A little over a year ago, I graduated from Stanford University Online High School. In the above video, you can watch clips from the day of my graduation, including my graduation speech.
I had not watched this video in quite a few months until this morning, but it still conjures up feelings of immense accomplishment and happiness. My high school experience was very different from most - being online meant that an extraordinary amount of self-discipline was required, which I didn't always have. It was also frequently a lonely experience. But the education I received was, in my opinion, unparalleled and the community, though physically distant, was very supportive, as you can probably tell by the video.
The lesson I spoke of in my speech (living without fear of the wrong answer in order to learn in freedom) still rings true today. I struggle with avoiding certain classes because I'm afraid I won't get the grades I want and with trying not to be perfectionistic so I can enjoy the learning process.
During freshman year (2011-2012) I took honors general chemistry. It was incredibly difficult for me. To make matters worse, I started doing the exact opposite of what I prescribed in my speech -- I compared myself to other students that could study for one hour and get better scores than me, even though I would study the same material for three hours.
Obviously, some level of comparison naturally happens, but it's important not to get carried away. I must remind myself over and over there will always be someone who appears smarter/better/insert-your-own-adjective than you. The battle is not necessarily with them, but with yourself - to accomplish and learn more than the previous year.
This is a little advice for the class of 2016: work hard, but also be realistic about the goals you set for yourself. Most importantly, be fearless.
Hope this wasn't too didactic, but these are lessons I constantly must remind myself of.