All over the country students are walking across the stage, turning their tassels, and tossing their mortarboards into the air with an overwhelming sense of excitement and accomplishment. High school graduates have completed a milestone event in their lives and are launching into a world of unknowns and firsts.
This post is simply intended to give a proper heads up and what I pray will be helpful advice for every graduate:
You be you
There is a chance you are heading off to college to study whatever it is your family and friends have encouraged you to become. Perhaps you come from a family of educators and there is pressure for you to go into education. Maybe you come from a family of health care providers and it has always been assumed you would study medicine. I would encourage you to prayerfully consider what seeds God has planted in your heart and allow them to grow into your future reality. You may very well carry on a family tradition or be the first in your family to go to college. While following that tradition is noble, don’t lose yourself in that pursuit. I love this thought by Oscar Wilde – “Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.”
Seek wise counsel
I don’t want to sound harsh here but…you don’t know everything. I realize you have just cleared a major hurdle in your life. You now have a diploma and you deserve to be congratulated. However, a diploma does not mean you suddenly know everything there is to know about life. Believe it or not your parents still have a lot of wisdom to invest in you. Your professors and employers will also be instrumental in helping you navigate your way through this next season of life. Leave yourself open to wise counsel because according to the scripture “there is safety in the counsel of many” (Proverbs 15:22).
Live within your means
There is a good chance you are going off to college broke… And I am not entirely sure that is a bad thing. This is an important time for you to learn to budget your limited resources. Establish a budget and then live by it. The habits your form in college can have a radical impact on the way you view and handle money later in life. Far too many people neglect to properly steward their limited resources so when they finally start making money they have no idea how to manage their newfound wealth. If you don’t make that mistake you will, in the words of Dave Ramsey, “live like no one else now, so later you can live like no one else.”
Seek to gather experiences rather than things
One of the things I have come to realize is there is a world of difference between “googling” and “going.” Some people look at pictures while other people go and take them. I am convinced that there are too many people who collect tangible things over experiences. Obviously these experiences should be wholesome and beneficial so use some discretion, as college life will give you opportunity to experience things you will need to avoid. That said – go camping with friends, take a road trip, volunteer at a local children’s club/community center, start checking on an elderly person at a local nursing home, buy a stranger a cup of coffee, interview a professor in order to know him/her as a person. Avoid experience that will most likely hurt you and do the beneficial things you may never have an opportunity to go again.
Your social media can help you or haunt you
Clean up your social media content. Employers are now looking at social media sites for prospective hires. If you have used your social media sites to highlight your immaturity and moments of stupidity don’t be surprised when future employers, parents of prospective romantic interests, and prospective romantic interests pass over you and go to someone who takes their online presence seriously.
Learn to save and give
You may have very limited resources but that is no reason to be dumb or selfish. I suggest you prayerfully consider what you want to tithe to your church, how much you will save each week/pay period and then live off the rest. This is a habit that needs to be developed and there is no better time than the present to begin.
Continue moving toward your independence
Be careful to avoid demanding independence from your parent’s authority while clinging to their bank account. Continue moving toward being financially independent as well as knowing how do things like cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. There seems to be a trend developing where people are living with their parents longer or expecting their parents to consistently provide financial resources while pushing away from their authority. You still need your parents in your life. But you also need to start taking some ownership of your life. Take baby steps toward independence. Because you’re going to have to take steps some time, and now is the best time.
Own your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone has the courage and humility to own them. Don’t be the person that always blames someone else. David Griffin says “people who blame are not people who bring about change.” If you want to be an agent of change in the world around you then you need to be a person who is able to own his/her mistakes, learn from them and then move on.
Accept a new normal
Change is hard for everyone on varying levels. When you go off to college or step into your career there are a lot of changes that will confront you. You have to answer questions like: Where will I go to church? Who will be my roommate? How early will I have to get up for class? What classes are available in my major? My friend Riley Roberson offers the following advice: For me, specifically looking for a new church to go to, I was looking for something I was comfortable with in my past. And if I couldn’t find something that was similar to my past, I was prone to thinking it was wrong. But new and different doesn’t always mean wrong. I think this would apply to finding a new church, moving to new places, making schedules for college, forming friendships with new types of people, etc. It’s more about understanding why something is beneficial for you and then seeking specific characteristics, not exact replicas.
Hopefully these tips will help you as you step into your future!