Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me After Graduating High School
With graduation looming, it's the time of year when we all tend to reminisce about high school. For a lot of us, that means thinking about all the things we did wrong after tossing those caps into the air. Here are a few pieces of advice I wish someone had passed down to me
High school itself is often a battlefield that's tough to get through. Once you graduate, you're left staring back blankly at one of the first major accomplishments in your life. Now's the time when teachers tell you to go for your dream college. Parents are push you toward that medical degree. Friends are urge you to get stoned and tour Europe. I remember spending that summer after graduation stressed, frustrated, and confused. It sucked. So now, years later, here is the wisdom I wish someone had given me
You Don't Have to Go to College Right Away - Or At All
We've already talked about when college does and doesn't matter, and even how to make the most out of those college years. But going to college immediately after high school isn't for everyone. For a lot of people, it's a good idea to give yourself a year (or a few) before deciding whether or not you want to go to school. In fact, of the people I know who've graduated college, the majority who finished in four years didn't even start until their early 20s
It seems like most parents and counselors say that if you don't start college immediately after graduating, you won't start at all. In my experience, that's not true. The people I know who waited a few years after high school started college just fine, didn't switch majors a bunch, and were "adult" enough to beeline their way through school without a lot of trouble
Likewise, it's reasonable that college—or even just a four year college—isn't for you. Trade schools, though lambasted by parents and principals, are viable options for certain careers, and skipping college to jump into a trade is just as acceptable as going to school. You need to do something, but that something isn't always college
I wish someone had told me that it's okay to chill out and wait before starting college. Contrary to
what everyone told me, the world would not have ended, I would not have ended up living on the streets addicted to drugs, and I wouldn't have had to move back into my parents house because I was directionless. It would have been fine and I would have wasted less time in school
It's Okay to Not Know Your Major
Before I started school, I spent months deciding between majoring in graphic design or political
science. I chose graphic design. I did that for a semester before realizing it wasn't my thing, then transferred schools and started a political science program. I did that for a couple of years before moving over to creative writing. I graduated seven years later with 40 more credits than I needed and a pretty solid case of burnout. I had no idea what I wanted to do and nobody told me it'd be okay to take some time off or just skip declaring a major until I figured things out
This is a story I've heard from countless others
You don't have to know what you want to major in. You don't need to pick it right away. You certainly don't need to worry that much about it. There's a pretty good chance you won't even end up in a career that you reflects your college major, so don't expect it to change the course of your life. It's important to study something you actually like, but in the end it's not necessarily going to make that much of a difference to where you end up.
Crappy Jobs Are Still Worth Doing Well
We like to think that after you finish high school you'll move onto bigger and better jobs. Gone are those days of standing behind the counter at Dairy Queen or washing dishes at the pizza restaurant. But most of us continued those menial jobs well after high school and throughout college. That said, no matter how stupid and pointless those jobs are, they're worth doing well.
It's easy to slack off at crappy job and not care about it, but that has a serious effect on you in a lot of ways. On the most obvious level, it makes you lazy. It might not seems like it matters, but the longer
you spend slacking off at a crappy job, the bigger effect it has on you for jobs in the future.
Even the crappiest job fosters friendships and partnerships. Through my pointless, minimum wage
jobs in my late teens and early 20s I met many of my lifelong friends, creative partners, and people who've helped me with further employment. I can guarantee that if I'd been a lazy employee those friendships would not have endured. It's a cliche, but how you handle bad situations—like a minimum wage job—reflects on you as a person. It's worth doing well and you might be surprised at what you learn
Don't Lose Touch with Friends and Family (But Make New Friends)
I went to a small high school in the Colorado mountains, and despite the fact my graduating class was a mere 80 people, I've kept in contact with none of them outside of Facebook. Over the years, I've touched base with a few friends from high school, but nothing substantial came of it. For the most part, I've been okay with this. Still, our own Melanie Pinola points out that fostering those relationships is important
So, like most things—it's about figuring out what's right for you. I wish someone had just told me that it's acceptable to cut those old ties and make new friendships. I wouldn't have wasted so much time hanging out with people from high school who I didn't get along with. That said, if you have great relationships with friends in high school, keep those people around as long as you can.
After graduating high school I thought I was a pretty smart guy. The truth is, I was at the height of my stupidity (hopefully) and I knew nothing. That pretension is a dangerous thing
Between the ages of 18-20, I didn't ask questions. I went on my way through life thinking I knew how the world worked. I didn't ask questions in school. I didn't ask questions at work. I didn't ask girlfriends the questions a boyfriend should ask. I didn't ask friends questions about things they knew more about than me. Looking back on those years, I'm not sure why I was this way. I think it came from the idea that I wanted to come across as being intelligent, so I didn't want to reveal that I didn't know anything
Now I know that one of the best signs of intelligence is curiosity. The more questions you ask, the more intelligent you become. Ask questions about how things work. Ask why they work. Ask why they don't work. Ask where things come from. Just ask as many questions as you can about everything. It's simple math, but as a cocky, know-it-all little asshole of a kid, I couldn't see it. I wish I had. You're going to make a ton of mistakes as a teenager, in your 20s, and beyond. Make sure you train yourself now to ask the right questions so that you can learn from them