The time of year has come once again for people who think they know things to give advice to graduates. How can one pass up the chance to share a bit about life in the real world with fresh, young minds? These "pearls of wisdom" shall be aimed at primarily at college-bound high school graduates, but if someone else happens to learn something - yay for you!
Let's begin with a chat about post-secondary education. No one is making you go to college or engage in any further learning in your life. However, should you wish to move beyond the part-time job you held as a high school student, gaining additional skills is a good idea. Besides, you don't really want to be one of those 30 year olds that live in your parent's basement, do you? (Yes, they really do exist.)
If you choose to go onto a university, technical school or some other form of organized learning, you will be offered student loans. What appears to be free money for the taking really isn't. You will have to pay these loans back with LOTS of interest. Only borrow the bare minimum because, believe it or not, you won't get out of school and immediately start your career making $100k. You will be lucky to get a job making just enough to pay your bills and keep up your ramen noodle, roommate-filled existence. You will, most likely, have to work your way up to your dream job.
Far too many young people fall into trouble with credit cards. Again, this isn't a money free-for-all. Please, please take a moment to really consider whether you NEED a 23rd pair of jeans, or if it is just a want. If you can't pay your bill right away, those spare jeans could end up costing you hundreds of dollars in the end. It doesn't make an economics major to figure out how fast interest compounds. Don't set yourself up for a crappy financial future.
Skipping classes is not the intelligent choice. Although the temptation to sleep in will be strong, get up and go to school. You, yes you, are paying to bask in the presence of your college professors. Sit there and soak up some knowledge. Your older self will thank you for it.
Most importantly, don't forget to have fun. This is one of the few times in your life where you won't be tied down to a family, a mortgage, car payments, and most of all your job. Enjoy the time you have left to finish "growing up", but don't enjoy it too much. Parents do not like to be called to post bail.
Congratulations, graduates and best of luck with your future. It's a tough world out there. Make good choices. Learn from your mistakes. Also, learn from other people's mistakes. Time flies and you won't have the opportunity to make them all yourself.
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