Post-Graduation Tips

A lot of you have graduated or will be graduating high school in the next few months. Congratulations! This is a major accomplishment, whether you realize it or not. In the US, about 1.2 million students drop out every year. That means roughly 25% of freshman won’t graduate on time.

So take your bow, because you deserve it.

But finishing high school intact is just the first part of the battle. For most of you (hopefully) you’re now looking at college in the fall. And that is its own battle.

But fear not. The key to a successful college career is far simpler than you realize.

For this entry, we’ll be focusing on the sort of things you can be doing this summer to prepare for that big move in the fall. Presumably, at this point, you’ve been accepted to your school of choice, and you’re just spinning your wheels until fall (don’t worry, there’s going to be an entry at a later point about choosing and applying to colleges).

So what should you be doing at this point to get ready for your first grown-up adventure?

Lesson 1: If you don’t have a part-time job already, look for one.

This is important for a few reasons. First, obviously, is money. Even if you have family who are going to be helping you, it is important to know the value of your own work. If you haven’t had a job before now, it will be a great chance to earn your own money, which can be used for dorm furnishings, or textbooks, or just for fun.

Another reason is that this experience can be great motive when you’re trudging through schoolwork. Why should you work on that essay? Because you want to qualify for jobs other than flipping burgers or working retail. Does a college education guarantee you won’t have to do that anyway? Well, no, but it certainly helps.

Lesson 2: Thinking about a major

This is something we’ll discuss in more detail later, but here’s what you should be thinking about for now. What’s something you can enjoy, and make a living at?

Don’t limit your thinking to what you can achieve with a bachelor’s degree. For example, my B.A. is in English. But I wanted my career to be in libraries or records management. So I’m getting my Masters in Library and Information Science. Because if you want anything other than an entry level position in a library, you have to have your Masters.

The important thing is to find a compromise between what you love and what you can live at. Now, if you can make a living doing what you love, fantastic! Follow your dream. But part of being an adult is being realistic. I love to craft and knit, but I do not have the skill level to do it professionally. I hope to one day own my own bookstore—but to do that, I need start-up capitol. To put myself in the best possible position for my dream to come true, I need to work and earn money. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something I enjoy in the meantime.

If you’re an artist, go to an arts school and learn a specialty that you can turn into a career. Love to write? Find a good program and be prepared to be ripped apart while you learn how to do it proper.

Maybe you love languages and want to be an interpreter. Studying language is great, but consider pairing it with a double in Business or Communications.

Keep in mind that for your first year or so, you’ll mostly be in general ed classes. You can change your major a couple of times without it damaging your time. Likely you’ve chosen your college in part based on the program of your interest, but keep in mind that you can usually change without much trouble.

Lesson #3: Preparing for the big move

If your school is somewhere you can visit ahead of time, see if you can get a look at the sort of dorm you’re going to be in. This is a great chance to take measurements and get a good physical idea of the space. If you can’t visit, inquire with your school contact about room measurements and any details.

You’re always going to overpack your first couple of semesters. But you can try to minimize this with some foresight. Spend the next couple of months trying to determine what you can and can’t live without. If you want to take your DVDs, a sleeve style book will save a lot of space. Unless you know that you’ll be living alone, take into consideration the fact that you’ll be sharing a room.

Lesson #4: Have fun!

Enjoy this time with your friends and family. You’re about to enter into a transition period where you’re not going to be seeing your family as often. For some of you, that will be a good thing. For others, it will be harder.

Got any specific questions about preparing for college? Send me a message!

Advertisements

Step One: Get Real

I’m not going to delude anyone into thinking that growing up isn’t really hard, especially when the economy sucks and everyone is losing their minds over stupid shit. I would hate to be 18 today. I’m also not going to pretend that I have all the answers. I can accept that there are things about life that I have yet to learn. That said, I’ve learned an awful lot in the last twelve years, and most of it, no one taught me. I learned the good ol’ fashioned way: by falling on my butt and screwing up.

So, I’m doing this to try and help you out, whether you’re about to graduate college, are living at home, or just don’t know where to go next. I want to show you how to navigate the scary grown-up world. Because it’s going to be hard enough, without you having to learn everything through screwing up.

And the first step is this: GET REAL! We live in a society where adolescence has been safely extended into the early 20s, at least until a college education is completed. For years we wrapped our young people up in cocoons of safety, telling them that they are precious and talented and with that college degree, they’ll be able to do whatever they want!

Only it turned out not to be true. The economy tanked, unemployment went through the roof, and people lost their homes. Suddenly everything got turned on its head, and that four year degree turned out to not be worth very much after all. And while things are slowly recovering, people are starting to wake up and realize that the system is broken. We’re mad as heck and we’re not gonna take it anymore! So we protest in our tents and wave our signs and tell Wall Street that they suck. And you know what? That’s fine. People should be mad. Things definitely need to change.

But what does all of this mean for you? For the guy or girl just starting out, what does it matter if people are protesting and the system is in shambles? You still have to pay the rent. The fact is, daily life doesn’t change based on the state of the world around you. You still have to make a living. You still have to pay your bills, and your taxes, and try to prepare for your future. If you’re involved in trying to change the world, great! That’s the only way things are going to change. But let’s get real. At the end of the day, you still need to be able to provide for yourself, and eventually, your family.

So it’s time to pull your head out of your ass. College may have filled your head about how awesome you’re going to be, and how much potential you have, and you know what? To an extent, that’s true. You do have a lot of potential, and one of the things we’ll look at eventually is how you can start changing the world–even if it’s just your little corner of it. But let’s keep in mind the realities of the situation. You still have to eat. You still need a place to live. And while living with your family may not be terrible, the truth is that your parents want you out. They may not kick you out on the street, but their goal was to raise a fully-functioning adult. Not an eternal teenager. Sure, they’re willing to help you out, because they love you. But they want to see you make it on your own, as much as you want to make it on your own.

 

For a really great article on the problems of our generation, check out John Cheese’s 5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation over at Cracked.com.