Advice to the Class of 2017

I know that a lot of high schools are ending this week and that graduation is coming. I want to start by wishing my sincerest congratulations to those who are graduating. Having just graduated high school last year, I remember how exciting it was and how ready I was to be done. That being said, I want to dedicate today’s blog post to offer some advice. I have divided this up into four categories: General advice to all graduates, advice to those going to college in the fall, advice to those not going to college, and advice to parents of graduates.

General advice:

  • Enjoy the summer– You’ve worked hard over the past four years to graduate. For some of you, this might be your last “summer of freedom” (you don’t have constant year-long responsibilities). I understand if you have a job or something, but do something more than just work all the time. Take some time to relax and make memories. After all, you’ll be working for most of the rest of your life. Enjoy your time off.
  • End on good terms- You probably won’t keep in contact with most of your graduating class. It doesn’t matter the size. I’m friends with most of the people from my small class, but I don’t talk to most of them on a regular basis. However, we just went our separate ways because we had different interests and were no longer forced to be together. That being said, we just drifted apart. Don’t create tension or animosity now. There is no need to burn a dissolving bridge. If you drift apart, that’s okay; but don’t cause the drifting. However,
  • Keep your friends close- I know a lot of people will say that your friendships from high school won’t last forever, but that really depends on the person. If you make an effort, you can sustain lasting friendships.
  • Take opportunities and chances- You are never too young! A lot of older people will tell you to wait on things like internships, travel, or jobs, but if you have an opportunity, make the most of it! People notice. I promise, people notice!
  • You can always be an example- Again, people notice you no matter your age, and sometimes because of your age. Give them something to notice (in a good way!).
  • Look nice for interviews- If you think it’s too casual, it probably is. Seriously. For my scholarship interview, there was a girl that showed up in jeans. She had on a nice top, but it still left an impression. We got an email saying that professional dress was “recommended” (that means obligatory). It is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Your clothes make a statement before any words come out of your mouth. Make sure it’s a good one. When I went to the State Museum for my internship follow-up, I dressed in slacks and a nice shirt (which is what I wear for my internship almost every day), and I had a staff member ask me if I worked there!
  • Have a solid handshake- You get one shot at a handshake. Make sure you have a firm grip but definitely not a death grip.
  • Work hard- This may seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. You are about to be the youngest again. I know you’re used to being “top dogs” of your high school, but that is no longer the case. So, wherever you are, work hard to be an example. Don’t be afraid to do harder work. It says a lot about your character if you are not afraid to work. Millenials have this reputation that we’re lazy. Let’s change that, shall we?

Those going to college:

Congratulations! I’m proud of you for pursuing a degree. It will be worth it in the long run. Here’s my advice to you:

  • If you don’t know what you want to do, that is NORMAL!- You’ll probably meet a ton of people who know what they want to do with their lives. However, there will be people who have no idea! Find something you are passionate about, but you don’t have to make a decision immediately.
  • Get ready to memorize your name, hometown, and (possible) major/ what you want to do- This question will come up all of the time! You’ll get tired of it.
  • Make new friends- Another obvious, but still. Find people who share common interests and befriend them.
  • Get involved on campus!- Join a club or an organization or even a sports team! Not only does it look great on your resume, but it also gives you another opportunity to find people who share a common interest. You never know where it might take you. For example, I joined History Club last year (I know, I know, I’m a nerd). Anyway, when elections came around in April, I was nominated for and actually became Vice President of History Club for the next school year!
  • Take advantage of free (or cheap) stuff!- Free is a college student’s favorite word, especially if it involves food. I know Ball State (and some other colleges) offer free movies on campus sometimes. Ball State also offers free concerts and sports events. Have fun and go to free events when you can!
  • Be active- The freshman 15 is real, but it doesn’t have to be. Find some time to exercise so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Have fun- Remember to have fun. College is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it!
  • Do your best- This one is pretty obvious.

Those not going to college:

Just because you are not currently pursuing a degree does not mean I am any less proud of you. College is not the only option, and here is my advice for you:

  • Be active- I mean this for you in two aspects. Be physically active (exercise), but also be active in pursuit. Do not simply sit around and do nothing, just because you are not going to college. Find a job, an internship, an apprenticeship, join the military, something.
  • Work hard- Just because you are only 18 (or so), does not mean you are less of a worker. Prove yourself.
  • Be proud of what you do- There is nothing to be ashamed of for doing something other than going to school. I promise. Just because you don’t have a degree means you aren’t as smart or as competent.
  • There is nothing wrong with you for not going to college- I know a lot of people look down on trades and things, but college is not for everyone.
  • What you do matters- I promise you it does. The world needs trades and military as well. It’s a balance.
  • Remember to focus on other things- Work is not the only thing in your life. Make time for other things as well.
  • It is okay to change your mind- If you want to go to school again at some point, good for you! If not, awesome! But whatever you decide, make sure it is what YOU want. Don’t do something because other people want you to. Do what feels right for you. After all, it’s your life. At the end of the day, you live with the consequences of your actions.
  • Budget your money wisely- Save up. No need to spend it all. Learn to live independently so you can be on your own one day, if you’re not already.

Last but not least, Parents:

Whether it’s your first child or your youngest, it’s not easy to see them grow up. That being said, here’s some tips to maybe help you:

  • It’s okay to cry- Your child is graduating. You’ve spent all this time raising them, and now they are legally adults and may not be as dependent on you. That’s a part of life, and it’s okay to be sad about it.
  • It’s a transition for everyone- I don’t speak from a parent’s perspective most of the time. It’s weird for everyone. Your kids have spent every day going to (probably) the same school, having the same friends, and having a set routine. That’s not always the case anymore. Give your kids and your self time to adjust.
  • Don’t treat them like high schoolers- This sounds harsh, but let me explain. You’ve probably enforced a curfew on them, saying things like “it’s a school night” or something. However, especially if they are going away for college, they are more than likely to have their own bedtime and other things. Give them a little more freedom, but also
  • Keep your kids responsible- If they break a rule why they are living under your roof, they need to have a consequence still. You’ve raised them so far; there is no reason to stop now.
  • Make sure your kids are prepared- They’re more than likely going to be living on their own for a bit. Make sure they can cook (even basic things), do laundry, do dishes, clean up after themselves, etc.
  • It’s also okay to miss your kids- This is natural. I know for my parents, they make it a point to tell both my sister and I that they miss us when we leave. I know they mean it too. Call your kids (though not necessarily every day). On that note,
  • Let your kid go- I don’t mean this in a bad way. Let them go away to college, no matter how much it kills you. Let them move out, even if you miss their constant presence. Your kids are about ready to be adults. Show them you trust them to be capable on their own by letting them be on their own. I promise it will be better for you in the long run.

Once again, I want to wish congratulations to both the graduates AND the parents. This is something to be proud of and is a momentous occasion. Enjoy it, cry over it, and celebrate!

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