To Every High School Senior

By Rachel Ruth Tunney
Distinguished Young Woman of South Carolina for 2013
To Every High School Senior,
If I had a dollar for every time someone during my senior year of high school asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” I would be able to pay the out-of-state tuition here at Auburn University three times over- excluding my blessings of scholarships from the Distinguished Young Woman Program. It was like once I hit December of last year, suddenly I was supposed to have my entire life figured out: the school I was going to attend, the major I was going to select, a clear goal of how I was going to contribute to the world after college. It was enough pressure, it was enough insanity to make your head want to explode. I fell victim to such pressure, and thought about it constantly. At that point in time, with much thought, I figured out the answers to those tough questions quite confidently.
I was to be a proud member of the graduating class of 2017 for Columbia University in New York City, New York.
I was to major in political science, inching my way both into the political world and then into law school after that.
I was to continue my incessant passion of the arts by auditioning for anything and everything on and off Broadway. My dance skills and vocals would be fine-tuned to perfection and I would make my dance family proud.
I was to be surrounded by people who spoke in different tongues, who dressed in different ways, and who challenged the true strength behind my opinions and my rooted southern ways.
My rejection letter from Columbia University hit me harder than a stone anyone could throw.
Today, I am a happy student at Auburn University. Instead of subways, I ride around in pick-up trucks, and the southern drawl is the foreign language of campus. My Auburn was voted the Most Conservative University in the nation, and is embedded with traditional values and an insane love for football. I am okay with that.
I realized that politics made my head hurt, that movement is my true passion and that New York City will still be there when I graduate. After changing my major (three times now), I am part of the School of Kinesiology: Fitness, Conditioning, and Performance, and plan on sticking with it. My major allows me to continue my passion for dance with a new application- I now actually know WHY certain movements are good for the body and which ones to avoid. I understand the benefits of stretching, and coming next semester, I will be able to pinpoint all the muscles and bones of the human body.  
The one thing you can guarantee in life is change.
I hope you realize that you don’t need to know where you are going to be in five, ten, or even fifteen years from now. I hope you plan it all out and change it the very next day. I hope you end up in your field of study because you love it, not because it may earn you a whole lot of cash somewhere down the road. I hope you put yourself out there and stand up for what you believe in.
I hope you dream of city lights, and instead, end up in a cornfield surrounded by the crooning of Luke Bryan and the beautiful stars in the middle of Alabama. I hope you find friends who make you laugh just because. I hope you don’t rush to grow-up, but realize that life passes much too quickly for that. I hope you give your parents a hug every night, and let them know your gratitude, because a phone call every Sunday is never going to be enough. I hope you fall in love and fall out of it.
But most of all, I hope you realize nothing is ever written in stone. Don’t worry about having it all figured out, because you never will. The next time someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up…
…I hope you answer, “Me”.
Rachel Ruth Tunney <3
Rachel Ruth Tunney is a college freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama majoring in Fitness, Conditioning and Performance with a minor in Business. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Rachel was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of South Carolina for 2013. Learn more about Rachel here!
  • Janessa Palmer

    15th Nov 2013 at 18:26

    Rachel, you write so beautifully and honestly. Now I want to join you at Auburn!

  • Anonymous

    15th Nov 2013 at 23:22

    Great message Rachel! Loved it!
    – Maddy DYW of Nebraska 2013!

  • Katelyn Pyfer

    16th Nov 2013 at 06:48

    I’m so proud of you, baby girl! Such a profound, insightful letter. You craft words so beautifully :)

  • Jean Elizabeth

    19th Nov 2013 at 12:07


  • Brianna Bracey

    19th Nov 2013 at 17:42

    Beautiful message from a beautiful girl–inside and out. Miss you and love you even more!

  • Jimmienell Morgan

    21st Nov 2013 at 22:51

    Loved this:)

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