Life Rhythms

5 Things Every Graduate Needs to Know

May and June are big graduation months. I’ve seen a fair share of graduations in my social media feeds the last couple of weeks and I’m sure you have too. I even went to my own sister’s graduation at the beginning of May (which was hilarious, by the way, the speaker drank a beer on stage and the people in front of us were passing around a tiny puppy. Crazy, I know).


Most graduation speeches and cards pretty much have the same messages: Great job! You did it! Welcome to the next sphere of life! Get ready to go live your dreams! You can do anything you put your mind to!


All that’s great (or total bull crap, your choice), but I want to give you my own list of 5 things I think every graduate should know. These five things apply to you whether you’re graduating from high school, college, or even grad school. I’ve graduated from each of those, so I know a few things about graduation and post-grad life. Here are my top five.


1. Your College Years Aren’t Necessarily The Best Years of Your Life

This is an important message whether you’re about to enter into college or whether you’re leaving it. College is not always all that it’s cracked up to be. We often have this expectation that college is the climax life, and life is downhill from there. You make your best friends in college, create the best memories, and meet the love of your life.


Some people have the time of their lives in college. That’s good for them, but that’s not everybody’s experience. That wasn’t my experience. For some people, college isn’t all that great or maybe it’s just not as great as they thought it would be.


If you’re about to enter college, try to keep your expectations realistic. You might not have the time of your life in college. You might not walk away with lifelong friends or as many lifelong friends as you were hoping. Your future spouse might not be at the college you’re going to. My may find out that what you thought was your “dream school” isn’t for you and you need to transfer. That’s okay. There is life after college, so don’t feel like you’ve failed if you don’t have the world’s greatest college experience.


If you’re leaving college (or grad school), this is a lesson worth remembering too. Your best days are not behind you. Actually, I liked life after college way more than college itself. Grad school was awesome, but life without homework and papers is also really great.

Each season in life has its own pros and cons. I hope you enjoyed or will enjoy your college experience. Just know that the learning and enjoyment aren’t over. There are more fun season of life ahead!


2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

No mater what level of schooling you’re graduating from, the comparison game is always there to make your feel awful/behind. If you’re graduating from high school, don’t let the schools that your friends/acquaintances are going to make you feel bad about where you’re going or your decision to wait to go to school. Don’t compare your graduation gifts, parties, or the number of people who cheered when your name was called at the graduation ceremony. None of that leads to anywhere good.


If you’re graduating from college, don’t be bummed out because it seems like everyone else is engaged or has already found their dream job. Don’t feel like a failure because you’re still not sure what you want to do.


We all move at our own pace. Our schooling system puts us in this artificial environment where we all move forward together and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. Real life isn’t like that. Sometimes you stand still while others move forward. Other times you leap frog ahead of your peers. Some of that is based on skill and work ethic, but honestly, some of it is just based on luck and/or God’s timing.

Comparing your life to other’s will only make you feel worse about the life you’ve been given. Focus on what you can do with what you have, not on what you think you could do if you were in someone else’s shoes.

3. Your First Job Is Not Your Forever Job

There’s this myth out there that if you do everything right while you’re in college, your “dream job” will come to you before graduation like prince charming before the end of a Disney movie. That’s just not always the case. For most people I know, their first job out of college has been just that, a job. It’s not always the thing they’ve dreamed of or the first step to climbing a ladder to success in their career field.


In fact, for most people I know, their first job out of college has been kind of sucky. You have to get some of that “workplace experience” so you that you can go out and chase your “dream job”. That doesn’t mean the time is wasted. You can always be learning where ever you go. Just don’t get discouraged if your first job or your first internship or whatever is not what you’ve always dreamed of doing. That’s pretty typical, and it will actually help you get where you want to go, even if it doesn’t feel that way.


4. Be Where You Are

This can be hard for both high school and college graduates alike. Don’t try to still be in high school while you’re in college. Make friends at college and be involved there. Don’t worry so much about what’s still happening in your high school social scene.


If you’ve graduated from college, focus on where you are. Don’t dwell on all the college social events you’ll be missing this next year. Don’t forget or neglect your friends from your previous stage, but don’t let them keep you from going out and making new friends and finding new community where you’re at.


I’ll be honest with you, especially when you’re fresh out of college, this is hard. The rest of your life you’ve been placed in a schooling situation that has almost automatically brought you friends by throwing you together with a bunch of people your own age. After college, friendships and finding them takes a bit more work. You have to put that work in though, or you’ll just be living on the memories of what was rather than making a new path of what could be.


5. Things Can Change More Quickly Than You Think

Whether your entering college or entering the post-grad “real world”, it can be easy to think that the season that you’re in now will be what life is like forever. That’s just not true. Things in life can change quicker than you ever thought possible.


While life can often seem to be moving forward at a snail’s pace (especially if you’re in a tough season), you still are moving forward and each season will come to an end. That difficult semester filled with way too much homework and boring professors? This too shall pass. That time where you’re working two jobs to pay off your student loans and you have no social life? This too shall pass. Every season shall pass, so enjoy what you can from it, and know that the unpleasant parts will eventually come to an end, just like all schooling.


Is there anything else you would share with a graduate? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.



Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

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  1. “Be where you are.” So true! If your campus is close to home but you live on campus, don’t go home every chance you get. Learn about your neighbors. I wish I had followed that advice!

    1. Ashleigh Rich

      Thanks for reading, Laura! Yes, it’s so hard that first year not to want to go home whenever you can, but the more you go home (unless you bring people back with you and make it a road trip or something) the less time you’ll spend building new relationships. I wish I had been more intentional about that too.

  2. Very good advice for young people. I teach in a university. Will share to my students.

    1. Ashleigh Rich

      Thank you Edith! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading!

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