Graduates: How to transfer your ‘top of the world’ status into on the ground results

The season of commencements is one of the most joyful periods in the cycle of life

Even more than New Year’s celebrations,  the season of moving the tassels atop the mortarboards from right to left, symbolizes a new season for graduates and their loved ones.

The congratulations are abundant for graduates during this season. Yet, there is that dreaded, proverbial  ‘day after’ when anxious thoughts and feelings creep into the brand new graduates’ mental space. It is at this intersection where I will offer a few tips on how how graduates, their parents and other family members, friends and others connected to the newly minted alumni can successfully transition to life after graduation:

  1. Savor and digest the collective “moment.” Savor by soaking up the positive and challenging words, hugs, kisses, tears and awakening from everyone and everything you encounter. Digest all that is good and store it away.
  2. Honor those loved ones who were not present — either due to death or inability to travel to the graduate’s location. Thank them for wiling the graduate onto the finish line.
  3. Save the graduation cards. Place the cards in your vision books or scan them or find another way to store them. Memorize the great words on the cards that resonate with your soul.  Make those words your new affirmations or mantras. I still have my high school and graduation cards from three decades ago. When times seem thin or if I just want to celebrate, I refer to those great words of light.
  4. Focus and listen — even if no one around you is listening — to the words of wisdom from your graduation speakers. Most graduation speakers’ names are forgotten unless s/he is famous. However, all speakers often have great nuggets of wisdom to offer graduates. I have found the graduation speakers’ remarks useful in many areas of my life.
  5. Take self inventory.  What do you know and what do you believe that you don’t know? Honesty is essential for success in this example. Many graduates feel the pressure of suddenly being smart because they are receiving a new ticket to a brighter future. Yet, the hardest question to answer for most folk is: What are you going to do with your degree? If you do not yet have the answer to that question, take advantage of the short period between graduation and your next opportunity to fully answer that question. Don’t try to reach for the ‘rest of your life’ answers; start with what you plan to do during the first the first year to five years.
  6. Plan your next steps. Begin your next phase of planning with a few categories of intention that feed off of what you just completed from #5 (see above). Place the following heads atop the page of your initial life’s plans: “Personal,” “Professional,” “Financial,” “Spiritual” and “Other.” For instance, I annually review my goals or plans and make adjustments accordingly.  If not at first, eventually, all of your categories should be in sync.
  7. Time for ‘the talk.’  If you have completed #s 5 and 6, then prepare for ‘the talk” with your parents, grandparents, siblings and other loved ones about your next steps. Far too many graduates are anxious because they have not provided honest or well thought replies to your family members who wish to learn about your immediate plans. I know of one student who is terrified of telling her father that she chose a new major and it is journalism and not a technology or science major.  She needs to be well-armed with the facts that the new forms of multimedia communication is indeed a STEM career. Salaries are rising for individuals who possess a journalism or public relations and especially a graphic design degree, on average will earn salaries higher than or equal to their counterparts with business or technology degrees.
  8. Prepare to “adult.” It means that college grads must find ways to make your prospective return to your parents’ home a short stay. We are all aware that student loan debt for the class of 2016 was more than $37,000 per capita, according to the 2017 website. However, be prepared to save, repay your investment and read to understand your new workplace benefits package. Don’t forget to pay into your retirement. High school grads will be required to minimally wake up yourself and attend courses.
  9. Relax, relate and release. Call on your mentors to remind you of how much road you have ahead of you to travel. Enjoy the journey and shake off those things that do not benefit you.
  10. Smile. Enjoy your great life. I see so many graduates frowning before their names were called and they walked across the stage to accept their diploma covers and receive congratulatory handshakes. Similar to what I stated in #9, enjoy every aspect of your life. Graduating from high school or college means you are at an advantage than most of your counterparts around the world.

Ann Wead Kimbrough is the dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is also the mother of three adult children who graduated from high schools, colleges and universities, religious and military programs.