10/20/2013 12:14 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Letter to the Class of 2017

Dear Class of 2017,

It's strange to think that I was standing in your shoes just three years ago. To tell you the truth, I don't remember a whole lot about my freshman year. I remember the teachers I had and the activities I participated in, but I've pretty much forgotten the people I sat next to in class or the tests I lost sleep over. I usually just smile and nod whenever someone says to me, "Hey, remember that time in freshman year when..." I do, however, vividly recall the sense of urgency I felt to join clubs, excel in my classes, and make the most out of what many had promised would be the best four years of my life.

Three years later, I feel like mostly the same person. I still have many of the same friends, love the same books, and enjoy the same subjects I did in freshman year. At the same time, I feel like an entirely different person. I've met new friends and lost touch with some old ones. I've discovered new passions of mine (I came into high school preferring English over science and will come out of it pursuing a major in the latter of the two), joined new clubs (freshman year, I had no clue what Key Club was. Now, I can't imagine high school without it), and discovered new classes that I love (who would have known how much I would enjoy economics?).

Class of 2017, if there's one piece of advice I would give you, it's this: things will change. Let them. The activity that you love in freshman year will not necessarily be the activity you dedicate most of your time to in senior year. The subject that you are sure you want to study in college as a 15-year-old will probably not be your intended career path as an 18-year-old. The friends you make in 9th grade will change by the time you reach 12th grade. And that's okay. Don't be afraid of change. Change, for the most part, is good. Necessary even. You can't grow as a person without change.

Don't be in a rush. You don't have to find your life's calling right this second. Instead, you should take this time to explore -- explore classes, explore subjects, explore books, and explore life. Don't whine about the homecoming game that your friends are forcing you to go to. Instead, enjoy the cheers and the pep rallies and the marching band, even if you don't know the first thing about football (like me). You might think you're above going to prom, but go anyway. It might end up being one of the best experiences of your life.

And most of all, class of 2017, realize how lucky you are. Because the truth is, I'm jealous of you. I am jealous at how much you still have to learn. I am jealous that you don't have to worry about leaving your family and friends behind in less than a year. I am jealous at how much time you still have, something that I fear is quickly running out for me. Don't take these things for granted.

You still have so much to learn. So learn it. Explore. Enjoy. Live. Most of all, don't be afraid to make mistakes. In just a few years, the classes you're in, the tests you take, and the people you sit with at lunch will all be a distant memory. Before you know it, you'll be a jaded senior working on college applications, ordering your cap and gown, and writing a letter to some high school freshmen.