Six Tips Every Graduating High School Senior Should Know
by: Bridget Bailey
High schools all over the U.S. are gearing up for one of the most important dates of the year: graduation. As Seniors prepare to move their tassels, there are many thoughts going through their minds. Despite the cliché, they are at a very real crossroad in their lives. Many are asking themselves where they want to go in life and the very big question of “What’s next?” Well, we took to our social media accounts to ask just what are some of the most important tips that our readers have for graduating seniors.
1.) It’s okay not knowing…
Do not feel in a rush to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. Most people don’t know what they want to be at 18 years old. Do your research first. See which jobs will be still viable in 10-15 years. The job market is always changing. If you are going to college and are unsure of what you want to study, that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it could work to your benefit. Danielle says, “Don’t declare a major until after you have taken your general classes. You do a lot of growing in those two years, so let that growth happen, get a job, experience the world, adjust to your new reality, then declare!”
This is the same if you are not going to college. Sometimes, you have to try different internships and work experiences till you know what it is you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to reach out to various companies to see about doing internships so you can get a feel of what it is like working in that field. You have the rest of your life to figure it out, these are just the very first steps.
2.) Is college the right path for me?
This is a question worth asking yourself. College is an amazing, worthwhile experience but it is also a massive four year undertaking. College is not for everyone and that is okay. There are other career paths in life such as going to technical school, apprenticeships, internships, or just going straight into the workforce. If you are considering college, remember that it is a financial commitment, as well. Student loans are no joke. It is in your best interest to see what kinds of funding opportunities are out there. If you are unsure what to do but still want to go on to higher education, Stephanie suggests, “Go to a cheap, two-year local college first to get your basics and give yourself time to figure out what you want to do. Save university years for when you're most sure of your major/career path. This will help save money in the long run.” Running yourself into ground with debt is far from ideal. Don’t take out frivolous loans. It is best to have a financial strategy before you go into it and seek advice from a financial adviser to help you understand the terminology and what exactly you are getting yourself into. It is your financial future, after all.
Another reader suggested that taking time out and traveling might be the best option for some as a way to discover yourself and what you really want. This is called a Gap Year. The world is waiting for you and at times, you need to take the leap and seize it. In the infamous words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost."
3.) If college is the right path for you...
You have decided that you want to go on to college and you have the financial aspects in order, then it is best to be prepared. College is not the same as high school. The work is more intensive and you are responsible for ensuring that your assignments are done. There will be no weekly reminders that this test or that assignment is due. No one is there holding your hand. As you will find out, all professors have an infamous saying, “It’s on the syllabus.” They are not joking. Everything you want to find out about a class is on the syllabus. So, make certain that you check it and make note of important dates. Joe recommends, “Get an agenda and mark out when assignments or projects are due. This will serve as a reminder to yourself. Also, try starting your assignments at least a week in advance. Advocate for yourself, if you have both a big project and exam due at the same time, speak with the professor and see if you can have an extension on the project. And, of course, visit in person and then send an e-mail stating everything that was said. It is always best to document.” Remember, when you are in college, you are the one that chose to be there and you are paying for those grades out of your own pocket.
4.) Plan ahead and make changes…
It always helps to make a five year plan to record your goals. If you aren’t sure, that is okay, just visualize your dreams and the steps that can help you get there. This will help you move towards what you ideally want to be doing. It is important that you keep an open mind about your options for the future. At this stage, maybe you aren’t sure what you are passionate about. That’s okay. It is fine to change your mind and discover what you really like. Ensure that you do not make plans or career choices based on what your friends are doing. They aren’t you and they aren’t living your life. Only you are.
There are practical changes to make, too. For example, if your e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org (no offense to angel babies!) it might be time for something more adult and suitable for the professional world. Typically this includes your first and last name, like John.Doe@gmail.com or JDoe@gmail.com. Another point is to create or update your resume/CV. Linkedin is, also, a very useful tool to find jobs, internships, and work experience. It can be your best friend if you are going straight into the workplace. If you have the opportunity, get a parent, guardian, or guidance counselor to look over it, proofread, and make suggestions. You want to be as professional as possible, and typos or misspellings are the surest route to looking careless and unprofessional.
5.) Begin networking...
It is never too early to begin networking and making new contacts that could help you in your future. This can be professors, guidance counselors, bosses, co-workers, and the like. With this in mind, do not ever hesitate at a moment to introduce yourself to someone new. Yes, it can be awkward and intimidating but you never know what kind of connection you will make and who they can introduce you to. These same people can add to your network and become close allies when you are fully into the job market. Not only can networking enrich your life but these contacts can write recommendations and character assessments for you in the future.
6.) Enjoy yourself and the journey...
It should go without saying but it is incredible how many people overlook this aspect. Much of the time, we keenly feel societal pressures. It is all around us from the media we consume down to our own families. If you decide to go to college, take different kinds of classes. Don’t just choose those in your major, try all different sorts. Take time out to travel. Lindsey says, “Live the life you want, not the life everyone expects of you.” Life is more than just going to college, getting married, having 2.3 children, and working till retirement age. Life is exactly what you make of it. So enjoy it. You don’t have to have it all figured out by 18 or even 28. One of the most wonderful things you can do is explore to see what it is you love and what brings passion to your life. And whatever that is, we wish you all the success in the world, graduates.