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A Graduate's Guide to Life

Updated on April 14, 2013
Graduation Hugs
Graduation Hugs | Source

It's The Real World

Graduating from high school and preparing to leave home for college is like packing your clothes for a reality television show sans the MTV camera crew and pseudo fame.

What are the things that you really need to venture out in to the great wide open? What necessities of knowledge will enable you to breeze through the next decades and propel you to adulthood with little or no scrapes along the way? Undoubtedly there is an encyclopedia of life's informational "low-down" that you would like to keep in your back pocket just next to Shakespeare's sonnets however, much of life's lessons are not found neatly numbered, chaptered and bound by Random House.

As the journey begins, learn to pick up useful information. Parents and students, don't wait until you're packing the car.

University of Kansas Student Union: Strong Hall
University of Kansas Student Union: Strong Hall | Source

Here Comes College

College is on the horizon or perhaps at least in the hemisphere, which might mean you have a few years before you will be doing any official campus visitations or purchasing your books. Nevertheless, you must understand the repercussions of choosing not to further your education. It's more than staying home and mooching off of your parents after graduation because eventually the good graces and financial stipends of most parents will fizzle out. You should create a foundation of purpose for yourself. Education is a process that will be ongoing until the bittersweet day you kiss Mom and Pop goodbye as you leave for freshman orientation week.

WORDS OF WISDOM - in case you're considering being a professional couch potato.

  1. You are not entitled to anything, least of all a job. If you want something, you have to work for it. Even couch potatoes need a couch.
  2. Having an original thought is a good thing.
  3. Everything that you thought about being cool in middle school and high school doesn't matter in college.
  4. Almost half of all college students drop out because they cannot handle the studying and the work load.
  5. College is the hardest place to realize that the world does not revolve around you.
  6. If you want to be able to buy a car, an apartment, a nice home, clothing and other nice things, you will need to get a college degree and get a job.
  7. There is a monumental difference between reading a text message and reading a novel.
  8. Distance from parents and loved ones can make you or break you in college. It's something you should remember when you are choosing a school because paying for a trip home is expensive.
  9. Knowing when to turn off the television will benefit your education tremendously.
  10. Professors don't have to know you or like you but you have to learn to work with them.

College dorm room
College dorm room | Source

Dorm Life and Freshman Year

As if being a freshman weren't difficult enough. Now you have to find all of your classes on a campus of 15,000 - 20,000 students, get to know the student union, climb and crawl your way through the stacks and figure out where the best cafeterias, coffee and study areas are. It's a rigorous, demanding and ultimately fun first year.

IMPORTANT ITEMS you should jot into your spiral notebook with the old #2.

  1. Living in the dorms is the easiest way to meet people, set-up study groups and you will feel more connected to the university. It's the best way to prevent doing poorly your freshman year.
  2. Adjusting to dorm life takes at least 3-4 months on average.
  3. Dorms are not five-star accommodations. In fact, most dorms are 50+ years old. Prepare accordingly.
  4. Remember when you pack that your dorm room will be about 15 x 15 for a double occupancy.
  5. You and your dorm roommate may never become best friends. In fact, your roommate may stink.
  6. Moving into the dorm with your best friend may put strain on your friendship. In fact, it may ruin the relationship all together.
  7. Dorms often have communal bathrooms for 15-20 people. Flip-flops and Crocs are a must.
  8. Find a study partner in the dorm who makes good grades.
  9. If you are involved in a physical altercation within a dorm in most universities in the US, you can be charged with assault or domestic abuse.


Growing Up and Becoming Adults

As you begin to spread your wings, undoubtedly you'll be checking in from time to time for advice. Mom and Dad will appreciate that you still call and ask them their opinion, especially if they're writing a check to the University of the State of Life. In the mean time you can take care of yourself on campus by showing up to class on time, studying hard, continuing to better yourself and learning.

Some of your studies will be through class work. Other exercises you will learn in labs or through hands-on techniques. Still, there are some lessons you will just have to learn the hard way. The best part is, you can watch, listen and learn through the mistakes of others. You don't always have to be the one down-and-out. Pay attention!


