Graduation: Now What? (Student Edition)
You’ve been working toward this day for, well, forever. Adults in your life have told you for years how important this milestone is. Graduation! Graduation from high school is a major accomplishment, and it marks a rite of passage toward adulthood. No doubt, you have ideas and plans, however vague, about what you think your next few years will be like. Some of you will attend college or other types of continued education such as trade school. Others will go directly into the workforce or continue in a job you have already begun. In any of these cases, your commitments, responsibilities, and time management needs will be different than they were while your primary focus was school. Because this step is big and new, it might seem a little overwhelming. Exciting, yes, but exciting things can feel overwhelming too. Here are a few things to think about as you move on to your next step.
Whether you are leaving home to attend college or moving out to your own place while working full-time, you will likely have more freedom than you had while in high school. At first, this will seem like everything you've ever wanted. You can come and go as you please, and no one will be bugging you about where you were or where you're going. But after settling in, the truth of the situation can feel a little less exciting. Managing your time and resources, as well as prioritizing fun and responsibility will be more complex and more flexible. Although your parents or others in your life may still offer guidance or help, it will be primarily your responsibility to get up and make it to class and/or work on time, to buy the things you need, to pay your bills on time, to manage your finances. Find a strategy that works for you. For some, it’s a calendar app on their phone, for others, it’s post-it notes, for still others, they need a written planner. Taking the time to budget both time and finances will help you stay on top of your responsibilities and avoid some problems. But, don’t expect it to be perfect right out of the gate. You will make mistakes, and that’s ok. Mistakes and missteps are chances to learn better ways of doing things. Be willing to adjust as your skill and needs change.
Leaving home, even if it is just for a semester at a time, is a big step. It can feel so new and different that anything from before now becomes difficult to fit into your new life. While it is important to focus on your new responsibilities and exciting new opportunities, it is also important to maintain supportive relationships.
Relationships with Parents:
Your parents and other adults in your life are going through a time of transition right along with you. Their feelings are different than yours. They are probably feeling a sense of excitement, both for you and for themselves, but they are likely also feeling nervous and sad about your leaving. Parents will show those feelings in different ways. Some may cry, some may call and text…a lot, some may wait for you to call or text them but be upset when you don't do so as much as they would like, some may show no outward signs of their feelings at all. Be patient with parents who want to help you with things like moving, getting your books or things for your dorm/apartment, or preparing for a job interview. They just want you to succeed, and they want to do all they can to help you do that. If your parent seems reluctant to let go, reassure them that you will be fine and that you will call/text them, and that they are more than welcome to send snacks.
On the other hand, you may have a parent who is not at all supportive of your decision to leave. Try your best to understand their point of view; however, if you have your reasons for leaving home and the means to do so, do your best to help them understand your point of view as well. There may be some hurt feelings on either side, but the longer the situation is ignored, the more problematic it may become.
Relationships with Friends:
Staying in touch with friends has never been easier. Before the digital revolution, you had to make an effort to stay in touch with people through calls, letters, or visits. Today, if you are friends on social media, you can see what your friends are doing every day, often in real time. This can be a blessing when starting on a new adventure. You can compare experiences and offer support to one another. But, it can also be a crutch. If you attend school with an existing friend group or start working in your hometown near your existing friends, it can be harder to try new things, make new friends, and grow in maturity and experience.
Be open to new activities:
So, try new stuff! Whether college or work bound, be open to trying new things to meet new people. Even if you start out joined at the hip with your high school friends, be open to doing things without them. Are you interested in joining a school club that they think is lame? Be bold. Check it out on your own. You may be teased a little, but it’s your life. Joining psychology/botany/future business leaders club at school or a civic or church group in your community will help you interact with people you might not otherwise meet.
Stick with what you know you like:
There is also a lot to be said for trying new versions of things you already know you like. Did you do drama in high school, but you don’t want to major in theater in college? Take drama classes as electives or watch for open auditions for school productions. Did you run cross country in high school but you’re now working a 40-hour-per-week job? Look for a running club in your community. Look for creative ways to stay engaged in favorite activities.
Give yourself some grace:
Finally, it is important for you to give yourself time to grow. Everything will not work perfectly from the beginning. There will be bumps in the road. There will be changes in plans. Things will happen. Relationships will change or end. Your room at home will be turned into a home gym/man cave/guest room. But, remember, everyone who has gone before you has hit bumps in the road too. If you feel like you are drowning, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to change your major or drop a class or admit that college may not be the right move for you right now. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your boss or feel frustrated when you don’t get it right the first time. You may feel 100% sure of your life goals right now, and that is wonderful, but don’t worry when those goals start to shift, because, in all likelihood…they will.
Good luck, Graduates! Use your minds, hearts, and hands to go out and do great things.
For more information:
UAEX Personal Well-Being programs: http://uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/personal-family-well-being/personal/
Transition from High School to College: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/young-adult/Pages/The-Transition-from-High-School-to-College.aspx