No matter how you felt about high school years, they are almost done. ‘The Future’ is not a vague collection of eventual experiences anymore. It is here. Graduation marks your first steps into the world. As a guidance counselor and college advisor for almost a decade, I’d like to offer some advice to the class of 2014:
Finalize plans for the fall. Whether your plans are to enroll in college, start a vocational education program, find employment, enlist in the military, participate in a gap year program, travel abroad, or a combination of the above, plans should be finalized beforehand. Procrastinators beware: school personnel tend to scatter over the summer. It’s going to be a challenge to get that letter of recommendation or extra transcript in July. Collect all necessary documents from your high school before the end of the term.
Expect Change. This new phase of life is going to be full of interesting revelations. New academic and romantic interests will be discovered. Groups of friends are fluid and evolving. The career you thought you’d pursue might not be the one you ultimately practice. This is fine. (Yes, really). It’s all part of growing up.
Talk to Strangers. Social interactions are an important part of young adulthood, and this time of life marks a peak in a willingness for individuals to add to their circle. Be prepared to meet people in all kinds of interesting places: on line for the bathroom at a concert, in a class, or in a dormitory. Making new friends is good for you. It might even be a good networking move. Keel in mind that Ben and Jerry met in a school gym class before creating an ice cream empire. Who knows where this your new friendships might lead?
Your happiness is determined by more than the school you attend. Many students put a lot of value on a college name, thinking that their attendance at a highly-ranked university is essentially winning a golden ticket. Yet there are other factors that are equally important to creating a happy, successful life. Adaptability, motivation, ability to navigate social situations, and a sense of humor are all critical skills. Cultivate them. You’ll need them no matter what school you ultimately attend… and beyond.
Choose a Practical Major. Scientific journals and the New York Times have documented this generation’s slow climb out of adolescence. While marriage and parenting are arguably outdated checkpoints on the path to adulthood, financial security is still absolutely necessary. You need a job for that. Yes, it is important to enjoy your work, but I’d recommend finding something you enjoy that is also in demand. Understand that some degrees have a better return on investment than others. If you cannot imagine life without a BA in Latin, might I suggest a double major or a dual degree?
Read books – for fun. Magazine articles, blog posts, and other forms of written media are all important, but please: read an actual book. Reading is a great way to relieve stress and relax. It helps stimulate brain activity, something that is important throughout your life. It enhances your vocabulary and helps your writing skills. Find a shady spot under a tree or a hidden cubicle in a library, and rediscover the magic of being absorbed in a book.
Congratulations, Class of 2014. Welcome to The Real World. Trust me – it’s going to be an interesting ride.