7 Things I Wish I Knew on Graduation Day
2015 grad offers advice to graduating seniors
April 4, 2016
This coming May will mark one whole year since I graduated from Loyola University Maryland.
During this time I have learned an immense amount about myself. In addition, I realized quite a few things that I wish I knew prior to graduation. If I was able to have the knowledge that I do now, my transition into the world outside of college would likely have been a more fluent experience.
With that in mind, I knew there would be no better use for all that I have discovered in the past year than to share it with those who are about to go through the same change. My hope is that these points of advice will help make graduating seniors even more prepared than they already are.
Here are seven things that post-grad life has taught me thus far…
Listen to your gut.
Second guessing myself was a habit I maintained consistently throughout my years as a student. It’s human nature to ponder the “What if?”s. Whether it was about course selection, my assignments, those tricky multiple choice questions on exams, or the path I should take with my major, I would over-analyze each option. A lot of stress could have been avoided if I just trusted my gut. Because while it is important to put effort and thought into a decision, you shouldn’t be doing so to the point where you drive yourself crazy! If I knew that it was totally safe to trust my gut from the beginning, I would’ve saved myself a lot of aggravation.
This is especially important when entering the workforce. When you first begin job searching, you will be overwhelmed by the abundance of options that lay in front of you. This is where you need to start to trust in yourself. Once you begin the interview process, you will be exposed to many different environments, people, and yes, choices. Take everything in: the individual conducting the interview, the others who are already working there, the feeling you get from the physical space. You will get an instant feeling about whether or not you can see yourself being there every day, similar to when you were choosing which university to attend.
Think back to that moment when you knew Loyola was where you wanted to be. That moment when you knew that you would be happy on the Evergreen campus. That is the experience you want to have when you walk into a company’s office. You want to be able to envision yourself as part of the community.
As graduation approaches, reflect on the decisions you’ve made thus far to get you where you are today. How many of those choices were made because you trusted your gut? How many of them went against it? What were the results of each?
Relationships take effort to maintain.
During the past four years, you’ve had all your friends as neighbors and your best friends as roommates. But the reality is it won’t be this way forever. On my way home, I began to realize that I wouldn’t be within walking (or shouting) distance to all the people that have become so important to me. Loyola’s tight-knit community really encourages and allows you to form relationships that are strong and meaningful. As life changes and everyone goes their separate ways, it is so essential to remember to put effort into staying in touch.
Of course, there is no way to see each other as often as you’d probably like, but don’t let that discourage you from putting in the time when possible. Even if you can’t get together, try to utilize social media to stay in touch. And pick up the phone! Call your friends. Send them birthday cards. Remember that during this transition, it is easy to get distracted with the stress of a new schedule, a new lifestyle, adjusting to living in a different city. In the end, the friends you have made at college help make everything a bit easier along the way.
Since Loyola offers regional alumni chapters and events in many areas, this allows for reunion opportunities to meet up with those you haven’t been able to see. The annual Bull and Oyster event alone brings everyone together on such a large scale. Use these occasions as a way to reconnect with those you miss and to meet new people as well! I’m really grateful to have attended a school that cares so much about maintaining a connection with its alumni, that reminds us that even though we’re no longer on campus, we are still part of the community.
You add value.
It is very easy to forget that as a recent college graduate you are a sought after candidate when it comes to employers. You possess a fresh perspective that people want to bring to their companies. However, I found myself discrediting my value soon after graduation. This can influence not just the way you portray yourself in an interview, but also your own self worth. It is important to remind yourself that you just completed four years of hard work and dedication. Such an accomplishment should inspire you to feel proud and motivated to show the world what you have to offer. Don’t get wrapped up in feeling like you aren’t good enough because that mindset will always bring you down.
Remember that some graduates will go for more schooling and others will jump right into the work force, both paths are challenging and exciting. It can get tempting to compare yourself to your fellow classmates. Avoid that habit! You have value as a graduate of Loyola University. Don’t limit yourself based on what you think will happen, just go or it. At this point the opportunities are truly endless!
The well-rounded education that we were all so lucky to have really shines and stands out. That is what makes Loyola students different from most. When you’re feeling a lack of confidence, think back to all the wonderful skills and abilities you’ve gained since you started as a freshman.
