Advice for High School Graduates

By Barbara Danza, Epoch Times
June 8, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018    

Graduates receive a lot of advice as the big day approaches. They’re ending one chapter and beginning a new one. It’s the first day of the rest of their lives. The pressure to make the right choices at this juncture is high, and the future can be an overwhelming concept at this stage in life.

I asked professionals across a variety of industries two basic questions. First, what’s one thing you wish someone had told you when you graduated high school? And second, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Rather than a pie-in-the-sky commencement address, here are some real pointers from real people.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

“I wish I had been told at graduation not to be scared to fail, and if you are not terrified or at least anxious about that next step, you might not have reached high enough.”  

“The best advice I ever got was to trust my gut and to marry the right person for the right reasons. It is the most important decision you will ever make.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls

Find the Right Balance

“Work hard but don’t forget to play,” is the advice architect Jane Greenwood wishes someone had given her. She said, “It’s important to find the right balance from the outset. I came to this realization in my late 30s and have been making up for lost time ever since!”

“I was lucky that I found smart educators and had understanding parents who could think outside the box and support my desire to experience adulthood before starting college. After eight years of exploration, I finally began my university studies. Those years gave me a solid foundation and acute perspective that has made me a better architect today.”

The best advice she’s received? “Speak up and be heard and let your confidence shine. I was fortunate to have mentors who had faith in my commitment to succeed professionally and in life. My version of success was rooted in my passion for design and the desire to be a good architect who brings grace to the built environment. I just followed my passion.”

Jane Greenwood, principal, Kostow Greenwood Architects

Get a Career Coach

“I wish someone would have advised me to get a career coach, someone to help me explore the job opportunities and select which college major would have been best suited for me.”

“The best advice I have ever received was that after being accepted into college, no one cares about the grades you received in high school. It is good to aim high, but you don’t need the extra stress from aiming to be perfect.”

Crystal Olivarria, founder and CEO, CareerConversationalist.com

Expand Your Interests

CEO Stan Steinreich wishes he had been advised to “see college as more than an opportunity to get a degree to get a better job, but rather enjoy the educational opportunity to expand your horizons and interests.”

“I was one of those students who flew through university in two years, taking the maximum number of credits in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. I focused on degree requirements and a limited number of electives. It would have been great to take advantage of a broader range of classes. In retrospect, an art history class, one in philosophy, or even classical literature would have been a way to exercise other muscles in my brain.”

“Pick one career,” is the best advice he’s ever received. He said, “When I graduated, I had completed a double major and thought about using both degrees as a journalist. I remember my father-in-law pulling me aside and suggesting I focus on only one. He was a very successful business executive, and I had a tremendous amount of respect for his acumen in this area. He told me that you can’t be successful at two things at once.

“Those words made me think and I acted upon it. I made what was the right choice for me and am grateful to him for pushing me to make a decision.”

Stan Steinreich, president and CEO, Steinreich Communications Group, Inc.

Degree Versus School Name

“The best piece of advice I received was that the degree I earned would be more important than the name of the school I attended. I wanted to earn an engineering degree and attended Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo because of their top-notch degree program, rather than the brand name of the school. I knew I’d develop the skills necessary to excel in my career and develop my specialty in engineering.”

Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder, Study.com

Decide What’s Important to You

“Decide what’s important to you, and align your time and energy toward achieving that end. It’s easy to buy into the rat race mentality and chase our cultural definition of success. Truth is, you may achieve it and still not be fulfilled.” 

Christopher K. Lee, career consultant, PurposeRedeemed.com

Take a Gap Year

“Something I wish someone would have told me is to not stress about starting college and worry about planning every aspect of my future right away. Take some time, figure out your passions, focus on finishing senior year without the anxiety of starting college. Students need to know that they can always change majors, transfer schools, go back and repeat a course—it’s never the end of the world, even though it may feel like it.”

“The best advice I ever received was to take a gap year. I went to Europe as an au pair for eight months, learned about new cultures, realized how big the world is out there, with so many opportunities I never would have realized if I had stayed in my hometown. It taught me to be independent and to roll with the punches when things don’t work out as planned.”

Veronica Schofield, success coach, Advanced Academics

Network

Blogger Lisa Alemi wishes someone had told her to “network, network, network.” According to Alemi, “Many opportunities in life are about who you know—not what you know. Be a friendly person and genuinely get to know as many people as possible. Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be shy. Put yourself out there. No one knows what they are doing. No one knows that you don’t know what you’re doing. Go get it!”

“Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it—not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.”

Lisa Alemi, blogger, MoveMamaMove.com 

Find Mentors

“I wish someone had told me to find and work with mentors. I was really lucky during my college years to find a few really strong mentors push me in the right direction. Mentors both in and out of a student’s chosen career field can help them find opportunities and develop personally and professionally.”

“The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was to know your strengths, but try lots of ways to use them. I knew when I graduated high school that I loved writing and grammar, and I thought I knew the right career path for me. By staying open-minded and being willing to use those strengths in many different capacities, I have found a job and career path that make me excited every day.”

Alex Haslam, media relations specialist, HowToWatch.com

You Are Ready

“I wish somebody had told me that after high school or college, I would never be judged by letters of the alphabet ever again. What a revelation! Grades don’t really mean anything in life after school.”

“The best piece of advice I have ever received was from my writing mentor, Ann Randolph. At the end of every workshop experience with her, she pulled me aside and quietly stated, ‘You are a great storyteller. You are ready.’ You are ready? That rang as a sliver of truth that touched me to my very core.”

“I reflect upon those three words often because it applies to so many people in so many situations. ‘You are ready.’  What keeps us from doing what we really want to do? Fear. Do I want to live in a state of action or reaction? What kind of life do you want to live? If someone told you that you were ready every day of your life, you (and I) would probably make different choices than we have.”

“I’m telling you now, you are ready.”

KJ Landis, author, Superior Self series