This past weekend, my husband and I attended the high school graduation of his youngest brother. As every graduation past, the valedictorian and salutatorian gave encouraging speeches to their classmates. With themes such as be more like Spongebob Squarepants and less like Squidward. The whole time I thought, someone needs to give these kids some real life advice.
And I think this person should be me.
Why, you ask. Because I’m 35. I’ve been out of high school just long enough to experience life, but I don’t quite consider myself an actual grown up. But I’ve done some stuff, seen some stuff and said some stuff that would benefit them more than listening to the girl they sat next to in calculus.
So here is my advice (brace yourselves):
Enjoy every single minute of college.
For many, going to college right after high school is a time of no responsibilities. Where bills, family obligations, and full time jobs likely don’t dominate your life. (Yes, I am completely aware that this isn’t the case for everyone. I’m speaking in generalities here, people.) And let me be the first to tell you to enjoy every single minute of it.
Now, this isn’t advice telling you not to go to class or to do stupid stuff. The reason life is good right now is because school is your only responsibility. You screw that up and you’re thrown right into the real world.
What I’m saying is live in the moment. Go to the parties. Eat the Taco Bell. Join the sorority. No other time in your life will you get to live like this.
Too tired to hang out with friends? Get over it. One day, you will want to see them and it will take 6 months to schedule dinner with them.
Too broke to study abroad? Apply for every single scholarship, take another job, figure it out. My biggest regret is not studying abroad in some fashion while in college.
Take all the risks. Take all the trips. Live as far away from your normal as you are comfortable. College is the best time of your life. Be present in the moment.
Always write thank you cards.
My mentor and good friend taught me the art of writing thank you cards. No one gets regular mail anymore. If they do, it’s likely a bill or something bad.
So take the time to handwrite a thank you note. I know. It’s tedious and can take forever. But it’s worth it.
Write thank yous for whatever occasion. It can be for a gift, to someone with whom you interview, or to just say hello. Do not underestimate how writing a thank you note can make you stand out of a crowd.
It’s okay not to know what to do with the rest of your life at 18.
Yeah, some people do. Some people know from a young age they want to be a doctor, teacher, lawyer, whatever. And then there are those of us that are 35 and have no idea.
If you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life, relax. You’re fine. Use college as the opportunity to explore different career paths. Take basic level classes on different subjects to get a feel. Do internships with different professionals to see what those jobs are really like. Don’t think for a minute your whole life must be figured out by the time graduation comes.
Pick a marketable major.
Sure. Women’s studies is an honorable major. But wouldn’t you serve women better by being a doctor or scientist that discovers a cure for breast cancer?
I always tell my nieces that it is great to have a talent or passion or hobby you wish to pursue in college. I’m not telling you not to do so. However, also choose a major that will fund your passion. Want to run your own bakery one day? Get a business degree. Don’t pick a major that puts you in significant debt simply because you wanted to pursue your passion. There are ways to do both.
Use Amazon book rentals for your text books.
No, seriously. Your book store will over charge you for a book you’ll use once all semester. Then when you try to sell it back, you’ll get a quarter of what you paid. Amazon will save you so much money. Seriously. Do it.
If you don’t want to go to college, don’t.
Are you not the school type? Great! Learn a skilled trade. Our society forces college on everyone, but in reality, it isn’t for all students. My husband works in engineering and manufacturing. He constantly talks about the need for skilled trade workers.
So instead of wasting your time in college, find a skill that makes you valuable. Be a pipefitter, an electrician, a HVAC repair man. Whatever. Your value isn’t based on what college you went, but how hard you work to be successful in whatever field you choose.
Finally, don’t go to law school.
No, seriously. Unless you want to be a litigator, going to law school is a giant waste of time and money. (Disclaimer: I’m currently in my last year of law school so I might be a little biased on this one.)
What real life pro-tips do you experienced folks have for graduating students?