So you’ve made it through four long years of high school. Kudos, you’re on your way to the next big phase of life! But what exactly does that entail? What are the things you need to start preparing for? What should be your main focus?
We know our students come from all backgrounds of life, and the path for one student may not be the same fit for another. So we’ve put together some essential advice for this year’s graduating class to help you transition into your next phase of life, whether it’s towards a 4-year university, community college, or gap year.
High School to a 4-Year University
• Consider living arrangements – A big aspect of enrolling in a 4-year university is moving out of your parents’ house. If you’re planning to move into the dorms, now’s the perfect time to start reaching out to your new roommate. Many colleges will provide you with a means to get in touch with your future roomie, so you should take advantage of this opportunity to get to know one another.
If you’re planning to live off-campus, you should start looking for a place as soon as possible, either online or through your university’s Housing Services. As summer approaches many students will have graduated or transferred out of your university, so the likelihood of finding a vacant room or apartment are much higher if you start searching right after the Spring semester ends.
• Move-in supplies – Once you’ve got your living situation in order you’ll need to stock-up for your everyday needs. There’s a myriad of items you should consider packing—from storage containers to laundry supplies to personal toiletries—so it’s best to start making a list early. We’ve put together a few suggestions over the years, including the top Freshmen Essentials and a few Useful Graduation Gifts Every Freshman Needs.
• Embrace your independence – Finally, there is no denying how exciting it will be to be on your own. You should embrace your new independence and be proud of this new chapter in your life. Remember though, with this new found liberation also comes new responsibilities, most of all being your academics. You made it all the way to college, the last thing you want to do is let your work go to waste.
High School to a Community College
• Consider majors – It can be tough to choose a major right out of high school, but for students enrolling in a community college, it’s an especially important decision. Once you’ve earned enough credits to complete your school’s course program you’ll need to consider what’s next. By researching and exploring the different majors you are interested in, you’ll have a much clearer sense of the kind of studies you’d like to pursue once you transfer.
• Look into classes that transfer – On the topic of transferring, it’s crucial that you look into which courses at your community college will transfer to a 4-year university (or whichever institution you are looking to enroll at). You will come to find there are numerous courses available at community colleges that will not count towards your transferring credits, so it’s wise to identify those classes early on so you can plan your schedule to be as efficient as possible.
• Get out there – The environment at a community college is very different than high school. While most people will be from the local area (and maybe your high school), you shouldn’t expect lunchtime rallies or gym assemblies. Most students will simply show up, go to class, then head back home (or to work). You should use the diverse student body at your community college to socialize and find like minds. Since you most likely will not be socializing in a traditional “college setting” (i/e dorms, dining halls, recreation centers), meeting people in your classes will be a great way to branch out.
High School to a Gap Year
• Weigh options – If you’re taking a gap year, that means you’re going to have a lot more time on your hands—you’re no longer obligated to attend school, so the hours you would have spent in class are now your own. How are you planning to fill up that time?
You have a world of options in front of you—you could travel, head into the workforce, or just explore your personal interests. Take this time to find the right fit for you, but most important of all is to make sure you’re staying active and making your time count, whether for professional, financial, or personal growth.
• Set a goal – It’s important to recognize you are setting aside this time in the pursuit of exploration. With that in mind, it’s key that you set a goal for yourself and pursue it. Your goal could be to find an industry you’d like to work in, or to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, or to write that novel you’ve been thinking about for years—whatever it may be, you need something to work towards and a goal to accomplish.
• Build your network – When you decide to take a gap year, you are essentially throwing yourself into the “real world.” You never know who you are going to meet, so consider it a smart move to be proactive and make contacts. The guy you met at the cafe could end up being your “in” to a great company, or the woman you helped out at the grocery store could be an expert in your field of interest; it sounds crazy but that’s how networking happens! They say luck is nothing more than opportunity meeting readiness—don’t short change yourself by letting a conversation fall flat.
What path are you taking after high school? How are you preparing for the next big step? Share your thoughts in a comment below.