  1. Now that you don't live at home, call your parents. The relationship will most likely flourish. They are most likely missing you.
  2. It's time to think like an adult and make decisions like an adult.
  3. There is no such thing as expungement. Criminal arrests will follow you forever.
  4. Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. Write that down if you need to. It's okay.
  5. Some people are unreasonable. One day you might work for one of those people.
  6. Find a mentor who works for the University not the Nightclub.
  7. When you run low on money don't spend what you have left in your pocket.
  8. Never give up.
  9. Plan big and make time.
  10. Don't look back.


On Life

Time to be prepared. Now that you're properly invested and thinking in the right direction, it's time that you recognize how things are turning and cogs are clicking. In the world today there's more competition than ever. People are graduating from college with multiple bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, juris doctorate degrees or doctorate degrees. It's so competitive that merely having a high school diploma is not enough. If you haven't been to a four-year college or university, and let's face it, on-line schooling doesn't rank the same, then you are not going to be considered for the same jobs that someone who has the degree on their resume will be chosen and given due consideration for. It's not personal to the people who are hiring. It's their business to hire the best candidate and the person with the best resume is the best candidate. That said, there are also technical schools that offer excellent programs for students who are looking for a quicker way to start working their way up. It's never an easy decision to make but you have to decide what is best for you. Every college and university has a union or student center to help you make that decision. Take full advantage of those services and don't settle on a school until you are sure.


  1. There is a difference between what you CAN do and WANT you want to do.
  2. Networking begins as soon as you start your career courses in college.
  3. Most employers don't care about your school as much as they do your experience.
  4. Finding a job is a full time job.
  5. Start your resume your freshman year in college. Learn to perfect it. It has a 15-second window of opportunity when a human resources director sees it.
  6. Remember that employers will Google search you. If you have negligent photos, comments or "other", you should act accordingly.
  7. When you attend an interview you should be prepared, practiced and planned. Know your strengths, one weak point about you and be ready to tell them why they should hire you.
  8. If you are holding out for the "perfect" job, you may be old and gray before you get hired. Get a job kiddo.
  9. Celebrate your new job. Congratulations!


Finally Landed

Now that you've landed the job, take care in being a good employee and co-worker. It's a tricky business to be the new person. If you have accepted an offer, be sure to make good on your contract whether it's a nod, a handshake or a multimillion dollar contract. A deal is a deal.


  1. Everything you need to know about definitions and words you learned in college. Everything you need to know about this job starts now.
  2. Read the company manual cover to cover.
  3. Ask for help when you need it.
  4. If your new job offers health insurance, take it - even if it reduces your check. If you are hospitalized, the $10,000-$15,000 a day hospital bill will make you wish you had changed your mind.
  5. Saying "thank you" to your co-workers on a regular basis will foster a lot of goodwill.
  6. You should assume that you will be doing "all other duties as assigned". You are the new guy/girl and you have NO status even if you graduated Magna from Harvard. Nobody cares.
  7. Office hours are often longer than 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  8. Never discuss wages, salaries or benefits.
  9. If you focus on work it will flourish and grow. If you don't, it will starve.
  10. Remember the way people come in and out of your life. Don't burn any bridges.


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    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      7 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      MsDora, Thank you for reading and commenting. I wrote this for my two young lads who are in junior high - one is entering high school. I want them to realize everything we had to learn the hard way. Thank you for voting. Great to see you. -K

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Excellent. Your "Words of Wisdom" and "Seeds . . ." are rock solid. wish you could have passed around. Voted Up!

    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      7 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      wileyspeaks, Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope your brother finds this information useful. Being a senior is a hectic time! I'm sure he's looking forward to the next stage of his life. Best of luck to you both, I appreciate your vote. -K

    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      7 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      roxanne459,Thank you for reading and leaving such a nice comment. I appreciate sharing the information and hope that it is useful to some grads out there somewhere! -K

    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      7 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      billybuc, Thank you for reading and for the comment. I could have definitely used this information! Hoping to prepare my kids with an arsenal of life-readiness. Always good to hear from you. -K

    • wileyspeaks profile image


      7 years ago from Auburn, Indiana

      Great Article and since my youngest brother is a senior in High School and getting ready to enter that stage of his life I will be passing this on! Voted Up!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Beautifully done and invaluable information! I am sharing this every way I can. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I could have used this when I was twenty-one. :) Good words of wisdom my friend.


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