Editor's note: "American Idol" finalist and Utahn Carmen Rasmusen writes columns about this season's show.

Dear David,

Wow! YOU MADE IT TO THE FINALE! Congratulations!

Do you realize what you've just accomplished? What that really means?

It means that you've managed to win over not only three of the toughest and most prestigious judges in America, but also millions of fans across the country. It means that you've already placed in either second or first out of thousands of "Idol" hopefuls who've tried out and competed on the show this year. It means you're really on your way.

I'll bet this has been one heck of a roller-coaster ride for you. Trust me, it doesn't have to end here. In fact, the fun is just beginning!

Now, I didn't have near the success that you're having right now, but I have been down this same road and thought you may want some advice from a former Utah "Idol" as you begin this exciting, new life in the entertainment industry.

First, for the finale: Remember that you've already won. I'm not necessarily talking about the whole show — although I'd say the odds are pretty good! You're at a point now where you don't have to win to have an extremely successful career.

You've got a million things going for you: You've got one heck of a great voice, you have awesome stage presence, you're likable, you're humble, you're very good-looking (remember when Paula said you make her want to squish you, pop off your head and hang it from her rear-view mirror?) and you've got a good head on your shoulders.

Go out there tonight and pull out all the stops. Don't hold anything back. Remember when you're singing that you are living a dream that not many people ever get to live. So, enjoy every moment.

No matter what happens Wednesday night, be happy and grateful. (Or rather, stay happy and grateful.) You've been given the chance of a lifetime, so be sure to thank everyone connected with the show (Ken, Nigel, Byrd, Simon, Paula, Randy, Patrick, etc.) for helping make your dreams come true.

Be prepared for life to get a whole lot busier. (I know you're thinking, "Is that possible?") It can be tough doing interview after interview when all you really want to do is find a quiet place to be alone and think for just a minute! Your schedule will be crazy, but it won't last forever. Ride the wave, and make sure to eat and drink plenty — you need the energy!

David, after the thrill of the "American Idol" tour is over, you're going to be on your own. It's going to be weird not having that little "family" around you. Get everyone's numbers and keep in touch.

Life changes too quickly. Don't forget about the friendships you've made. The first thing you need to do — even right after the show ends — is find some time to sit down and make two lists: goals and priorities.

Really take time to think about what's important to you. Keep the lists with you at all times, so when you're faced with a sketchy situation, you don't have to second-guess yourself. You'll already know what to do.

The second thing you need to do is find a good manager who is willing to work hard with your best interests in mind. There will be many people wanting to make money off of you now that you're a household name. Trust yourself and your instincts. Rely on help from those older and wiser than you. Read the fine print. And don't worry — you'll know who to work with.

After the "Idol" tour, I decided to take a year away from music. I moved down to Provo and attended Brigham Young University. It probably wasn't the smartest thing for my career, but it was something I needed to do for me.

You, on the other hand, have more momentum than I did! You should strike while the iron is hot! You can do anything you want. People are going to offer you gigs from bar mitzvahs to Broadway. Figure out what makes you happy and then go for it, full steam ahead. You'll never be in demand quite like this again, so take serious advantage of that opportunity.

Last but not least, be sure to always say, "Thank you." A small gesture of gratitude goes a long way.

You've got the world at your fingertips, David Archuleta! Go chase your dreams.

Your fellow "Idol" friend,

Carmen


Utah recording artist and actress Carmen Rasmusen-Herbert came in sixth place during the second season of "American Idol." She wrote about her experiences in her book "Staying in Tune." Her first full album is "Nothin' Like the Summer," featuring the single of the same name. E-mail: features@desnews.com