Dear High School Senior,
I know that real life is calling to you in your last few days of twelfth grade. It’s loud and enticing and probably the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard. You’re eighteen years old, about ready to walk across a stage that I’m certain you think will change the course of your destiny. In some ways it will.
But in so many, it will not.
I know that’s hard to hear when you’re days away from the beginning of your very own adult life, but I’ve stood where you’re standing. I went to college straight out of high school and now I’m watching my husband do the same as a thirty-three year old dad. Between the two of us we’ve been in college almost ten years and have learned a lot about school and dreams and some of the more inconvenient inevitable delays of young adult life.
Commence this list of . . .
10 Things I want to tell graduating High School Seniors
1. In case you were unsure, you really do need to go to college.
Perhaps you’re straddling the fence of higher education, unsure of your next move. You’ve had the conversation before with several of your friends/family where they tell you to go to college – for your future and all. You consider, politely, and then very confidently reply, it might not be for you, right now. You’ll take a year off to find yourself, or travel, or try out for American Idol.
Please. Do yourself a favor. Put on your big kid pants and send in the registration forms.
Unless of course you can win American Idol. Then, please, by all means, do that. And then make sure to go to college.
2. When you get there, don’t be stupid.
It’s inevitable that someone will try to give you a joint, or a drink, or a smoke of some crap that will make your head spin. Someone will try to say you need to jump into bed with every pretty girl or strong guy that comes your way. Someone will try to convince you that this is what college is all about.
Don’t be deceived. Don’t be reckless. Don’t be an idiot.
And for the love of all that matters to you in this life, please don’t post stupid things on the internet.
3. This is not the beginning you think it is.
Four years of college seems like a marathon to you in and of itself, but really it’s like a brisk walk around the block. The road that takes you to your dream job, and that place of professional achievement you have in your mind – with a cushy paycheck and the corner office – could take you ten years to get to. Or more.
Put on your running shoes, strap on the camelback, and dress light. You’re at the beginning of a very. long. road. (that may or may not have that cushy corner office at the end of it – but I digress . . .)
4. You will have to pay your student loans back.
Those student loans you’re planning on using to pay for your college education? They may seem a little like a winning lottery ticket, but friend, they have lots of strings attached. Think long and hard before you start taking them out to make your daily Starbucks run, because they add up fast. And you will have to pay them back. With interest.
5. Community College will not give you the cooties.
I was hard pressed to believe this myself when I was an eighteen year old, but I promise it’s the truth. Even if you’re really really smart. Even if you got accepted into lots of prestigious schools. Community college is not for losers, or drop outs, or old people.
Sometimes educated, successful, smart people actually choose to enroll in a community college to help soften the blow of those student loans we just talked about. A novel idea, I know.
6. Commuting to college will not make you “uncool”.
That’s right. I said C-O-M-M-U-T-I-N-G – as in driving to school every day instead of living there.
I know it doesn’t seem as cool to stay home with mom and dad when you can share your very own dorm room the size of a large broom closet with a complete and utter stranger, but as a consolation prize, use the money you would have spent on room and board to buy a good car.
Maybe even a cool one.
7. Beware the pressure to pair.
Lots of people start pairing up in college, and you might even start getting some wedding invitations. For your friends weddings. It’s true that you might find your soul mate in college. But if you happen to not be one of those people, please do not stress out.
You will not expire upon graduation.
Marriage is a whole lot longer than college. Make sure you’ve got the right one. And if you haven’t found him or her yet, let me tell you a secret – nobody actually died from the waiting.
8. You are not as busy as you could be.
You will have days that seven assignments are due despite the fact that you’ve been sick all month and haven’t slept in a week. Not gonna lie – those days will suck. Don’t misinterpret that to mean that you’re not cut out for school. College is busy. College is difficult. But so is every other stage of life.
Try going to school when you have to work full time, you know to pay for silly thinks like heat and electricity. Or when you’re married and have two kids. Busy raises itself to a whole new dimension in that season, and while you CAN still go to school when you’re older, you can absolutely plan on it being that much harder, and much, much s-l-o-w-e-r.
You’d be shocked at how much time growing up costs you in the minutes and hours of daily life.
9. A degree does not guarantee your employment.
This is the sad reality about college, especially in degree fields that are a little more obscure. That lovely piece of parchment paper they hand you at the end of your course of study does not mean you will automatically get a well paying job. Or a job at all.
Increasingly, there’s a longer and longer gap of time between diploma and first paycheck. This has less to do with you and your stunning personality and job skills, and more to do with the mess of our current economy. Jobs are pretty hard to come by at any age right now, but in some instances that little slip of paper is your only ticket in to an interview.
And interviews do, eventually, finally lead to jobs.
10. You know the least you will ever know about yourself right now.
You are a brand spanking new adult. A young adult. There is a lot you’re going to learn about who you are, and who you’re going to be in the next four years of college, but please don’t get fooled into believing you can set your course right at this very moment and sail away through life and into eternity without a course correction or two.
You may change majors. You may change careers. Heck, you may one day find yourself scrapping it all and going back to college to do this all over again. It happens and it’s ok. Don’t expect to have everything figured out right now. You know the least you will ever know about yourself right now, so own it and go discover.