Graduation Lessons: 4 Things I'd Tell My Younger Self
Graduating with my master’s degree was a little surreal. I shared last week on Instagram that there was one point in my life where I didn’t even think I would make it to my sophomore year of college.
I remember reaching the end of my freshman year at a local private college and realizing - there was no way I could go back in the fall. I didn’t have enough in my bank account and I couldn’t take out any more loans. So, since I was still living at home, I decided to quit school and to work - knowing that would be the only way to ever go back.
I worked that whole summer and fall, saving as much as I could. But I was still short a few thousand dollars. I thought maybe I could start school again in January. It was my dream to go away to college, and so I applied to schools out of state this time, and had my heart set on Grove City College, a small private college in Western, Pennsylvania.
When I received my acceptance letter, I was still unsure if I would be able to go. Money was still tight, but a few days later, my tuition money pretty much fell from heaven. I had called into a radio station running a cash contest - all you had to to do was be caller number 5 to win $5,000. And guess what -I was number #5! I was so cautious about winning the money that I didn’t want them to even mail the check. Instead I took train into New York City and had the check delivered to me by hand. With the money I had saved up (plus my heaven money!) I was able to go back to school and 3 ½ years later I finished. And just five years after that, I finished my Master’s in Business.
Today I want to share with you four things I’ve learned since graduating college, some of which I’ve only thought about as I was finishing my Master’s degree. I understand that college is not for everyone and that not everyone needs to go to college. But for those of you out there that are thinking about going to college, have a kid who is about to apply to schools, or if you're even going back to school after years away, I hope this post is helpful for you.
1. Community College is a Great Option I was a good student in high school, but definitely not Ivy League material, so instead of going to a local community college, I spent thousands my freshman year just to go to a school with a “better name”. Instead I ended up a college drop out at 19. If I could have gone back in time, I probably would have gone to community college my first two years to avoid going into debt and dropping out in the first place. Some state schools even have programs where you are guaranteed acceptance if you keep up a certain GPA during your two years at community college.
2. Putting Yourself Through School is Possible I had to pay for college myself and it forced me to find odd jobs to work in between my college classes. If you put in a lot of hours and are able to live at home as long as possible, you can save up a lot in short period of time. And even though my home environment wasn’t the best, it’s possible to stick it out in the short run to have more money in the long run.
My jobs weren’t glamorous either - I worked some really weird ones. I worked as a caretaker for two elderly people, both into their 80s that needed a lot of hands on care and love as well as a caller at a call center - you know the ones that annoy you by asking who you’re voting for. Yup - that was me. So don’t be afraid to do a job that might be difficult or unpleasant.
3. It’s Okay To Take a Longer Time It took me 4 ½ years to graduate and that’s okay (but it definitely bothered me years ago). Now I’m 28 and I have my master’s and does it even matter that I graduated a little later than my peers? I know people who took over 6 years to graduate and instead of ruining their job prospects, it only enhanced it because they had a story of perseverance to tell.
4. Your Major Isn’t as Important As You think It wasn’t my major that got me my first job out of college, it was my campus experience as both a resident advisor and a tour guide. Yes, I needed to have a degree to apply to it, but what mattered to my first job was the experience. If you’re going to be a doctor or an engineer… then yes, your major really does matter. But if you're unsure what you want to do after graduating, then study something you can enjoy and master. Majoring in English helped me to develop skills in thinking, writing and public speaking. But it was my experience working on campus helped to get me my first job. I started out as an Admissions Counselor at a local university back in New Jersey and during my time their learned the ins and outs of the admissions process and also how to plan and execute large events. And that first job led me to the role I’m in now as an Events and Donor Director at a small non profit.
It was a tough time when I had to work all those hours and not knowing if I could go back to school, but I think I’m so much better off because of it. Whenever I’m going through a tough situation I’m always glad I didn’t know about it in advance, because if I knew the future, I’d never make it through. Although it might have been fun to tell my younger self to keeping going because one day you might get your master’s!
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are things that you wish you would have known before going to college or grad school?