Life After School: Tips for Grads from Grads

I had the great pleasure of writing several ‘Congratulations!’ messages to my friends, mentees, and family members as they graduated from school this past week. You DID IT!


I remember the anticipation, the sadness, and the joy of graduating from Western with my Bachelor’s like it was this weekend as well (even though it’s been a year). Post graduation life is weird, and I have plenty that I can share with you recent graduates on how to get past those days when you feel like you should be in class but you are not, and how not to slip into post-school depression–which is a thing. However, I thought it would be fun to step away from my podium, and let you first listen to the wise people I have surrounding me in my life and their perspective on how to thrive the most during and after school. So in the spirit of #MentorMondays I gathered some tips for those recent grads out there about #LifeAfterSchool:

  • “Don’t fall into a depression just because it feels like your options are limited. Keep pushing for what you actually want, no matter how bleak it seems. Big ambitions will eventually lead to something good.” – Samantha, class of 2013
  • “Don’t limit yourself! Leaving college with regrets (i.e. wishing you had joined a club, applied for more grants/scholarships, wishing you spent more time with friends, etc.) is time you’ll never get back! Make sure you have a solid balance and college will be the best time of your life.  Don’t pick a major just because it’ll “make you the most money”. Go with what you love and what makes you the happiest; because as far as I’m concerned, if I hated doing it in a classroom for 4 years, what makes me think I’m going to love my job for the rest of my life?” -Onaleisha, class of 2014
  • “Patience. Remember that you are capable of great things! Remember that as an adult, you have to hold yourself accountable. Don’t limit yourself by expectations from anyone but yourself. And most importantly do something you love!!” Kate, class of 2013
  • “Life after school is not easy. You have to work hard and fight for what you want. It is full of new responsibilities, bills, and relationships to maintain but it is also full of freedom. Besides your job, for the most part you are free to choose your daily schedule, which passions you pursue, and who gets your valuable time. For me, stressing how valuable my time really is would have been a great piece of advice. Every minute shouldn’t be planned or hoarded but neither should it be squandered. Use every moment to either further your career, relationships, or happiness.” -Trent, class of 2014
  • “Pick up books and read up on the soft skills (emotional intelligence, strengths finder, how to win friends and influence people). Yes an education is important but understanding yourself and understanding other people is just as (if not more) important. Also remember that sometimes the workplace will be much slower paced than we are used to in school. I had a very hard time with that, so learn how to fill your time and find ways to use your natural talents at work. Lastly, remembering that your first job out of college is often a stepping stone to bigger and better things. If you land your dream job right out of college, congrats! But if your job is less than what you expected, don’t beat yourself up. Think of it as a stepping stone and an opportunity to learn more about yourself.” -Angelica, class of 2012
  • “Don’t let any of that [non-stability] intimidate you. Believe you will find a new plan and work your [butt] off to prove it! (emphasis on “work”) Life may be hard, but it gets better when you know where you’re going.” Christine, class of 2014
  • “Don’t be afraid to sell your skills, but don’t be above doing the grunt work. Also, invest in one really good black handbag.” Liz, class of 2007(Undergraduate), 2014(Grad School)
  • “A person can best 50% of the competition by being present, prepared, and on time everyday. That same person can best another 25% of the competition by doing the right thing consistently. If that same person wants to best any or all of the remaining 25% he or she must strive for excellence by doing all the little things and taking advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow. This applies to a lot more than just one’s occupation.” Mike, class of 2004 (Undergraduate), 2007(Grad School)
  • “Believe in yourself MORE!” Kiera, class of 2002
  • “Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Now is the perfect time in your young adulthood to explore who you are and what makes you happy. Expand your mind and learn everything you can. And don’t be afraid to take courses in things you know nothing about, or even totally changing your game plan” Sarah, class of 2014
  • “Don’t just ‘take a job.’ Spend time finding one that will get you where you want to be– and if you can’t, take a job and keep looking for the other job, every day. Don’t settle with something that isn’t a stepping-stone to your goal. Also, don’t sell yourself short, know your own self-worth.” Sammy, class of 2013
  • “Life after school is daunting because in some ways the world us at your feet but to get to it you might have to climb out of your safety zone to jump off into unknown territory. Just take every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow and always pursue your passion. Also it is totally okay to flounder for a while just use that time in order to really hone in on what you want for your life.” Janelle, class of 2014
  • “Don’t be afraid to take risks. The best things in my life came from risks. I took none through most of college-I was way too serious and structured. My first big risk was changing my major after 4 1/2 years of college. It was my first best move.” Michelle, class of 2003

All wonderful advice, and I hope you are able to take something away from the great wealth of knowledge in these snippets I’ve put together.

Now for my own advice to you: Be brave. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because that is how you discover what you are capable of. You want to live in a new city? Do it. You want to try your hand at starting your own business? Start drafting a plan. You have 12+ years of education under your belt, and now is your chance to apply it–that doesn’t always mean following the common path. It also doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Find someone who is doing what you would like to do and ask for help. Ask your teachers, your family friends, your mentors (we are always around!) to help get you connected to the right people. We all have the highest of hopes for you, and we are here to help you navigate this crazy post-school world. It’s ok to be confused; we all are trying to figure this out as we go along too.

Congratulations graduates, welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life.

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  • Michelle Davis

    My favorite is, “Don’t be above doing the grunt work.” I think so many people feel like they are too special to do real work these days, and that limits them. I’ve been settled in my career for a while now, and I can say that those people either don’t make it through probation or they don’t get promoted. Certainly, they are not liked. Lieutenants have to empty the trash sometimes too.