How Starting College Can Mean Starting Fresh:
I didn't take high school seriously, and I hung out with what some people might refer to as the "partier crowd". After starting college, I became a straight-laced pre-med student who studied 80+ hours a week.
My sister has a similar story. She was kind of a rule-breaker in middle school, but when she got to high school, she became a studious "choir-nerd" (her words, not mine!). She says it was like a switch just flipped in her mind. She'd always known she wanted to go to a competitive college (Vanderbilt University, double major, class of 2010, thank you very much!), and she knew she needed to do well in high school for that to happen.
The Secret is, it's Your Choice:
Get involved in your own development. Your life will be better if who you are is a choice you actively make, not an unintended consequence.
My mom - a child and family therapist who can put a positive spin on just about anything (probably even the apocalypse) - says it's natural and necessary for kids and teenagers to "try on different hats". She says this is how they discover not "who they are", but the much more important: who they wish to be.
Now that I'm a bit older, I understand her a little better (go figure!) - I wasn't a "bad kid" in high school or a "good kid" in college. I was simply an explorer - and still am.
We are not who we were yesterday. We are not stuck.
More so than any other group, college freshman have the freedom to decide and discover who they wish to be - no matter who they were before. They can reinvent themselves, should they wish to do so. College offers students the power to choose (what to buy, where to eat, when to come home). It's a power most high school students have never experienced, and it must be said...
What Students Starting College Really Need to Know:
I don't think we need to tell upcoming freshman to "choose wisely". They've heard it before, too often. What they need to hear (what we ALL need to hear) is this: We Have a Choice. We do not have to be the sum of our parts, they product of our situation, the natural chemical reaction. We can choose to be whatever we want. We can try on as many hats as we want, wear as many hats as we want, and remove whatever hats we decide are unflattering. It just requires us to be more involved in our own personal development.