and GPA.

But here’s the thing. This sort of mental exhaustion teaches you far more than how to study more efficiently or stay awake into the wee hours of night — it teaches you how to find your limits, and then see how much further you can push them. I promise, that exhaustion becomes endurance. And each time, you’ll feel like you can do anything — because you can. You can power through production week with five tests sprinkled in between; you can craft spectacular college essays; you could walk to hell and make it back in time to finish your AP Bio lab. It’s a mental endurance bitterly fought for but victoriously kept. And I’m certainly glad I’ve done it.

Speaking of being able to do anything, you truly could. You could work to be a Nobel Prize-winning scientist or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. You could be the first Asian-American female president or vice president of the United States. Or maybe you could work to be the best mother in the world, a teacher in an impoverished school district, the laughing lunch lady at the deli. I truly don’t know. After four years of searching for who I am and what I want to be, I’m left with more questions than answers.

But, Stephanie, I do know this: stay true to yourself. Remember this for the next four years. You’re a shining star; a gentle creature of deep love, fiery passion and a cosmic mind of wonder. Remember this when you light this world on fire, because in a black and white world, it’s important to stand for the constellations of thoughts in your complex mind. Let your thoughts burn bright and brilliant. Keep loving. Keep speaking. And most importantly, keep wondering.

Love, Senior Stephanie