Dear Recent High School Graduate – Feels good to be done, doesn’t it? That ’12 tassel looks kind of cute hanging from your rear view mirror/lamp/mirror/bookcase. Take a long nostalgic look at it and then turn away. It’s time to look ahead to a degree which done correctly will make your world as big as you want. (‘The world is your oyster’, ‘the future is yours’, and every other platitude you read on those cash containers called greeting cards is actually true. But happy endings are not a given and you need to be in the driver seat.)
You’ve already chosen where you will spend your freshman year. (You may have chosen the absolutely positively most perfect place for you. Great! If that’s not the case however, keep in mind that transferring is always a very viable option.) You probably have been hearing about the dismal employment prospects for recent graduates. You may even have an older sibling who is living proof. However you may have also been hearing from some friends or relatives of questionable maturity, that college should be above all else a social amusement park. You may have even visited some colleges and universities that bear a striking resemblance to Disney U. (Hopefully you chose the school that speaks to your goals not the one had the best rides.) Unless you will never be expected to support yourself, ignore your friends and those relatives chanting ‘Toga Toga” under their breath. In 2012 (“Yeah! Class of 2012!!”) a college degree should be a tool for job readiness.
To help you achieve that goal here are some key tips:
* College is your job now. Show up to class, be prepared and do a good job.
* Before you choose a major look at job requirements. Think about the industry or job that appeals to you and find out what course of study and/or credentials are required. Speak to people in the profession.
* Before you choose a major consider how far you want to go in your studies. There are baccalaureate degrees that are meant to be a starting point in higher education and some that are meant to be the finish line.
* Find the right adviser for you. You’re paying for this experience. If the adviser you’re assigned doesn’t work for you, find another, and even another if need be. Good advising will open up the world to you and could save you from wasting time and money.
* Get a job. If it’s a requirement of your work/study package great, if not, go find one. Even if it’s only 5 hours a week. A college job will provide you a respite from student life/studies. A job is also a good way to find out what you absolutely do not want to do.
* Make a point of getting to know people entirely different from yourself. (Remember this whole experience is about making your world bigger.)
* Try something so not you. Take a class you would never ordinarily consider (you can always drop it after one or two sessions.) Attend an event that sounds ridiculous to you. Volunteer for something odd.
You are about to learn so many new things; about the world and yourself. It’s really just the beginning. Life above all else is a learning experience. Take the biggest bite possible out of the next few years. Don’t worry too much about making any mistakes. Embarrassing yourself in public or failing an exam or class doesn’t count as mistakes. The only mistakes that really count at this point are those that limit your choices later on.