You’ve finally got that diploma. You walked across the stage. You threw your mortarboard. Congratulations! You finally did it! Whether high school or college, graduation is an exciting, life-changing event. However, when the excitement fades, reality begins to set in and the prospect of life as a graduate seems a little bit more daunting.
1) Think before you act.
Yes, the world is open with possibilities. You can do anything and everything you’ve always wanted to do. College, graduate school, or freedom awaits you and it’s hard to not jump on every opportunity that comes up. If one university offers you a scholarship, don’t automatically assume it’s the school for you. Check out your options, weigh the pros and cons. Consider tuition and housing costs at every school on your list. Above all, visit campuses and try to get a feel for the people and the area. Many college tours will allow you to attend a class to get an idea of what it’s really like to be a student there. Take advantage of these opportunities and get all the facts before jumping in.
Likewise, if you are beginning a career, it isn’t always wise to accept the first job offer that comes your way. Play the field. A great offer is a great offer, but it’s better to consider all the possibilities before beginning a job than to blindly take a job and hate it from the very first day.
2) Check out your debt.
Bite the bullet, college students. Log on to your student loan account and look at your principal balance. Check out your interest rates and the payment plans (or deferments/continuances) available to you. Loans typically have a grace period, but six months seems a lot shorter when it isn’t dotted with finals, term papers, and parties. Time flies, so be VERY aware of when your repayment begins.
3) Keep in touch.
Many high school students can’t wait to get away from mom and dad to make new friends and have new experiences. However, college freshmen are exceedingly prone to depression and anxiety due to the new circumstances of being away from home and the sometimes-overwhelming challenges of a college course load. Call your parents or family at least once a week, even if it’s just to check in. Don’t just call when you need bail or book money. Your parents are going through a big change too, so try to be sensitive to their feelings. Keeping in touch with friends and family is also much easier with the advent of Facebook and Twitter. Old friendships may be a lifeline when all of the stress gets to be too much.
4) Don’t keep too much in touch.
College can be a wild time for a lot of people. Don’t plaster your pictures from that one crazy frat party all over Facebook. Most employers will check you out on the internet, so make sure to maintain a respectable web presence.
5) Study. Go to class. Do your work.
These are the most important (if obvious) bits of advice for any graduate. They are also often the first to go out the window when you start college. But either you or your parents are paying sometimes as much as a thousand dollars per credit hour per class to be there, so go! Don’t skip in favor of a pub crawl, or a pep rally, or anything else. Learn something and make the most of it. Remember that your major is supposed to be something you enjoy and are capable of performing well in. Change your major if necessary.
6) Get your name out there.
This is likely the most important piece of advice for graduates who are seeking to establish a career. While on the job hunt, apply to as many jobs as you are qualified for. In this extremely competitive job market, good jobs are scarce. Get your resume out there to as many people as possible and network with friends, family members, even acquaintances. Find out who’s hiring and go, in person, to put in your resume or application. Put your very best foot forward and make sure that you’re hot on the trail of every job you hear about.
Graduation is a big change, but it’s also a time of opportunity. Take advantage of social events, get involved, get out and meet people. Don’t get bogged down in fear or anxiety. Enjoy the new challenges and make the most of this time!