Your first job isn’t your last job.
The topic of discussion during second semester of my senior year was what job everyone will have post graduation. There was so much pressure to pick the ideal place to work right from the start.
Keep in mind that this is only the beginning. Chances are you won’t find the perfect fit right off the bat. It takes time to learn and grow. It becomes easy to feel like you might be trapped if you end up disliking whatever your first job may be. Of course the idea is to find something that you love, however sometimes that takes a few different experiences in order to figure out.
My advice would be not to pressure your self to find a dream job immediately. No matter what you end up doing to start off your career, it will be an opportunity that will contribute towards your future. It is okay to begin the job search again if needed. In fact, you will have a better idea of what you want! Many graduating students forget this stage of their life will involve a form of learning and discovery as well. It helps to make a list of all different possibilities and directions that interest you. You’ll soon find out that there may be more than one career path that comes to mind.
No matter what you end up choosing to start out with, it will be the beginning of an exciting journey that Loyola already helped you prepare for in many ways.
Change is a good thing.
Graduation is always bittersweet and it may seem like the end of the best time of your life. At this point it is all about the perspective you take as you go through the transition. I found myself feeling melancholy and longing to be a freshman again quite often as the year drew to a close. That is unavoidable, however try not to let that state last for too long. Look forward to what is ahead of you with a positive light and think about aspects of the change that excite you.
I can say from experience that this takes time, especially in the first few months following the last days as a senior. The key is to embrace the new rather than resist it. This will happen with more ease once you dive in to that first new job or when you realize being back at home isn’t so terrible after all! Throughout our time at Loyola we dealt with the changes that each new year brought whether it was getting used to new courses, moving across campus, or even leaving to live in a foreign country for a semester.
Although each situation varies in its level of intensity, it still took time to adjust and see how it all did work out. Talk to people who have been there for you the past four years such as professors, friends, and mentors. They can provide great comfort and help you to really embrace what is to come!
Value your free time now.
On a less serious note, don’t forget to value all that free time you have currently while still in school. Spend it doing the things you really enjoy like walking around campus, hanging out with friends, or visiting that favorite part of Baltimore that you always enjoyed. Make the best of your senior year because it’s once in a lifetime! Try and avoid those long daytime naps and do something that you know you’ll miss once you leave.
Trust me I know it can take some convincing to get motivated, but this is the time to do it. The nine to five grind won’t always be as accommodating that is why I can’t stress enough to use your time wisely! Try doing something on campus that maybe you haven’t done or want to do more of like attending a sporting event, seeing a show at McManus Theater, laying on the Quad, having a chat with your favorite professor, or trying that spin class at the FAC that you never got around to. You will feel so much better knowing you took advantage of all that was at your fingertips. While you are in the moment it is easy to forget to value the time you have. As a graduate of almost a year now, I can say that you will miss it. However, you’ll look back and be okay with where you are because you made the best out of the time you had!
The “real world” isn’t out to get you.
Lastly, one thing I really wish I knew was that the “real world” isn’t out to make your life difficult. I constantly feared it and felt that I wasn’t ready to face it, but once you do you realize it isn’t as scary as it is made out to be. There will be tons of stories and tales from those who are older. Some will be more enticing than others. Don’t let that shape the way you view this new way of life. It will all fall into place one step at a time. Everything has its perks and its downsides, but we are all more than capable with taking on the unknown.
Even though I am no longer a student I still feel part of the community and at the same time I’m creating a new one. After becoming settled, I developed my own routine. It is rewarding to complete a workweek and it makes the weekend that much more exciting. Life at college is associated with being a false reality that acts as a barrier from actual reality. Although that may be true if you focus on the minor things like living in a complex filled with people who are all your age! They clearly are both different in a variety of ways, but there are a lot of similarities as well. It helped me become much more independent and acquire the experience of living on my own without diving in headfirst completely.
College is a step before fully jumping into adulthood. The “real world” comes with new challenges and that is all they are…just new hurdles to overcome.
And as you move forward, remember that no matter what, you’ll always be a Greyhound.