While home for a short break between my third year at University and the start of my summer job, I was asked to give the graduating class at my high school a few post-grad tips. I’m not much of a public speaker, and on top of that I didn’t really prepare much to say. We only had a few minutes and I was nervous.
As luck would have it, on my drive home from the school I thought of a multitude of tips and advice that I wished someone would have told me after my high school graduation.
1. If you’re not going to a 4 year college, that’s okay. No one walks the exact same path. It is more than okay if you’ve chosen a path that takes you across the world, to a technical college, into military service, into the workforce, or anywhere that is not a stereotypical 4 year college.
2. Go to class. This seems like a no brainer, but when you get to college there’s a newfound independence. Only you can hold yourself accountable. Going to class isn’t always fun. In fact, a lot of times it can be very boring. But I say go to class because it’s the easiest way to learn the material you’ll need to know. The more hours you put in the classroom, the less you should have to do outside the classroom.
3. Make at least one friend in your classes. There will be days when you can’t get to class. That is life. But if you’ve become friendly with at least one person, you have someone you can call in order to catch up on information. You also have someone you can ask for help if you are not ready to go to the professor.
4. Meet your professors and TAs. I have gone whole semesters without talking to my professors. Lecture halls can hold 200+ students and that can be very intimidating. If you aren’t comfortable approaching the professor, approach the TA. Yes, they are there to make your professor’s life easier, but they are also there to make your life easier.
5. Read your syllabi. Especially if you have to sign it. Your syllabus is a contract between you and your teacher. If there is a grade dispute, you can go to your syllabus and have written proof of what was promised. Schedules and assignments will change – things happen. But if you find a grade dispute, you can reference your syllabus as evidence. (I’ve done this).
6. Prioritize. There are many aspects to this. First, prioritize what work needs your attention most. If you are struggling in a class, especially one that is imperative to your GPA or your major, you might want to consider putting that work on a higher priority than another class you are doing well in. C’s get degrees. Now, I wouldn’t aim to get a C in all your classes, because that will not turn out best in the long run. But if you’ve worked hard, and done the best you can in a crummy situation, be proud of that C. You have still passed a class. Finally, prioritize school and social obligations. By all means you do not have to be holed up in the library every night. But if you find your work slipping because you’ve chosen to ignore your academics in lieu of social encounters, you might need to take a step back and evaluate what your goals are and what it is going to take to get there.
7. Ask for help. No one expects you to be able to do everything on your own. So many mistakes are made in this stage of life, and that is okay. Do not be afraid to go to a peer, a colleague, a coworker, anyone you trust, and ask for help. Everyone struggles, but no one has to do it alone.
8. Be respectful to yourself and others. Respect goes a long way. You will get farther in life if you show the people around you respect. You are more likely to succeed with respect, and you are less likely to find yourself in trouble if you are respectful. It’s also extremely important to have respect for yourself. You deserve that.
9. Call your parents. At the end of high school most people feel like they need to get as far away from their parents as possible. You might. Sometimes some distance actually does make the heart grow fonder. Just don’t forget that your parents still love you and need to hear you say that you’re doing ok. My trick? Call your parents when you’re walking to class so you only have a finite amount of time to talk to them. You’ll be happy because you didn’t have to talk to them for an hour and they’ll be happy because you called.
10. Don’t forget about your friends from home. You’re going to meet so many new people, no matter where your path has taken you. But it is important to keep in touch with old friends. You’ll be home for a school break or something and want to see them – you can only spend so much time with your family.
11. Take care of yourself. Eating some semblance of a balanced diet is important for your health. Also don’t be afraid to go to the doctor if you feel sick. We get one body, so treat it well. The same goes for mental health. This time in your life will throw new challenges your way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a specialist or someone you trust to discuss what is on your mind, and how you’re feeling. Maintaining good mental health is just as important as maintaining good physical health.
12. Use protection.
13. Get involved. Find a group, club, or organization that you feel passionately about. It doesn’t have to be the biggest group, but if you care about the people, the cause, or the mission statement get involved!
14. It’s okay if your roommate situation doesn’t work out. You and your best friend might not actually be compatible to live together. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being friends. It also might not work out with the random roommate, or the roommate you talked to a couple times on Facebook prior to moving in. It happens, there’s nothing wrong with you.
15. Follow your passion. Some people’s passion is to become an engineer, businessman/woman, a scientist, a doctor, or maybe a lawyer. We need all those people. But some people’s passion is to become a musician, a composer, a film producer, or a dancer, and we need those people too. If you find yourself on a path you are no longer passionate about, it is okay to change your path. You may find yourself transferring schools, changing jobs, or changing majors and needing to stay longer in school. All of this is okay. Be proud of yourself for being true to yourself. Success is not measured on a definite scale. You determine your own definition of success, and it is up to you to achieve your goals.
Graduates, congratulations on completing such a monumental achievement. Graduating from high school is no small feat, so you should be proud. Now you’re headed onto a new chapter in your life. There is no reason that you can’t succeed so long as you are prepared to put in the work. Remember that you don’t have to do it all alone, there will always be people willing to help you.