Graduating from college is one of the biggest milestones of a person’s life, but it can seem daunting and surreal. Once you’ve graduated you no longer have a set schedule that has been planned out for you and now it’s up to you to decide what you are going to do with your life from this point on. Whew! That is so exciting but it sure can be overwhelming too. If you’re the parent of a young adult headed off for college, it’s important that you help to convey these tips to your child. They are lessons to start learning during the college experience and then to carry your kids right through their entire lives.
Set yourself (or your child) up for success after college with these tips every college graduate needs to hear:
A great way to provide yourself with a more structured environment a challenge yourself is to set clear-cut goals. Both short term and long-term goals give you something that you want to work towards to achieve something. Take the time to step away and find out what excites you, what makes you happy and what drives you. Setting goals is all about outlining the steps you will need to take to achieve something that will allow you to feel fulfilled. It can be so tempting after all the years of being in school and all of the time living under other people’s rules to throw caution to the wind and try to live without any structure at all. I’m all for a summer of wandering and living a “go with the flow” lifestyle but too much time without any planning for the future can leave you spinning in circles, never actually moving forward towards what you want in life.
Growing up isn’t always as easy as just letting nature take its course. As a parent, it means stepping back more and more and as a child, it means moving away from dependency more and more. Some parents and some kids find this a little harder than others. Sure, I loved taking care of my daughter as she grew up but I also am really proud to see the independent woman she has become. I like the relationship we’ve come to have – still mother and daughter, but more friend and equal than before. As a parent, you have to begin weaning yourself away from inserting yourself into your child’s decision-making.
The closer Sam got to graduating from high school, the more I moved my role into that of “I’m here to offer advice or teach you how to do something IF you ask” and less of me laying down the rules or doing things for her. In fact, there were even times when I flat out said “No. I won’t take care of that for you. You need to do it for yourself.” We need to stop doing everything for our kids and start giving them the tools to take care of themselves. And our kids have to advocate for themselves and tell us to back off if needed (without us getting our feelings hurt). It’s a part of the growing up process.
Failure Doesn’t Mean It’s Over
Realize that not everything is going to go the way you want it to. Everyone will face trials at some point in their lives. If you are passionate and driven to achieve something and you find that you hit a brick wall, you will experience disappointment and sadness. It doesn’t feel good but that’s ok. Don’t take it personally, it’s how you deal with rejection and the pain of failure that gives you strength. Start again. I was an elementary school teacher who got sidelined by a car accident. It had been my dream to be a teacher but suddenly I couldn’t do it anymore. So, I looked at the other things I liked to do and figured out a way to make a living through writing this blog. My daughter was a pre-med major in university. In second year, she realized that it really wasn’t her dream. So, she changed majors. It meant an extra year of university but now she’s doing what she really wants with her life.
Embrace Lifelong Learning
I remember as a teacher hearing so many kids say, “Finally, I’ve graduated. Now I never have to learn another thing in my life!”. I simply don’t believe it’s possible to go through life without learning anything new. You buy something new and you have to learn how to use it. You meet someone new and they share something that you’ve never heard of before. Just existing means you are going to encounter new information and experiences. But I think to be truly happy and successful, you need to really embrace lifelong learning. This could mean taking extra courses in your field. It could mean taking up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Or maybe it means traveling to new places. Whatever you do, continuing to expand your knowledge in any way can only be a good thing.
Find a Mentor
Many people can find a lot of value through associating with trusted people in their lives who have the advantage of life experience. Spending time with someone who has accomplished their own goals can help you to achieve yours and develop life skills. It’s a good idea to reach out to someone that you admire in your field and ask them questions. Really connect with them to find out what steps they took to get where they are. Surrounding yourself with strong people who have an amazing work ethic is a great way to build yourself up. Parents are great role models and teachers but I think it’s really important to find other mentors. Expand your knowledge base and perspective. Learn about how other people approach things. Open your mind to the possibilities.
Graduating from college is a big step into adulthood and while it can seem scary, it doesn’t have to be. Surrounding yourself with the right people, giving yourself the inspiration you need to move forward, and the drive to overcome rejection are very important steps to take for your future. Remember that person that you always wanted to be when you were growing up? Now’s your chance!