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5 Mistakes of a Graduate

This is the time of year where hope is renewed. Young adults are venturing out of high school and college with the expectation that they will change the world in which we live. This is indeed a time to celebrate what has been learned and accomplished throughout the learning years.

As I receive graduation announcements in the mail this year, I’m reminded of my own graduation experience. It was, 1996 and the Mead high school graduating class was so large that commencement was held in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Other local high schools held their commencement ceremonies at the local performing arts center. There were nearly 500 in our graduating class. We were a group of Mead students who were one of the last original Mead-only classes. In 1997, the Mead School District opened its second high school, Mt. Spokane.

I remember attending commencement downtown. The arena had only been open a year. I also recall going to my new best friend’s house to celebrate with her. She and I had met for the first time our senior year of high school. Here’s a photo of her and I at her party! One of the graduation gifts I received was a “word processor.” (aka, fancy electronic typewriter). Yes, I'm feeling really old right now.

The direction I was going after high school was undetermined, but I knew I had to go to college. It seemed like the only option for me at the time. I attended a community college and then took a break. Even after earning my AA degree with the intention of transferring to a four-year college, I still didn’t know what I wanted to DO. I took a break from higher education. During this break, I heard one of my parents say, “I wouldn’t be surprised if neither of my kids finished a four-year degree.” I couldn’t believe I was hearing that. My young adult, sassy-self decided to prove them wrong. I enrolled at Eastern Washington University, originally to finish BA in Business, but after one class, I changed my major to Communications and minored in Business Administration.

As I reflect on this experience, I realize how things could have been different for me. I was very fortunate that my parents saved money to help my brother and I continue our education after high school. As a young adult, I still made some poor decisions that made a negative and long-term financial impact on my personal story. Here are a few of them:

  1. I applied for and was offered thousands of dollars in student financial aid, both grants and loans. I accepted all the money! I didn’t know any better. I’d never had to be responsible for that amount of money. I didn’t consider how I would ever pay it back, other than, I’ll get a good job and then I’ll take care of the student loans.

2. I never considered going into the trades. I was influenced strongly by my parent’s careers. My dad, no surprise, was a communications major and had a successful career in advertising during my impressionable years.

3. I had at least one job since I turned 16 years old, but I didn’t know how to budget the money I earned. I spent money on all the things that I thought would make me cool among my peers and classmates. I had fun and spent money on trips and experiences that I couldn’t’ really afford.

4. I never applied for scholarships. There are a ton of scholarships available for students. This should have been my part-time job while I was finishing high school. A great resource for students today is:

5. I avoided the opportunity to dream of the possibilities. Living in the moment was my norm. I made no preparations for emergencies or opportunities.

I know that as a parent, you want the best for your student. You want them to have the best education. You want them to go to the college that they want to go to. Sometimes we even want something for our kids that we wanted for ourselves. Here are some insights as you work toward those things that you and your student want in their next step.

1. No matter how old your student is, help them learn about how to manage their money. Even if they are only 8-10 years old, they can begin learning about the responsibility associated with earning, spending, saving, and giving money.

2. Help your student explore colleges and careers. We know that today’s generation is expected to change careers up to 10 times in their lifetime. They just need a place to start. What if we didn’t pressure students into doing something that we did? What if we gave them opportunities to experience different careers through job shadowing and internships? That means we as parents and organizations, must be open to let students shadow or internship with us!

3. Consider trade schools, community colleges, and on-the-job training to get specialized training.

4. Research scholarship opportunities within your community and guide your student in the scholarship application process. Seriously, I just heard a story of a man whose daughter is graduating this year from high school. She is attending Whitworth University next year and has 90of her expenses covered! This is incredible and possible for your student too.

5. Discuss earning opportunities with them that can help them learn and grow in a field that they are interested in pursuing. For example, if your student wants to be a veterinarian, brainstorm ideas for how they could care for neighborhood pets via dog walking, cat-feeding, etc.

It’s rare for students to learn from their parent’s experiences. My prayer for you and your family is that you have intentional conversations with your students about the possibilities. Create an environment where it is safe to keep learning, even if it is an unconventional method. If you want some more help with having that conversation, let me know. As Whitney Houston said, “the children are our future.” (Greatest Love of All)

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