A Word From Our Graduates

Dowling graduates offer advice to current and future high school students.


Lily Finstad

Former Dowling students offer advice to current and future Dowling students.

Lily Finstad, Staff Writer

As 17 and 18-year-olds, we’re expected to make permanent life decisions, but in reality, we’re still so young. As senior year progresses, deadlines approach, forcing young teenagers to make up their minds in an attempt to predict their own futures. Maturing can’t be forced, and teaching your kids to be self-sufficient while they’re still young is basically a dead end. It’s okay to be immature as a teenager because regret is inevitable and unavoidable. What’s wrong is, 17 and 18-year-olds are having to quickly learn the meaning of debt and finance while they’re still working part-time jobs at daycares and fast-food restaurants. Kids, discussing loans, affording college and housing when they can’t even do their own laundry. It’s safe to say that forcing young teenagers to grow up so fast and so suddenly is unfair and we need to take a step back to enjoy and avoid rushing these last few years of childhood. So how can you do that? Try focusing a little bit more on the present, because these 4 years fly by and once it’s over there’s no going back. 


So, let’s stop and take a minute to seek out some ways in which we can make high school as enjoyable and as fun as possible while we still can. That way, we keep the regrets to a minimum, and successfully plan for our future without skipping over the present. I know we’ve all had those older siblings who relentlessly badger us to get overly involved in clubs or to stick with that sport you wanted to quit. Well, I speak from personal experience when I say that I’ve ignored all the advice too. But, who better to give advice, than the ones who have ‘been there and done that’ (Dowling Alumni). So I guess my first piece of advice for you all would be to listen to the people around you because they know what they’re talking about, even if it may be annoying. Here are a few extra opinions just in case you wanted more…


  • Jack Finstad (Graduated: 2018): “Stop and take a look around to cherish the relationships not only built with your classmates but your teachers, coaches, and faculty as well. These are relationships you will take with you for the rest of your life, and you will always remember the valuable life lessons they gave.” 


  • Anna Kirchoff (Graduated: 2020): “Be open to trying anything. Go to the random club meeting your friends are talking about, or if you’re thinking about trying a sport or art, show up and do it! The best experiences and friendships I made at Dowling were from things I never thought I would be doing. I was a sprinter in track and showed up to cross country practice and loved it. You never know until you try it so go do it, because looking back you won’t regret it, I promise!”


  • Charlie Meyers (Graduated: 2020): “Getting involved is a great way to get to know people which will help you make connections in the future. Being part of various activities helps you meet new people and get to know your class and the Dowling community even more than you did before.”


  • Jessica Thomas (Graduated: 2019): “If I was in high school again I would have spent a lot more time trying to be friends with more people. In high school, it’s really easy to get caught up with labels and worry that you can only stick to a certain group of friends, but that’s not true. I have friends now that went to Dowling, but we never talked until we came to college, and I wish I could go back and be more outgoing because the friendships you make in high school are so worth the while.”


  • Riley O’halloran (Graduated: 2021): “You will hear this a million times in your life, but stay true to yourself and don’t try to be like everyone else. Your personality is what makes you different from everyone else and it is what attracts others to you. Be yourself and friendships, relationships, and school will even come naturally. If I were in high school again, I would be more social and open to new experiences. I would go to as many events and games as I could, especially freshman year. I would also talk to more people in my classes because you never know who you might click with. By senior year, I was friends with so many more people than freshman year, and I wish I could have known those individuals longer!”


  • Andrea Parenza (Graduated: 2018): “Follow your dreams! Always take the chances in life that may seem scary because they will always pay off in the end. In my favorite song by Cody Johnson, Johnson says, ‘If you got a dream, chase it, cause a dream won’t chase you back.’ These are words to live by!”


  • Hayden Jensen (Graduated: 2020): “These 4 years of high school are not going to be the best years of your life, and if you think that, your life is going to be so so so very sad. Don’t marry your high school partner; there are so many people out there that are so different and have lived a different life than you. That perspective is good for you. Don’t hold on to friends who couldn’t care less about you; all you are going to end up doing is hurting yourself.”


  • Brandon Lampe (Graduated: 2018): “I would say go into it with an open mind, and take every opportunity that comes to you. You only get four years that fly by, so don’t take any of that for granted because you’ll leave and you’ll just be wanting to go back.”


  • Will Finstad (Graduated: 2015): “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Whether it be with school work, friends, sports, etc. Focus on the big things and if the small things here and there don’t go your way, it’ll all be okay.” 


  • Isabell Ahman (Graduated: 2020): “Try to get to know more people in your grade before it gets to senior year that you could’ve had years of memories with before that!”


  • Meghan Sheridan (Graduated: 2020): “I would advise anyone in high school to attend as many events as possible. Go to things like school dances, sports games, choir concerts, etc. After high school, you won’t get some of those opportunities or experiences, and looking back, I wish I had cared more about going to them!”


  • Hayden Jensen (Graduated: 2020): “If I was in high school again I wouldn’t care as much. I can’t believe how much energy I put into getting people to like me when I didn’t like those people and who they were. Also, I would actually speak up for myself.”


  • Andrea Parenza (Graduated: 2018): “If I was in high school again I’d 100% be more involved. You always hear peers say these things later in life because it’s true. Being more involved opens so many doors and helps you find what you are truly passionate about! Also I would spend more time with my parents. Being in college doesn’t allow me to see them often, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them! Thank your parents often!”


  • Jack Finstad (Graduated: 2018): “If I was in high school again I would definitely get more involved. I know this is a cliche answer that probably everyone gives, but it’s true. My senior year I decided to go out for rugby and it turned out to be one of the best/most enjoyable experiences I had in high school.”


It’s safe to say that everyone has had a different high school experience, and the person to your left and right in the hallways will probably disagree with you on a few things. That’s why it’s important to create your own individual high school experience because no one lives your life or walks in your shoes. So, on that note, take advice with a grain of salt. So, when my brother Jack tells you to join rugby, it doesn’t mean ‘join rugby,’ it means challenge yourself and do things outside of the box. Anna Kirchhoff did this and took the risk of trying a new sport and grew to love it so much. You won’t regret trying new things, especially if you find something you like. The common theme here is to reach out to those around you and get to know people through shared interests. 


Yes, I guess you could say I’m telling you to get involved, which sounds so boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Just be yourself, because that way you’re on the right track. Slow down a bit, don’t let senioritis ruin your last year here, even if it hits you as a junior (praying for you if that’s the case). I guess what I’m saying is, don’t skip the step that is high school, there’s a lot to be learned here, and don’t let the days blur together. Finally, listen to the people around you, but don’t be blindsided when one day you have regrets too because everyone has regrets, but taking advice here and there may just keep your regrets to a minimum.