Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2014. With the completion of your high school careers, you are no longer children. You’re not quite adults yet, either, but you are most definitely closer to adulthood than you are to being considered a child. And yes, that means even if you graduated less than 24 hours ago.
Now at the age of 25, I have seen what post-high school (and college) life is like and am currently experiencing what it is like in the “real world,” as you call it. I do not claim to be the all-powerful Oz, with answers to any and all questions you may have for the future, but I do have suggestions and advice for you that should make your transition from high school to college to life a bit smoother.
1. ENJOY THIS SUMMER: This is most likely the last summer you will really have to yourself. Depending on how many internships you do and/or what your work schedule will be like, you will probably be pretty busy the next couple of summers with something. If you have the luxury of not having much responsibility this summer, enjoy it.
2. IT’S NOT ‘VAN WILDER’: Despite whatever you see in movies, college is not one non-stop party. It’s great that movies show you all the “perks” of going to college in their 90-minute slot, but they don’t show you what the majority of what your actual college experience will be like (i.e. studying, doing actual work). Yes, you’ll go to parties; but most of the time, you’re working.
3. PROFESSORS ARE NOT THAT SCARY: One of the “scare tactics” my mother used on me in high school was to take my teachers up on their offers to help because in college, they don’t care about you. To a degree, this is true. Professors don’t care about you… if you don’t try. Don’t show up for class? They don’t care. Don’t participate in class? They don’t care. However, they do care about those who value their education. If you’re struggling or just want to do better, talk to them. Most (almost all I encountered) were willing to help if you ask for it.
4. DO AS MANY INTERNSHIPS AS POSSIBLE: I guess this depends on your field (I was communications and journalism), but I strongly suggest getting as much hands-on experience as possible. You will make contacts, learn a truckload and pad your resume for when you apply for jobs.
5. GO TO EVERY SPORTING EVENT POSSIBLE: I went to a local community college, then commuted about an hour each way after transferring to a four-year school. Neither school had a really big sports following (basketball started getting big my last two years) and I worked in the sports department, but be a fan of your teams. If you go to a big college or university, paint your face and do all of that crazy stuff, but don’t be moronic about it. Don’t be starting fights in the parking lot; it’s just a game. That arrest record will stick with you and it will not be worth it.
6. LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE: You probably already drink on a regular basis, or you will before the age of 21 (NOTE: I’m not condoning this, just stating facts). During your time at college, you must learn that you don’t need to get smashed every time you drink. Learn to drink socially. Getting obliterated every night is not “being cool,” it’s an alcohol addiction.
7. MEET PEOPLE: Whether you’re going to a local community college or a campus with hundreds of thousands of students, meet people. It’s fun to learn about people from different walks of life and it will be fun to keep in touch with them when you leave. Reuniting with people is an awesome thing to do, but you won’t get to experience it if you stay in the same circle of people.
8. THE JOB MARKET SUCKS: You probably already know this. With that in mind, use your four years at college to do everything in your power to get a job when you graduate. Employers will want a lot of work for little pay, so don’t be expecting a $50,000-per-year job to just be waiting for you along with your diploma.
9. THE WORLD OWES YOU NOTHING: To think you are entitled to anything is laughable. Unlike your professors, future employers will not be there to coddle you or help you with little problems. Future employers will not give you extensions on deadlines. Future employers don’t “deduct points” if you’re late with an assignment. Future employers will (rightfully so) yell at you when you mess up. Develop thick skin and remember that you will have to earn everything.
10. CONTROL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE: If you apply for a job, the first thing they’re going to do is Google you. With that being said, Google yourself right now. (Pauses, waits for you to Google yourself) Do you like what you see? Would you want that person as a representative of your company? If not, nip it in the bud now. Don’t curse on social media; don’t post pictures of you doing any illegal activities online (this ranges from petty crime, to underage drinking, to recreational marijuana use, to shooting up heroin, to committing murder). Social media is a terrific way to market yourself and help build your brand; but it is also the easiest way to get your job application deleted almost instantly.
11. GROW: Grow as a person. Become a more well-rounded individual and try to look at the world with a wider view, rather than just the way you know it. Respect your elders and develop a level of professionalism that comes with being an adult, regardless of what field you’re in.
12. DO GOOD: Yes, Boy Meets World fans, I’m quoting Mr. Feeny. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with No. 11, but in all seriousness, do some good. Volunteer somewhere; help someone out; make a difference. The only way the world will become a better place is if we change it for the better. You are the future. I’m not discounting myself from that group; I’m still relatively young and want to make a difference. I write for a newspaper, and so I do my best to make sure great stories are told about great people. Whatever it is you do when you leave college, do it well; but always strive to do good.