A few weekends ago was a bittersweet reminder that a mere three years ago, it was me walking across the commencement stage at AMSOIL Arena, shaking Chancellor’s hand, accepting my “diploma”, and putting a final bookend on my years as an undergrad at UMD.
A lot has changed since then.
This class was especially hard for me to watch graduate. Many students graduating from the Class of 2014 theater program had been freshman when I was in my final year. They, my friends and cast mates, have grown up, and it was great watching them celebrate their latest accomplishment.
Most of all, it reminded me of how exhilarating and terrifying this thing called “the real world” was. No more set schedule. No more assignments and tests. No more textbooks where I could look up a correct answer. Since then, I’ve learned a few things that I wish someone had whispered into my ear shortly before the anxiety of life after college set in.
While I can’t whisper in every one’s ear, I can share them here with you:
- Don’t be in a rush. Right out of college is the time to fulfill those crazy dreams that will be 100x harder once you’re married, have a family, or settle into a dedicated company position. Always wanted to work on a ranch in Wyoming or help third-world farmers in Peru? Do it now.
- Travel, travel, travel! Pick a destination, save up a few bucks, and go! Once you’re working a full-time job, it takes time to accrue paid time off. It’s harder to pick up and leave for even a two-day trip when you’re expected back in the office Monday morning right at 8 a.m. Don’t forget those friendly student loan payments that will soon be knocking on your front door!
- Use your Student ID when and where you still can. A discount is still a discount. Five cents off per gallon at the gas station? Five dollar movie tickets on Thursday’s? It still feels great, college student or not.
- Pick up a newspaper. More accurately, scan the main headlines on your phone in the morning before heading out the door. Knowing current events and other big news items comes in handy when meeting new people, both at work and in social settings.
- Keep in contact with college connections. Remember that internship you held the summer after sophomore year? Your favorite college professor? They might be able to help you in your job search. Shoot’em an email, give’em a quick call. Let them know what you’ve been up to and the type of work you’re looking into with your job search. They have connections and networks, too.
- Revisit favorite Duluth places. Whether you’re moving three days after graduation or plan to hang around for a bit, revisit those favorite places you’ve discovered over the past 4 years. Enger Tower, the Lakewalk, your “spot” on Park Point beach…Duluth is a pretty special place and is one-of-a-kind.
- Push to keep learning. You may have the degree, but that doesn’t mean your skill sets and knowledge should stop growing. Love graphic design, but didn’t have the time for it in college? Look into community college classes. Dreams of opening your own business? Research MBA programs. Don’t become complacent. Keep reaching higher!
- Hobbies outside of work are a GOOD thing. Find groups, clubs, anything that matches your interests and dive on in. Audition for the next community theater production; join the gym’s running club. Whatever it is, do it. Life after college shouldn’t be all work and no play.
- Call mom and dad. You might not live under their roof or under their rules anymore, but they still want to hear what you’re up to. Give’em a call and let them know you’re doing okay.
- Faced with a tough decision? Make the choice that will make a better story.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014. Whatever you pursue, it’s going to be great. Times will be tough, but you’ll make it. College was great, and what lies ahead is going to be even better.