You’re finally finished with high school or college, and for that, congratulations! Life as you know it is about to change as you enter a different phase. It’s new, exciting, and daunting at the same time.

Above all, this new phase is an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you actually want to do with the rest of your life. Take Advantage! Below I have listed some things I wish I had known coming out of high school or college that will hopefully help you as you begin this journey.

Ask Questions  Even if you think it’s to the point of being annoying. Better to ask questions and be prepared than to assume you know something and be made a fool. This means go to your professor’s office hours. That’s what they are for. If you’re interviewing for a job, ask the employer tough questions. You’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.

Challenge Your Beliefs  Why do you hold some of the beliefs that you have? Because that’s how it’s always been? That’s how you were taught? Find out for yourself. Just because you were taught something doesn’t mean it was correct. It’s okay to challenge what you think you believeAfter challenging your beliefs, if you are still strong in them, they will have only been reinforced.

Embrace Failure  Most people say something along the lines of “don’t be afraid to fail”, which is great advice! But I say embrace failure. It WILL happen. If it doesn’t, it probably means you’re not challenging yourself enough.

Fear of failure, and even the fear of success, holds us back from attempting many of the things we secretly wish for”

-Chris Guillebeau in “The Happiness of Pursuit”

I once failed a checkride in flight school because I tried to pull a Maverick-style Top Gun stunt in a piper warrior aircraft that led to me stalling the plane and falling through a cloud base. The flight ended with immediate failure as my instructor muttered, “Mr. Thomason, take me back to Westheimer (airport).” I later finished flight school AND have a funny story to tell.


Start Exercising Immediately  Once you start that full-time job, you will most likely be sitting a lot. Stave off lower back pain (speaking from personal experience) and a list of other issues by running and strengthening your core. If you’re starting college, this will help with stress. Also, speaking from personal experience, the freshman fifteen is definitely real!

Never Stop Learning  Just because you’ve graduated high school or college doesn’t mean learning has to stop.

The person who stops studying merely because he has finished school is forever hopelessly doomed to mediocrity, no matter what his calling.”

-Napoleon Hill in “Think And Grow Rich”

The world is a big place. Be as curious as you can and see where it takes you. This leads me to my next point:

You Don’t Know As Much As You Think You Do  I get it. You’ve just graduated and you have an enormous amount of confidence right now. That’s great! But if someone with more life experience tries to give you advice, listen to them. That doesn’t mean you have to use their advice, but at least give them the courtesy of listening. You may just learn something.

Get Control Of Your Finances  Start practicing good money habits right away. Don’t start keeping up with the Jones’ and waste money on things you don’t need. Also, start saving as much as you can on a regular basis. Open up a Roth IRA and automate it — you won’t even miss the money coming out of your account.

If you’ve graduated college and get a job that has a matching 401(k), make sure you save enough to meet the match requirements. THIS IS FREE MONEY! Compound interest is a beautiful thing. If you start planning for retirement now, the money you put back will compound over the next 40+ years!

Start Building Credit  This is what the world requires, so get on this early. I tried to get a loan for a house after graduating college and had trouble because my “credit history wasn’t long enough.” Get a bank credit card and use it monthly for gas/groceries. Be careful not to abuse it, though, it eventually has to be paid back!

Life Happens  The funny thing about plans is that they don’t often turn out the way we pictured them in our head. Sometimes relationships fail. Company layoffs are a very real thing. Medical emergencies happen all of the time. Don’t let any of these things discourage you. You will not be the first to experience the difficulties of life, and you certainly won’t be the last. Let this be of some comfort to you.

Thank/Make Time For Your Parents  Last but definitely not least, thank and make time for your parents. Life is hard to navigate sometimes, and it’s even harder when you have the responsibility of a child. If you’ve gotten as far as graduating high school or college, then your parents have done well. For high school graduates, right now is an exciting time for you. But remember that it might be tough on your parents as you’ve been a resident of their household for the better part of two decades. Cut them some slack if they call to check on you all of the time. For college graduates, life will now be even busier with a full work schedule. Remember to make time for your parents, they won’t be around forever.