It was the beginning of my second semester in 11th grade, and our English teacher Ms.Drabman was welcoming us back from winter break. Suddenly the classroom’s phone rang, It was the counselor looking for Saned Ziad to go downstairs to the office.I went downstairs to her office and talked about my academic performance. She told me that I passed my fifth regents exam and that I have 45 high school credits on my transcript which was enough for me to graduate a year early. I was surprised and thought to myself that’s great news until she interrupted my thoughts when she said “You should consider going for an advanced high school diploma” so I asked about it and whether it’s worth spending 3 more semesters in high school.

She proceeded to sell me the idea saying “To graduate with an advanced high school diploma you have to take advanced placement classes trigonometry, calculus and take 4 more regents exams. It will look good and you’ll get accepted at prestigious colleges” I was hesitant but she insisted that she believed that I can achieve it and gave some more talk about success and hard work. I agreed and worked 3 more hard semesters with more academic burdens and stress. In the process I gained weight I stopped being active and focused more on my studies. When I finally graduated I was third in my class with a GPA of 93.6.

During graduation day I asked my friend to see his diploma and compare it to mine, and when I did, the only difference I saw was a sticker. It was literally an easily peeled off sticker on my diploma like the ones I used to get in elementary school for doing a good job on my homework. On the sticker it said “Advanced Regents Diploma” I was surprised that my diploma didn’t have a different theme since it was supposed to be “advanced”. A couple of months later, I was looking into colleges to apply to and everytime I select level of education I never saw any selection about an advanced high school diploma only “High School Diploma GED or equivalent”. In fact It did not matter to colleges especially public universities like CUNY and SUNY and then I knew that I have been scammed.

After that incident I never trusted to opinions of others especially those that suggest something for my personal professional path and especially coming from people that I don’t know on a personal level. That students’ counselor suggested that I wait a year and half of my life in a stressful environment for absolutely nothing. Everytime I think about it to this day that I could’ve left high school with a legitimate normal diploma on February 2015 instead of June 2016. It bothers me so much to know that there are such school faculty that care more about school graduation rates more than students academic well being. Since then I never trusted any counselor, mentor or academic advisor because I came to believe that no one knows my priorities and what’s good for me more than myself. I carried that same mentality to the military and since I enlisted I’ve only seen my career advisor once which was the second day after taking my oath, and I don’t see myself visiting his office any time soon despite the emails and calls I get from him.