DionRabouin.com (sort of)

Advice for New Grads

Posted in Opinion by dionrabouin on May 8, 2012

(May column for the Greater Far Northeast Reporter)

May is here and that means one thing: the end of school is approaching. In a matter of weeks or even days many of the newly-minted adults in our community will be graduating from high school. For parents it means the recognition that their babies are all grown up and for those babies it means independence and a new-found responsibility for themselves. In this time of enduring and inalienable change, I’d like to offer a bit of advice, because it wasn’t so long ago that I went through this myself.

As I went through my K-12 education I never stopped to think about what the next step meant. When I finished elementary school I knew I would move on to middle school and when I finished middle school I knew I would move on to high school. Grade after grade, year after year, there were new teachers and new students and maybe even a new building, but the routine was the same. College was its own animal.

For students finishing high school and not planning to enter college, I advise you to rethink your decision. Not only is a college education going to put in position for better jobs, more money and an infinitely higher career ceiling, it’s a place where you can learn who you are. No other experience in this world will give you four years of training, education and as much free time, new experiences and new people as you can find to make a direction for your life.

The most important thing you’ll get in college is an education, but it won’t be the education you get inside the walls of a classroom that will change your life. Don’t get me wrong, the skills, formulas and information you’ll be taught by your professors will no doubt be the key to succeeding in your profession. There’s a reason the top jobs in the United States require a college degree. But the real education you’ll get in college will come from elsewhere.

College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and if you don’t do it right you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. With that in mind, I have four tips for new grads that you won’t get anywhere else. If you follow these it will make your college experience the best it can possibly be.

Number 1: Say yes.

Years ago Nancy Reagan taught us to “just say no,” and when it comes to trying drugs and giving in to peer pressure, you still should. But I’m talking about those situations where saying no is the easy way out. It’s easy to say no to new experiences, new friends and new challenges. Saying no keeps us from having to leave our comfort zone or take a risk or get hurt. What takes real courage at this stage of life is saying yes.

When we’re kids it’s too easy to say yes, which is how we get sucked into bad habits, bad situations and bad company. But as we get older it gets easier to say no, because of the comfort and ease of routine. So say yes when it’s easier to say no; I guarantee it will go a long way.

Number 2: Find something you’re passionate about and dive into it.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Find the thing that moves you and devote yourself to it. You’ll have a million chances to do a million different things, but if you find the thing that makes you the most happy and indulge yourself fully you will be much more happy and much more successful.

Whether it’s sports, a hobby, clubs, fundraising, cutting hair, cutting the grass, reading, fishing, fighting the man or anything else, find it and do it. College is about finding out whom and what you want to be for the rest of your life. Sometimes you’ll find that in the classroom, but more often than not you won’t. If you want to be a US senator when you grow up, you’ll learn exponentially more from running for student council and interacting with local politicians in your area than you will in any political science class, I can promise you that. The same is true for any profession.

Everyone I’ve ever met that went to class, did their homework and went straight to sleep regretted it. That includes the people who graduated with straight ‘A’s. Having been in the world of work for enough years and sifted through resumes myself, I can promise you that a wealth of experience and leadership positions outside your school will grab the attention of more employers than graduating summa cum laude.

Number 3: Skip class.

Everyone is going to tell you to go to class and they’re right, you should go to class. You just don’t need to go all the time. There’s no spot on your degree for a perfect attendance sticker, trust me. Singer Tom Petty said it best:

“You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does.”

Don’t be afraid to stay up late, sleep in and take a day for yourself. Missing a class every now and then will help you keep your sanity and give you the chance to really enjoy your newfound adulthood. College is a unique experience and opportunity that you will never, ever have again. It’s a time to better yourself and become the person you will be for the rest of your life. There’s no reason to spend the whole time in a classroom or a computer lab.

Number 4: Don’t blow it.

Reading the previous three points you might think that I’m telling you to blow off the education part of your college experience, but that’s far from the truth. Being an adult is all about balance. Don’t waste your time and your money (and your parents’ time and money) being stupid. More importantly, don’t miss out on the best time of your life because you weren’t responsible enough to handle it.

Make college the best possible experience and you will leave prepared for anything life can bring. You’re the next generation and we’re all counting on you to become the best people you can be.


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