High school graduation is a stressful and exciting time. You're on the cusp of childhood and adulthood. You're about to begin a new chapter. I graduated high school in 2019, and there are quite a few things I wish I would have known then. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Check out this list of the 10 things I wish I knew as a fresh high school graduate.
If you're still in high school and your school offers financial courses, I highly recommend taking one of those. The money management skills you'll learn will be critical after graduation as you'll likely be tracking your income and expenses. Be sure to keep a budget of your incoming revenues and outgoing expenses - it'll save you a lot of time and sanity in the long run.
Mental Health Prioritization
It's simple - before you can help others, you must help yourself. Learn to prioritize yourself and your mental health. Between endless scholarship applications and college visits, senior year of high school can be extremely stressful. It may be easy to think you don't have enough time for yourself. As a self-proclaimed work-a-holic, I've felt this numerous times throughout my academic and professional career. However, I've learned I don't perform as well when I neglect myself. Schedule mental health days. Take time to breathe. Check-in with yourself. Give yourself time to reflect and digest. Learning to do these things early will help you succeed socially, academically, and professionally for years to come.
It's critical to have strong time management skills in school. Studying for exams, completing assignments, participating in extracurriculars, and having a social life can be hard to juggle. Since middle school, I've used a paper planner to write out my weeks and months. This helped me visualize my weekly responsibilities and manage my time effectively. You could also use a digital planner or set reminders on your phone. Everyone has their preferences, so find a time management method that works best for you. Getting all of your tasks done and still having time to do the things you love will contribute to peace of mind and reduce stress.
Write down your goals to make them concrete. Set monthly, yearly, and life goals. This will help keep you focused to reach your dreams. When I was in high school, I often got caught up in the small daily stressors and lost sight of the big picture. Setting goals helps you visualize your future and work toward it successfully. Remember to write realistic and attainable goals with a set time frame. Knowing what you want and how to get it is a mark of adulthood.
Basic Life Skills
You're likely preparing to move out of your childhood for the first time. This means you'll need to take on a whole new world of responsibilities. Be sure to hone your cooking skills while you're still at home. Before I started college, I skimmed many articles on simple, dorm room meals. Also, make sure you know how to do your laundry. You don't want to be the person who doesn't know how to work a washer.
Strong Communication Skills
Communication is the backbone of all relationships. Graduating seniors must have effective communication skills. Know how to communicate your thoughts and feelings. Don't be afraid to engage in controversial conversations. Share your opinions and desires - even if they contradict the status quo. This is something I still struggle with, but it only gets better with practice.
There's a lot of information out there, especially on social media. Learn to think for yourself. Analyze the media you're consuming. Don't take everything you consume as truth. For the most part, anyone can post anything they wish to social media, regardless of its merit. Be on the lookout for false or misleading information. Learning these skills at the high school level will challenge you to be more questioning and probing adults, expanding your knowledge base through independent research.
Although we're taught to be independent, everyone needs a strong support system. Don't be afraid to lean on friends and family when you need them, and be there for them when they need you. Even though this is a hectic time in your life, don't neglect the people you care about most. Make time for them - whether that means a coffee date or FaceTime call. Over the years, I've learned this is critical to positive mental health and productivity.
Take responsibility and accountability for your actions. I know this can sometimes be difficult. It's one of the harder parts of entering adulthood. You must take responsibility for the choices you make, even if they end up being mistakes. If you make a mistake, take ownership of the situation and be prompt with your apology. If you make a promise, follow through on your word. This is critical in building lasting, life-long relationships within all aspects of life.
It's easy to get swept away into someone else's vision for you. As a soon-to-be high school graduate, you're probably extremely impressionable and likely being pulled in a thousand different directions. Amidst the chaos, take time to understand what energizes you and brings you joy. Chase after what YOU want to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Maddie Maloy is a junior at Indiana University (IU) studying journalism and minoring in marketing and public and environmental affairs. She is passionate about advancing social justice globally through communication and storytelling. At IU, she works as a reporter for the Arnolt Center of Investigative Journalism. She also serve as the vice president and philanthropy chair for Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc.