Updated on 02.02.09

Life Advice to a Graduating College Student

Trent Hamm

A long time reader that I’ll call “Samantha” wrote to me with the following question:

I’m a senior in college and will be graduating in May. I’m extremely blessed in that I will be graduating with no debt – a scholarship provided all of my tuition expenses, and my parents were able to cover room and board. I’ve had several jobs, including one on campus, and I’ve been able to hoard that money in a savings account. I have a credit card, but I ALWAYS pay the full amount each month. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been provided.

The reason I’m writing is that, for my graduation gift, my parents and I are working together to create a “Wisdom Book.” Essentially, I have asked all of the people in my life whom I love and admire to write down what advice they would like to give about life, love, money, etc. to a recent graduate like myself.

Would you recommend any specific questions to ask?

With regards to the specific question, I don’t think I would ask a specific question at all. Instead, I’d simply ask the following:

What single piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you were about to graduate college?

The truth of the matter is that you never quite know where a great piece of advice might come from. A financially well-off person that you might expect to give you investment advice might have that one perfect piece of relationship advice for you. At the same time, you might get a great piece of career advice from someone you’d never think of as a career guru.

What advice would I give in response to this question?

Follow your heart, always. Use your brain to give yourself as much security and safety as you can as your heart wanders. That means when you earn money, save some of it. Build up a big emergency fund in a savings account, then start investing some of it into the stock market with some index funds. Similarly, when you have a chance to pick up a new skill of any kind, jump on it. When you have the chance to establish a new relationship with someone, jump on it. The more relationships you have, the more money you have, the more skills you have, the easier it’s going to be to follow your heart. If you don’t do these things and take the easy path, you’re going to find yourself throughout your life being tied down to your circumstances, watching great opportunities pass you by, and that will leave you with nothing but regret.

And now, I’d like to open up this very question to my other readers for their comments. Please leave a comment and answer the big question:

What single piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you were about to graduate college?

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  1. Trevor - 14 Year Old Blogger says:

    Nice Q&A.

    There are different types of advice and though they all benefit, only a few fits you.

  2. I wish I had fully understood the value of compound interest. It’s staggering to see what the numbers would be like had I started saving right out of college instead of 10 years later.

  3. T'Pol says:

    I wish, someone had told me:

    “Don’t rush spending all of your hard-earned money once you start making it. Set aside enough money to cover at least one year’s worth of expenses a.s.a.p, so that you will never feel trapped in a job/relationship/place you do not want.”

    Thankfully, I have figured this out by myself about 10 years after graduation and promised myself to set aside enough money to cover all my living expenses for at least a year. I have kept my promise and am very proud of it.

  4. Hi Trent. I really like this point of this post.

    Also, interestingly enough, most of my very favorite posts from you–this one included–don’t have to do with frugality. (Or at least, they aren’t primarily about frugality.)

    As to my piece of advice it would be to take this early start she has and actually get started investing!

  5. Read “Never Eat Alone.” It will change everything.

  6. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    That’s a great question. My answer would be not to stop learning. Continue your education on your own, and share what you know with others. No matter how successful you become, stay humble and remember that there were people that helped you get there. Be gracious. Give something back (time or money) to charitable organizations you believe in. Be smart with your money, but remember you can’t take it with you.

    Lots of people have more wisdom than I do…but that’s my advice to a recent grad.

  7. Kristen says:

    Here’s some advice I wish I’d gotten BEFORE getting into college: Don’t sign up for all those credit cards they’re offering you!

  8. Terri W says:

    This is similar to the first comment:

    Continue living like a college student, at least for awhile, after getting your first job. You’re already used to living on very little money, so use this opportunity to sock away a nice nest egg without having to “downshift” your lifestyle.

  9. Brad says:

    I’ve got a daughter of my own who is also graduating this May. Among the most important things I can think of to tell a graduate would be to invest the time and effort to keep yourself fit and in good health. It’s really easy to take those things for granted in your early twenties, but developing good habits now, will pay of not only financially over your lifetime (of secondary importance), but will enhance your day to day quality of life immeasurably. I started jogging/running regularly when I was 25 and now, almost thirty years later, I have had less health issues than most of my peers, and my energy level is above average. Yes, I fall off the wagon on a regular basis, but after logging in an average of 20 miles a week for 30 years, I’m hooked, and hopefully have another 30 years of activity ahead.
    Whatever you choose to take part in, and it certainly doesn’t have to be running… walking is great too…. just stay active. Good health is the key to every other kind of success out there.

  10. eden says:

    Spend some time thinking about your college experience and list the things you wanted to try in college but never had time for – then try to do them. The thing I miss most about college is all of the low cost, convenient opportunities to try new things. It’s quite a bit harder to have those experiences once you’ve graduated, so you really have to make a point of it.

    Also, in a semi-contradiction, spend the first six months on your job really concentrating on excelling. I think it’s the most important time, once you’ve established that reputation up front it will really reward you for the rest of your career. Just don’t spend more time on work than you’re willing to for the next few years – basically really actually work 40 hours a week (you’d be surprised how few do) and do the absolute best it is possible to do, but don’t do 80 hr weeks b/c that is unsustainable.

    Make a list of the 3 – 5 things that are most important to you and make sure to do at least one of them every day.

  11. Andy says:

    I wish someone would have reinforced ‘do what you love, and the money will come.’ In college, all I heard was ‘get the job that pays the most, you’ll be thankful for the extra money.’ It made sense at the time, but looking back, I wish I would have spent some time really thinking about what I wanted and gone after it.

  12. Trent hits another one out of the park. It’s a good thing the rest of us aren’t as wise as you, then you wouldn’t have so many readers! Great post.

  13. SP says:

    I don’t know how to elegantly convey it, but I think the key difference between school and professional jobs is that just doing excellent work isn’t enough. Company politics mean more than young idealistic people like me like to admit. You don’t have to play dirty, but you do have to understand what is going on around you. So, pay attention.

    Also, invest time in yourself. As someone mentioned try to develop good health habits, and take classes in things that interest you just for fun.

  14. sarah says:

    To the graduate: You are in charge. Ignore the things you think you’re supposed to do just because people do them at about your age: Get married, have children, buy a house, get a 9 to 5 job, go to graduate school, etc.

    You are in charge, and nobody knows you as well as you do.

  15. Stacey says:

    Don’t rush to become an “adult” and get all of the “adult” things – house, new car, new furniture, stellar wardrobe for work… i was so used to being broke in college that i wish i had stayed that way when i was hired at my first real job. instead, my dh and i bought a house, a newer car, etc. and saved nothing. Aside from taking out too many student loans IN college, the money that went out right after college is my 2nd biggest regret.

  16. Think before you speak.
    Breathe before you act.
    Give before you think.
    Love with all your heart, get hurt, love, repeat.

  17. Dano says:

    After, follow your heart….

    I’d have to add: Reach Out To People…especially people who have experience in what your interested in. Generally, they will be happy someones is interested in them and willing to share their story with you. All you have to do is ask.

  18. Stacy says:

    I graduated last year.
    Start saving for retirement NOW. I have several coworkers who are much older than me who have no retirements savings.
    I just do six percent each month, but I do NOT miss it. Well, not very much.

  19. Tahlia42 says:

    Don’t let your degree create blinders … you are not an business/biology/history (insert degree here) major any more. Life will throw you many opportunities to go down different paths. If you don’t label yourself and have a sense of adventure, follow the ones that speak to who you really are. Even if you don’t end up using that degree, it has served you well.

  20. Brendan says:

    Travel, go on the adventures you’ve always wanted to. It never is as easy as it is right after college before you tie yourself to building a career and a family. Both of which are great, but they’ll be there when you get back.

  21. TMS says:

    Why do the Jones’ always look tired, stressed, and worried about finances? …because they are. In college I lived frugal lifestyle because I had no steady income; although the only stress I had came from [a lot of] homework/tests/projects. As a recent college grad who still lives like a college student (frugal yet comfortable), the only “stress” I have comes because my favorite sports team can’t get that win that they need.

  22. urbantux says:

    I wish someone had told me that the Jones’ don’t care how well you can keep up. So don’t try.

  23. That is definitely a million dollar question! I actually wrote a book on the subject called “Reality Check” which is about helping students make the transition from high school and college into the real world. If you can put me in touch with Samantha, I’d be happy to send her a free copy.

  24. Studenomics says:

    I am close to graduating as well and everyone is telling me one important thing. To get into the field ASAP. Everyone is telling me to make sure that I don’t take any time off or waste any time and that I get into the field right away. How do you guys feel about this? Do you advise a new graduate to get into the field right away or are there other options?

  25. EngineerMom says:

    I graduated in 2004. What I wish I’d known then:

    – Take at least 3 months off between college and your first full-time job. Do something you always wanted to do in college, whether it’s to travel the world, work on a ranch (one of my unrealized dreams), teach English overseas, work on a farm, live and work in a big city (even getting a job as a barista or waitress for a few months while bunking with a friend or family member can provide immeasurable experiences), etc.

    – A high-paying job at a reputable company isn’t worth dreading getting up in the morning. Quitting after only a few months isn’t going to hurt your resume. Dinking around for two years hating your job, then getting laid off? That will hurt your resume.

    – Don’t buy a brand-new car. Don’t buy a car at all if you can avoid it. Don’t allow the insurance company to offer you a chunk of money instead of fixing your car (I was in a car accident 5 days after moving to MN for my first job that totaled the used car my parents had just given me. I replaced no car payment with a $386/month car payment).

  26. Saver Queen says:

    Forgive yourself – for any mistakes you think you’ve made. If you haven’t made any mistakes yet, you will. Whether they are financial mistakes or personal mistakes, learn to forgive yourself and you will be free to go down a new path.

    Also don’t be afraid of going your own way, even if it’s different from your peers.

  27. Madam says:

    Travel and enjoy your youth. My grandmother regrets putting off a lot of travel and now she is too frail. Travel is for the young and the physically energetic. You can stay in cheaper, more adventuresome places, you’ll enjoy it and see more because you have more energy, in your youth you’ll be less at risk for sickness when you travel, and you’ll have a lifetime of memories to savor. My husband and I were lucky enough to travel extensively and live in several foreign countries before we were 40 and I would never trade those experiences for anything. Live overseas, get a job overseas, go! You can always settle down later in the good ol’ USA.

  28. Samantha says:

    Oh wow, guys. I’m the Samantha who wrote the letter. Thanks so much for all of your insights – it means the world to me!

    For those of you interested, I applied in November for a summer immersion program in Jaipur, India (I don’t find out till March). I took a year of Hindi my sophomore year, and I LOVE it. My hope is to find several opportunities to become fluent in this language. Eventually I may go to grad school in linguistics (actually a very hot field right now!)

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write. It reminds me that there are some really wonderful people in the world.

  29. Lower your expectations. You won’t come out of college making 60K a year with a degree in basketweaving.

    It was a hard pill for me to swallow (my degree was in English – not basketweaving).

  30. Sunshine says:

    I STRONGLY second Brendan WRT the traveling. It really is never as easy as it is when you’re just out of college. You have your whole life ahead of you to start work and earn money. Taking a year or two or 5 won’t harm or hinder you too much. In fact, it may help in many ways. Seriously, if that is something you want to do, do it now.

    I so wish I would have done that. I regret it regularly. I always thought it would be so easy to just get up and go, so I never thought twice about starting work and earning money, because, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Now, I’m saddled with all these responsibilities (and stuff) that, while I *could* do it if I really wanted to, make it hard to be free to do that sort of thing.

    Also, really think about some things that are important to you. Don’t just take a job because it pays well or falls in your lap. If you want to work at a non profit, do it now while you don’t have all the financial responsibilities.

    Conversely, don’t be so single minded that if something great falls into your lap or is available to you, you are blind to it.

  31. Sunshine says:

    Oh, and good luck!

  32. Stephen says:

    I’d have to give a strong Third to Brendan. I find myself incredibly jealous of my friends who travelled after college. A year in South Korea, Japan, Namibia, Panama. Just looking at their photos of their trips proved how much happiness can be found outside of the normal expectations of going the normal path. No matter how long you’re gone, the rat race will still be here when you return.

  33. Suzanne says:

    Trent: I love your advice. I even added it to the Dashboard post-it on my computer. :-)

    Follow your heart, always. As your heart wanders, use your brain to give yourself as much security and safety as you can.

    Divorce changes a family; it does not end it.

  34. Michelle says:

    Don’t follow advice just because someone important or even someone you respect gave it to you. Only follow advice that you feel right about following. After college, a lot of people I really respect told me to go to Law School, and that I would regret it forever if I didn’t. But that didn’t feel like the right choice for me, so I made a different choice and have never once had any regrets.

    Follow your instincts, more often then not, they’ll be right.

  35. Alice says:

    I graduated in 2005 and did a lot of the things people recommended here: traveled for several months, worked as a baker as I’d always wanted to, etc. I’m now in grad school studying the topic I’ve always been interested in. The advice I wish someone had given me, though, is that high powered careers are not for everyone. Some people derive the most happiness from simple, relatively low-paying service jobs, and I think those people should work those jobs. This culture is obsessed with Careers and pushes people into professional occupations when that’s not what you want. Take the time to learn what you want and don’t be scared to work in a low-prestige field if it’s what makes you happy over the long term.

  36. DrFunZ says:

    Clearly, “Samantha” you have been raised correctly and have brains and and common sense, too.

    Three bits of advice I received and followed and they worked:

    1. Never refuse to do a job because you think it is “beneath you”. It might be below your skill level or below your salary range or below your title, fine. But refusing a job because it is “beneath you” smacks of condescension and hubris. Remember that the jobs you think are “beneath you” are being done by someone else -and those persons have great value – they have same value you do.

    2. The difference between mediocrity and excellence is paying attention to the details and practice, practice practice. Both mean putting in time. Most people do the minimum because they are in a rush. If it takes an extra 15 minutes to to edit the executive summary you have written, take the 15 minutes. If it takes an extra five minuutes to sweep in the corners, do it. Make it a habit to not just do the minimum; make it a habit to complete each job, to proofread each letter, to follow-up, to say “Thank you”. Believe me, there are so few people that do these things that the person who does stands out in a positive way.

    3. Do not always look for “what you want”. Look for what “needs you”. You will never be without work or an avocation and, when you look for what “needs you”, you will find other people with similar open hearts and you will make lots of friends and be filled with joy.

  37. Jade says:

    I wish someone had told me how to figure out if I liked a job, because we all would rather be sitting at home playing video games, and it always bites waking up before noon. Instead I figured this out by having a job that made me miserable to the point where I nearly broke up with my long-time boyfriend, so I quit after 4 months and followed up that job with one that I loved.

    So when I worked at the job I was miserable at, I’d get off work Friday afternoon and I was already dreading having to come back in on Monday morning. And I was always watching the clock at work, not because I had plans for the evening but because I simply hated being there. Also, I was severely underpaid given my education and experience because I wasn’t prepared for salary negotiations and felt like I was desperate (when I really wasn’t) to get the job, but in the end I knew that no one could pay me enough to stay. I left not just the job, but the field, because even another job in the same field may have paid more, it wouldn’t be enough for how miserable I was.

    But when I started the job I loved (in a different field) I would get off work Friday and all I was thinking about was my plans for the weekend, going back to work on Monday did not hang over my head like a dark cloud. And when I looked at the clock at the new job, I’d be shocked by how fast time flew by and be disappointed that it was almost time to go home. The pay wasn’t that great either, but it was enough to support what I wanted to do.

    Of course, I still hated waking up at 7 am at both jobs… But I always hate waking up before 9 am anyway.

  38. Frugal Dad says:

    Forget conventional wisdom when it comes to your personal finances. Conventional finance advice is often given to drum up business for banks and credit card issuers. Do what feels right in your own gut. If borrowing too much too soon to buy a house keeps you up at night, consider renting. If the thought of buying a new car worries you, drive a beater. The idea is do what is comfortable for you, not what someone on television, on the radio, or in a book says is right.

  39. Fred says:

    – Graduate to keep your mum happy.
    In the meantime, start a company or a self employed income generating activity, not only you may make some dough but you will learn something.
    – Associate with people that want to create their own companies and learn to work as a team.
    – learn how to sell, that will be your number ONE skill throughout life; no matter what you end up doing.
    – learn how to raise capital.
    – Find a job where you can learn something at somebodyelse’s expense (I am not saying be a pig and waste your employeur’s money, but if you must FxUp, better with somebody else’s money) make as many mistakes as you can (make it a goal or a challenge to push the envelope so you are sure to learn something.)
    – Always create activities in your spare time.
    Save up to 70% of what you earn to get a starting capital that will show investors that you “have skin in the game”.
    – When you think you are ready, go on and fly your own company.

    Forget pensions and job security, these are illusions – just look at the massive layoff coming this way and it won’t be long for pensions to go down the drain.
    Employed salary/wage jobs are only very recent, 100-150 years at most and are disappearing FAST.

    Else, get a job with the government, pay your union fees and listen to Suze Orman.

  40. Can says:

    Approach life with respect!

    Respect you mind and body and keep both of them healthy;
    Respect the people you meet, whether it be through cultivating intense relationships, or realising what you don’t like about a certain person/relationship and dealing with that;
    Respect your spaces like houses, apartments, offices, desks, by keeping them organized or tidy or just comfortable and inviting;

    The list could go on forever, add your own! But the important thing is really thinking life through and acting beautifully with what you have been given.

  41. Scotty says:

    My big advice would be the following, based on my own career experiences (and being out of college for about 4’ish years):

    1. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. If there’s a substantial opportunity, jump on it. Being comfortable in your little world isn’t always the best way to get ahead. Always advance your learning. By doing so, I’ve afforded myself 20% raises year over year. Right after college I was working in the IT industry at $36K a year, and now I’m at $75K. I could have stayed with my original company and maybe been making $50K by now, but I saw some big opportunities and jumped on them and have no regrets of apologies.

    2. An old boss of mine, a PhD in Psychology, once said, you’re either moving forwards or backwards, never staying still. You have to be consciously moving yourself forward, or else you’ll be moving backwards and not realizing it.

    3. Be humble, there will always be someone out there who knows way more than you about virtually anything. (Learned this the hard way in a job once)

    4. (Most Importantly) “Find a career / occupation you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

  42. Fred says:

    and BTW, you will NEVER be FULLY READY… so go out there and give it a go, push it outwards and see what is coming back at you.
    Once committed, the universe will move your way.

  43. Johanna says:

    A pretty specific one: I wish someone had explained to me the real benefits of contributing to an IRA. My Dad explained it as “pay tax now versus pay tax later” (which makes it sound like an even trade-off), whereas it’s really “pay tax now AND later AND in between versus pay tax now OR later” (which makes it sound like the good deal that it is). I missed out on several years’ worth of contributions because I didn’t understand why it would help me that much.

    A more general one: The only measure of success that matters is your own. It’s easy to understand that intellectually, but it’s harder to really internalize it. In my field of education, there’s a very strong attitude that some career outcomes are “successes” and others are “failures.” When I realized that I would be happier in one of the “failure” careers, all sorts of people reacted to me with disappointment and sometimes just plain bafflement. It’s not easy to ignore those people. I should have tried harder.

  44. Scott says:

    Good post Trent.

    I joined the Air Force after college because I didn’t want to jump into a career without experiencing anything new yet. I don’t regret it but there are better ways to experience new things. Work will be there when you get back so take advantage of time to travel while you have a chance. You will be a better person for it.

  45. Mary says:

    As you graduate college, first appreciate your education and the accomplishment it is. Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Thank your favorite or most influential professors, personally or in writing. Then do something for yourself or your world–as per the above suggestions. Your experience will only enhance whatever you do later in the world of work.

  46. BonzoGal says:

    This is a fantastic idea!

    My advice would be the same as one of Trent’s earlier posts this week: collect experiences, not stuff.

    Oh yeah, and always put two olives in your martinis. They’re better that way.

  47. Tony says:

    I’ll steal two pieces of advice that Alan Greenspan offered, coincidentally, a group of graduating college students.

    He said if he were in there shoes he would do 2 things:

    1. Max out whatever employer sponsored program (401K) your work offers you. It’s important to do this AS SOON AS YOU START YOUR JOB. Don’t get used to a budget without your this amount taken out of your paycheck. If you get used to your budget with the maximum allowance going into your 401(k) you’ll learn to live on that amount.

    2. Own your own house as soon as you can afford it. Real Estate offers:
    -another form of forced savings
    -fixed living expense

    Just to name a few.

    Good luck!

  48. dgreen says:

    I would be carefull how you word that question. I doubt that all the people you love and admire are college graduates and that question as worded comes off as assuming they need to be to answer.

  49. BirdDog says:

    I graduated in 2002 and wish that I had heard the following:

    1. Dont’ just take any job. I felt like a failure because I didn’t have any sure thing lined up by the time I graduated. I ended up being offered my “if nobody else calls me” job two weeks after graduation and I took it. I met some good people there but I ended up investing five years in a place where I was miserable and even started having stress related health problems because of it (ulcer, weight gain, etc.)

    2. Don’t justify spending all of your money and then some just because you feel you deserve it. I spent most of my time at work so when I did have some time off, I would spend, spend, spend. Luckily, I’ve recovered from that mindset but if I had only been saving that money I suffered for rather than blowing it.

    3. Spend time looking for the right career. I took the traditional path of finishing college in four years and could not wait to start working. I didn’t have any bills, I could have stayed with the folks for awhile and really searched for the right fit.

    Hindsight really is 20/20.

  50. Chip says:

    Whatever you choose to do, do it to the best of your ability. If you work hard, you will rise to the top because you can always count on 95% of people doing just enough to get by.

    Also, if you always do your best, you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person you are (and that is the most important thing).

  51. Breanne says:

    I think my advice would echo that of a lot of previous commenters, although stated somewhat differently:

    “You have choices — more than immediately appear — and the good news is that there are no mistakes.”

    This statement has come to mean a lot to me, although I don’t know that it means much to anyone *but* me (at least, not stated so simply). In some ways, I think it’s something I kind of had to figure out for myself, in order for it to really have meaning.

    That being said, I was inspired by this post to try to explain it, in case it might be of value to others. Rather than clutter up the comments here, I posted it in my blog — a link should show up as a trackback or just as the link on my name. Hopefully others find it as valuable as I’ve been finding some of the comments here! :-)

  52. andy says:

    Thanks for this post. I am graduating in May as well and all this advice is really helpful! I am pretty open to doing whatever after I graduate but for now I’m just focused on getting done :).

    I do have one question for anyone who has interviewed/hired people in an organization before: Do you think anything when someone who graduates in May applies for a job around September (or later) and has nothing on their resume from the time in between? Does it matter?

  53. My advice would be: Remember that all of the people you respect and admire are not necessarily college graduates. ;)


  54. HebsFarm says:

    I probably had nearly all the good advice I needed before I went to college. Just didn’t have the maturity to heed it.

  55. It’s ok to quit. Somethings aren’t meant to be. It’s not a bad thing if you quit something you don’t enjoy. There is a time to be tenacious and a time to be realistic.


  56. getagrip says:

    Lots of decent advise already provided.

    I would join those recommending you put a decent chunk, at least 10-20% of your salary somewhere for savings/investing/retirement. Where and what is up to you and your goals, but if you get used to not living on that money up front, it will be easier down the road.

    The second thing is that you have time and you don’t need to have it all, right now. Pick those things you really want to do and plan to do them, be it travel, owning a particular vehicle, living in a particular area, whatever. My biggest problem post graduation and into the first job was dealing with the salary. I felt so flush with cash compared to college and so full of pride when folks said “oh, yeah, you can easily make those payments” I never really stopped to look at the damage. By the time it was over I had credit card debt, car loans, some sort of deal where they stock meat into a freezer they got me to buy, it was ugly and took years and years to dig out.

    Also don’t be afraid to say “no”, and not only “no” but “hell no”. Too many folks will be more than willing to twist and manipulate you to spend your money on their product. They will act hurt, wounded, angry, like you’re wasting their precious time and how could you do that to them. They’ll hound you, flatter you, embarass you, and insinuate you’re a loser if you back out or ask for less. Bottom line, it’s your money they want you to spend and they’ll forget you as soon as you aren’t making them a profit. If you don’t want the deal, just walk out of the dealership or store, or tell them to leave your home and that you are done listening to them and don’t feel guilty about it. You don’t have to be mean, but be firm and don’t take it and don’t be suckered.

    Finally, it doesn’t matter what they say, what they promise, or what they proclaim. What matters is the fine print. Learn to read it before signing.

  57. princess_peas says:

    1) If the same advice keeps on and on coming up, and you don’t heed it, there is a reason.

    I discovered this recently, I had been getting the same advice rehashed in various forms over a few years (from various sources). And it was sensible advice, I just had a very very difficult time following it. Last week someone gave me the opposite advice, and it seems to have cleared up a lot of problems and enables me to move forward. I haven’t acted on the advice yet, but I feel happier than I have done for ages having decided to.

    2) To quote from a song…
    “Give the Heavens above more than just a passing glance”

    3) And finally
    Don’t marry someone you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without.

  58. Jen says:

    Learn to cook, functionally if not expertly.

  59. CPA Kevin says:

    Keep learning. Work hard when you’re young and save half of your income – even if you just put it into a money market account. It will give you a ton of options down the road. Learn about investments. Trust me, you don’t need the new TV, stereo system, or a brand new car right away. And really think about buying a home before you do it. Watch out for lifestyle creep!

  60. Rob says:

    True friends are hard to find. Suspicion before trust. Friends will come and go just like women. The biggest thing in a relationship is trust. Without it, forget it. And if you want to get married wait 5 years.

  61. Cass says:

    As a first year university student, this may not apply to me yet but thank you for the fanastic advice!

  62. CPA Kevin says:

    I also agree with the traveling thing, but by your comment about going to India it looks like you have considered that already.

    I really have wanted to go West to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, etc. but haven’t found the opportunity yet. It’s on my bucket list though…

  63. tinybird says:

    Advice during college: get an intership or co-op in your job that you want upon graduation to see what it’s really about. College for me was very different the the day to day workings of my profession.

    After graduation: have a plan for yourself, particularly finances. Have goals for 1, 5, 10, even 20 years out. You won’t get somewhere great without a map.

  64. Carmen says:

    I wish someone would have told me to put away 1/2 my salary and live like I’m still in college! If you come out of college with your first big job – used to being a poor student – you may be tempted to spend all that new found money. I think it’s a great time to get used to living on half your salary and build up a nice nest egg for yourself.

  65. Chris says:

    I agree with most of these comments. Here are a few of my own.

    1. Don’t spend a fortune in tuition for a non-marketable degree.

    2. It is very hard to have a job that you love and get paid well for it. There is a reason why some jobs pay more than others, they tend to SUCK.

    3. Selling and communicating well is paramount in nearly all vocations, even if you’re not actually “selling stuff”.

    4. Be respectful to all

    5. Set aside as much cash as possible. My Grandpa called it “F*ck you money”.

    6. Don’t get saddled with consumer debt, epecially your home and vehicle.

    7. Your house in NOT an investment, it is a place to live.

    8. Cars are depreciating, money-sucking, pieces of shit. I don’t care how shiny they are on the lot.

    9. Always be at least 20% in bonds/cash. There is a reason why the bond market is twice as big as the stock market, that is where all the MONEY is.

    10. Max out your tax favored investment accounts.

    11. Open a 529 for yourself and put some money in it every month. You never know if you’ll go to grad school, and if you don’t you can still change the bene to your kid if you ever have one.

    12. Use http://www.salary.com, http://www.glassdoor.com, and/or http://www.payscale.dom.. Get paid what you are worth.

    13. Knowledge is power, arm yourself.

    I’ll stop rambling now… Good luck!

  66. Start flossing now. Your teeth are irreplaceable, and like the rest of your body, they seem indestructible in your early 20’s. Like the rest of your body, they’re not. If you don’t take care of your mouth, everything starts to hurt and cost a LOT of money around the time you hit 30. Flossing daily is a cheap investment in your health. Take it up now and spare yourself a lot of pain and the big expense.

    It’s totally non-glamorous advice, I know. But valuable nonetheless.

  67. The Other Michael says:

    I wish I’d gone directly to grad school. I pissed away my 20s and part of my 30s working jobs that didn’t pay, justifying it by saying I was getting fulfillment and enjoying life. In fact, once I completed grad school (while working a full-time job — something I DO NOT recommend), I discovered that I can have a fulfilling life AND money at the same time.

    You may or may not ever be able to go back to school (because of family or work obligations, etc.) Life will never be as easy as it was in college. Stay in school for as long as you possibly can.

  68. Saagar says:


    Follow the advice in the book. Atleast 10% of all you earn is your to keep. Pay yourself along with other bills into your savings account and thats the best thing you could do to yourself..

  69. tightwadfan says:

    I wish someone had given me the Tightwad Gazette for graduation. I think everything you need to know to keep out of financial trouble is in there – prevention is so much easier than digging yourself out of a hole later.

    If I had to pick only 1 piece of advice – don’t buy a new car.

  70. Andy says:

    Its not about you.

  71. Joseph says:

    No debt. None. You hear?

    You are already accustomed to living on a shoestring. Don’t change your lifestyle until you have the cash flow to do so. Except for a house, there is absolutely nothing worth buying on credit.

    Oh, and open a Roth IRA. And put money in it. Do it now.

  72. CLT says:

    SAVE, SAVE, SAVE for retirement now while you’re young and you don’t have kids, and a house, and car payments, and dogs, and everything else that comes with the middle of your life when saving for retirement seems so hard to do.

  73. MB says:

    Make a “bucket list”. Dream of what you’d like to accomplish in your life – anything at all! Fun, work, adventure – whatever it may be. Keep that list and work at accomplishing your dreams. Do what brings you joy – take a test of what your “gifts” are and live the life you were intended and desire.

    Good luck with all your endeavors.

  74. Julie says:

    I second, third and fourth all of those who recommend travelling. I did a work abroad thing after grad school with Bunac and it was the best decision I ever made. I worked in the UK and travelled Europe extensively. I also went on to work and live in Australia. My husband did the same. We may be behind our some of our peers in terms of savings, but we have no debt (except for our mortgage) and we have FAR more life experience than most we know. Well worth it! Life is for living…you just need to be smart about it. :) Best of luck.

  75. Carol Ann Sakiewicz says:

    Could you adjust the question to:

    What single piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you were about to finish school?

    There are still quite a few people of my dad’s generation who have a lot of advice to give but would be put off by requiring a college education. This also allows for graduate students.

    As for my advice? Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment of accomplishment and completion. I wish you many more of them. Don’t let them pass by unacknowledged.

  76. Dana says:

    My parents gave me the best advice I received (so I didn’t have to learn it the hard way because I listened to them!) This advice was like a lot of others’: TRAVEL. Now while you have only yourself as a responsibility.

    I lived for two years in Japan and half a year in New Zealand working and saving up money because I was still living the frugal, college lifestyle. But I also traveled all over Europe, Asia and Oceania. That experience has helped me here in the States both professionally and personally. My various work in different cultures impresses potential employers who are looking for someone who is adaptable and independent. And because I have lived those experiences I don’t have any regrets or any feelings of unfulfillment going into the next stage in my life: starting a family.

    I am a Linguistics grad… since when is it a hot field?? Give me the low down on that o.O

  77. Jessica says:

    You can have anything you want. The tricky part is figuing out what that is and refusing to let anything get in your way of achieving it.

  78. Dan S. says:

    I’ve been out of college for just over two years, and while I learned a lot in college, there are SO many things I wish I learned but didn’t. Since my graduation, my full-time job has been to run college programming for a religious organization — so I have given a lot of thought to these things that I “wish I knew” and how to pass them on to the students who I interact with.

    That said, this is what I like to call the “trifecta” of things that I really wish we taught EVERY college student (or everyone before they complete their formal education). Two of the three correspond with a book:

    1) How to REALLY Find a Job — “What Color is Your Parachute?” — It’s not just about cover letters and resumes. It’s about much more than that, and having the tools that this practical manual provides won’t just serve you well as you look for your first job after school — but having this knowledge will serve you well for life.

    2) How to Manage Time — “Getting Things Done” — While students generally keep pretty busy with college, my observation is that it’s still nothing compared with the time pressures of real-life/having a job/family/etc. An introduction to this, before college graduation, would go a long way for a lot of people.

    3) How to Manage Money — I don’t think I need to say any more on this subject. No definitive book on this subject, but plenty of excellent options are reviewable on this site…

  79. Josh says:

    be fearless

  80. meony says:

    Through many years of work, I’ve learned the most important thing to do is to own up to your mistakes.

    Far too often people make a mistake, and try to hide it. Then they look really stupid when it comes out in the open.

    No matter who you are or what you do. If you make a mistake, fess up. The sooner it is brought to light, the sooner you can fix it.

    Be prepared for the consequences of it, but take responsibility. Nothing will make you stand out in a better light.

  81. Jillian says:

    Something nobody seems to have said yet:

    Stay in touch with your fellow graduates. Some of them will one day hold strategic positions in your field, and may be able to open doors for you (or you for them). Your paths may diverge after graduation, but keep in contact, and you never know what may come of it.

  82. Kate in Canada says:

    Hi Samantha,

    Good luck with India! And in the meantime, a few thingsI’ve learned in 50-odd years …

    No matter how much you hate what you’re doing, do it as if you love it.

    You never know what you can do until you don’t have a choice.

    When you think you’ve found Mr Right, make sure his first name isn’t “Always”.

    Take care of your teeth!

    And finally, remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

  83. James says:

    pen and paper, everywhere you go have a way to write stuff down. Inspiration, girls phone numbers, networking, ideas, you never know.

  84. CathyG says:

    A bit of advice for High Schoolers – as you think about going to college, look for one that has a semester abroad program. It’s even easier to live abroad for a semester than it is to arrange your travel/work after you graduate. It usually costs exactly the same amount as a semester in your regular college except for the plane ticket, plus any extra travel that you do on the weekends, and they almost always plan for you to have lots of extended weekends and breaks while you are over there.

    For the college grads – lots of folks are telling you to keep living frugally, but I haven’t seen anyone mention roommates. You’ve lived for the past few years having roommates. If you can keep it up for a few more, you can save over half of your new large salary. Much easier to start real life with a good emergency fund than to live paycheck to paycheck.

  85. DrGail says:

    1. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their job or position in life. The simple act of showing respect for people will earn you more goodwill and help (when you need it) than you can imagine.
    2. Don’t be in a hurry to prove yourself in any new situation. Take time to observe, ask questions, listen, learn, and build relationships first.

  86. Al says:

    Remember that the path to success (personal or professional) is up a stairway – not an escalator. So no matter where you are in the journey, you need to be exerting constant effort to continue upward…not expecting (or waiting for) previous success or current status to carry you further.

  87. NYC reader says:

    Advice for anyone who is employed, regardless of how recently s/he has finished school:

    Always take home more than just a paycheck from the job. I don’t mean stealing, of course! You should always look for opportunities to improve your skills, acquire knowledge, training, degrees, certifications, etc. It will help you keep your current job and prepare you for new ones.

    Note that this advice is not limited to the so-called professional careers. Working nights cleaning offices? Learn how to use the floor scrubbing/buffing machines, learn about different products and procedures for maintaining commercial floors. Ir’a

  88. Jordan says:

    Don’t spend over $2000 supporting a deadbeat boyfriend who will break your heart and run off without paying you back!

    But more seriously – look at what your relationship partner is bringing to the table in terms of emotional support and equality. I don’t regret the $2000 as much as I regret the 5 years of bad treatment and damage to my self-esteem.

  89. Kyle says:

    If you wait for the timing to be right, it never will be.

  90. NYC reader says:

    For a young person embarking on the beginning of her/his adult life, the single piece of advice I would give is TAKE A RISK. Try different things. Do different things. You will find it much easier to explore your interests when you are unencumbered by obligations such as relationships, children, and owning property. You can still enjoy all that stuff after you figure out what you’re good at/enjoy doing to put money in your pocket.

    Advice for all: You can do well by doing good. You don’t have to take the last nickel off the table. If you own your own business, you can give a break to folks who need it, you can give an employee a leg up in the world. If you are the employee, you can give back to the community by using your skills to help others. If you are in a transaction to buy something, you don’t have to squeeze every last cent out of the deal, the other party needs to make a profit to stay in business.

    Advice for anyone who is employed, regardless of how recently s/he has finished school:

    Always take home more than just a paycheck from the job. I don’t mean stealing, of course! You should always look for opportunities to improve your skills, acquire knowledge, training, degrees, certifications, etc. It will help you keep your current job and prepare you for new ones.

    While this may seem easier (and self-evident) in careers likely to be chosen by a recent college graduate, this advice is not limited to the so-called professional careers. Working nights cleaning offices? Learn how to use the floor scrubbing/buffing machines, learn about different products and procedures for maintaining commercial floors. Ir’s a step up from scrubbing toilets and vacuuming carpets, and will make you more valuable (which equates to higher pay and more job security). It could also lead to owning your own cleaning business.

    Busing tables at a restaurant? Learn how to serve customers and order from the kitchen, learn about the menu and beverages, so you can advance to waitperson. Waitpersons make tips, which can greatly increase your earning potential.

    Plumbers assistant? Spend time watching the licensed plumber and learning how/why things are done. Ask to be sponsored for union/trade classes to become a licensed plumber (master plumbers sometimes make more money than MDs!)

    But most of all, learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Everything in life is transient, at the end of the road, the only one you have to impress is yourself.

  91. Mike says:

    I had to comment on the “do what you love and the money will follow.” My wife got this exact advice when she started art school, and the money has NOT followed. She is under a mountain of debt (which we are slowly paying off) and feels like she wasted all the time and money.

    Yes, do what you love, but also do something that can cover your expenses.

  92. kj says:

    A few things:
    What you fear most is what you need to do the most. In other words, don’t let fear stop you from taking a new route through life.

    Imagine yourself at age 80 and imagine what you would regret the most. Make room now in your life for what ever you think you would regret not doing.

    Enjoy simple pleasures and the still moments in life.

  93. Steph says:

    I’m a recent college graduate myself, but I’d still like to throw in my two cents of advice.

    To Samantha: Don’t stop pushing yourself. You push yourself all through school and then college, so don’t just get a job and sit there content. Keep pushing yourself for more.

  94. Kate says:

    What single piece of advice do I wish I’d heard when I was about to graduate college?

    Don’t live the life someone else expects you to live.

    Included in that “someone else” can be the You of a few years previously. Sometimes when you get out, you discover something better than your original plans. Don’t be afraid to change course!

  95. mab says:

    1. Family and friends are the only true currency
    2. never stay with a man who cannot accept you for who you are and see what you are truly worth.
    3. Travel because the world is rapidly changing.

  96. Maritess says:

    There are a lot of wisdom in here already but may i add my thoughts:

    To Samantha, i wish that somebody told me after college that i should define my life goals (best in long range plans) before starting out. When life opens up before us, we get busy addressing the things of the moment.. Time flies so fast, life may take you where you never even thought of at all (good or bad)… Yes, you are in charge of your life and its a clean slate as i had before, so choose consciously.

    But i guess mistakes are for us to commit to make us better persons in the end.

  97. Lou says:

    1) If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
    2) You can have anything you want, but you can not have everything you want.

    Short-term wants can get in the way of real goals, unless you do some thinking and advance planning.

    So, don’t just ask yourself “what do i want most NOW?” Take some time to make a list: “What do i want in 6 months? Next year? In 5 years?” “What do I most want to accomplish before i die?” Try to repress those impulses that get in the way of your real wants and values.

  98. Shawn says:

    Learn everything you can about people. How do they think and what do they need. Are they sincere? What do they want from you? What can you offer them to make their life better?

    I am almost 43 and am finally learning about the rewards of helping other people. Listening has been one of my most difficult challenges in life. I am finding many senior citizens eager to share their optimism about life. They just want someone to listen to them. I am quite literally blown away at the blessings that have come to me from giving people just five minutes here and there to listen to them.

    I have been blessed with folks approaching me for job offers and significant networking deals to grow my business. When I ask, most tell me it is because I took the time to listen to them and that told them we could work well together.

    I have just begun to learn to really listen, but it makes you feel good inside to see another person happy.

    OH, MOST important… Do not break the circle. There is an implicit moral responsibility to take what you have learned from people in your life and make good use of it — good use is up to you to define — and the key to the circle is that you should try to mentor and share with others. Help them learn the secrets others taught you. That is the most rewarding way to share the gifts.

    Best of luck to you on your adventure of life.

  99. Caroline says:

    I second a lot of the previous comments (the one about flossing is great!!), and if you read this blog you’re already ahead of the game. With regard to following one’s heart, I had to three major desires when I graduated, and trying to make all of them work together has been hard. I wanted to go to grad school, travel, and live with my boyfriend. After making sacrifices to eliminate all of my debt in a year, I moved in with my boyfriend who turned out to have 3-4 times the debt I had. So a couple of my dreams had to be put on hold when I found that out (too bad I love him so). I suppose the major advice here is never give up! No status quo shall be tolerated! And if you ever need a kick in the butt, listen to The Replacements song Unsatisfied. I never want to know that anguish.

  100. Mary says:

    I made many mistakes, learning experiences. I married in my early 20’s to someone NOT on the same page as me financially, ruined me for about 7 years. I wish someone would’ve said (maybe I wouldn’t have heard) “do you see yourself with him in 50 years” If I had been thinking the answer would’ve been “NO”. But… thin strings make life what it is and without that bad experience I wouldn’t have realized how great my now husband is, also wouldn’t have known to ask him a million questions about finances! In the end I ended up learning lots from this major mistake, step back from decisions and think, but don’t be scared to take some risks.

  101. Tim says:

    “Be confident in what you know, what you can do, and who you are. Assume you know next to nothing, can’t do much, and aren’t that big of a deal.”

  102. Hyacinth says:

    Be flexible in your choice of work. The days of staying with a company 40 years are over. Always continue to look for the next opportunity. Never quit a job to look for a new job because it’s easier to get a new job if you are already employed. Take advantage of any training opportunities your employer has to offer. Volunteer for assignments that will teach you more about your company and the people in it as well as new skills. Be mindful of those people who have institutional knowledge – they can teach you things you won’t find written down anywhere. And stay in touch with your former co-workers when you leave and don’t burn bridges. You’ll see them again in another workplace. And it is “who you know” that counts, so network, network, network.

  103. Sharon says:

    When you get your first real job, buy disability insurance. It will be cheap, and having it will likely make the difference someday between poverty and a reasonably comfortable existence. And never let it go, either. You will never be in your 20s again, and may end up uninsurable quite easily and early. And even if the company offers disability insurance, it won’t carry to another job.

    Plus, that income is tax-free, unlike the employer-paid policies or Social Security.

  104. kainr2 says:

    Agreed with #92 (Tim).

    Don’t assume you know everything. Always listen to the whole thing before saying anything.

    Don’t assume others know what you said, or understand what you want. Be clear and concise.

    Then like #86 (Steph).

    Strive to learn more, try different routines, and better yourself.

  105. Amy says:

    If you land your dream job, but are only offered part-time, think before you say no (which I once did, because I figured I’d never end up with health insurance that way). Hard working part-time employees can often end up full time once they prove their worth.

  106. How about what are you doing to make yourself unique because the labor market has a huge surplus right now. Many companies are not hiring, period.

  107. clashboard says:

    Follow your heart and your gut. Even if the path is unconventional, JUST DO IT!

    I graduated a few years ago and worked at a conventional 9-5 job with ok pay. I never felt fulfilled. Well, I got laid off a few days ago and honestly, I took it as a blessing! I feel free to pursue what my heart and gut wanted for so long.

  108. Isabelle says:

    Make sure that your future mate has the same attitudes to life that you have. A frugalista will eventually be very miserable married to a spendthrift – and vice versa.

    How contended your life with your mate is will have a huge spin off into the rest of your life. Work at your relationship by every day giving compliments, little things like a message in a lunch box, a special cake or cookie baked – small things are so very important, the oil in the machine that helps it run smoothly.

    The other things I would advise are being said, but the other biggie is to eat well and keep healthy. Along with your main relationship this will underpin the rest of your life.

  109. Work hard and don’t step on anyone to get where you’re going.

  110. Fantastic advice! I could not have said it better myself.

  111. sl says:

    Treat everyone with the same amount of courtesy and respect, no matter what position they hold. No person or job is beneath you. You never know what brought a person to where they are, and you can learn something from every person you meet. Always keep in the back of your mind that circumstances sometimes change and you may be in a position you never expected to be in. Treat people how would you like to be treated in that situation. This will keep you grounded and when the pressure is on, that courtesy and respect will come back around. Good luck to you!

  112. Golfing Girl says:

    Avoid the “grass is always greener” mindset. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, “I sure wish I was married instead of alone,” start listing all of the things married people would envy a single person (no obligations, unlimited time to pursue hobbies, etc.). Also, realize that no one starts at the top but work ethic and manners will always be noticed to get you there faster. When you look back in 20 years, you’ll be amazed what you lived on and how you survived. :)

  113. Karen says:

    I wish I had been told:
    Learn to be confidient and secure in yourself – low self-esteem will cause many a heartache.
    Advice from my Grandma:
    Marry the man that will make you laugh – you’ll easily remember the happy times over the hard times (so true!).
    My husband’s motto:
    I’d rather keep my mouth shut and have people think I don’t know anything, than open it and prove it.

  114. Seasongs says:

    Stay humble.
    Remember your Maker.
    Pay your bills on time.

  115. Favorite Nephew says:

    Things work out. Apply to work in your dream field, even if you fear you can’t support yourself. Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, that’s only because the tunnel has unexpected turns. Things have a way of working out, especially if you’re willing to work hard.

  116. Angela says:

    Travel, get out and do something you’ve never done before. Don’t feel that you have to jump right into ‘real life’.

  117. Tina says:

    the author of Three Cups of Tea said . . . “when your heart speaks take good notes” and I absolutely love that advice.

  118. Cory says:

    Almost 20 years after graduating, looking back there are a few things I wish I understood back then that I’ve learned (often the hard way.)

    People and relationships are far more important than we are led to believe in modern society. Being able to communicate and form relationships is more important to a career than you realize. Also, my best memories and my biggest regrets in the past 20 years have to do with people and not money or “things”.

    Try to find your passion and do work related to it. Trent has said this before and I have to back that up. Having a passion about something tends to make you great at it and helps you excel. When you get a job, imagine doing something int he same line of work for the next 30+ years. If the thought makes you cringe and the job isn’t a stepping stone towards one that you actually would enjoy then its time to move on.

    Never stop striving to do your best even if it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference. Too many people in the world do only what is needed to earn a paycheck. Those few people who make a real effort to do their best stand. Management notices effort and improvement. (If it honestly doesn’t make a difference where you work then you should probably find a new employer… this one is probably doomed.)

  119. Alicia C. says:

    I graduated in May 07. I would say, dont take the first job that is offered to you unless you really want it. I thought that this job was great because it was a job. My (now) husband and I moved four hours away from family and friends for a job that i dont like and are stuck in our situation because of the economy and costs associated with moving back. Take some time to find a job that you will really enjoy. Take into account not only your duties but the people you will be working with (I work with 5 35+ men and I am a 25 yo female, its been hard to find places to meet people to hang out with) Good Luck!

  120. Fitz says:

    My advice would be to learn proper English grammar. It’s VERY important when job seeking — especially with our current economic crisis — to be as competitive as possible. Being competitive includes having a functional grasp of language.

    The question you posed was, “What single piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you were about to graduate college?”

    People graduate FROM college, or graduate FROM high school.

    Here’s a good description of the issue:
    (Or http://tinyurl.com/cus36l)

  121. Cory says:

    Almost forgot… one piece of great advice for living life is this video:


    Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

    A great model on how to be able to live your life without regrets at the end.

  122. Stuart S. says:

    I graduated from college in 2004 and this is a question that I’ve been focusing on ever since. When I graduated from college, I was confronted with a ton of issues that I knew weren’t complicated and had been tackled by tons of people before me. However, the solutions/how-to’s weren’t readily available. This lead me to create a “wisdom book” of sorts called Gradspot.com. I’ve gone through the same exercise you’re going through, pulling in advice from my contemporaries and seniors as well as topic experts on subjects ranging from apartments, to careers, to health care, to finance, and more. And whenever I’m asked this exact question, I have one consistent, passionate answer:

    You (we) are still young and have a ton of time ahead of you, and you (we) shouldn’t forget that, when it comes to career choices, apartments, and everything else. You’re probably not burdened by a mortgage or a child, and now is a time that you can take a risk. For example, always wanted to be a freelance writer? Then go for it. Sticking to the example, while I wish I could say that you should wait out for a job that fits your goals/expectations, this is a tough economy, so I’d take what you can get. BUT, don’t lose sight of what you really want. You can still moonlight or become a weekend warrior – and over time, it can turn from a weekend project to a full-time job. Most importantly, what do you have to lose? So you try something for two years, and it doesn’t work out… We’ll, you’re still young and have an entire lifetime ahead of you. You’ll only be around ~23. And best case scenario? It works. Which is a pretty awesome situation to be in as a 23 year old.

  123. Sue says:

    All great advice!

    – travel
    – don’t settle, it’s easy to go with the first thing that comes along (work, relationship, etc.)
    – let things come to you

    Buy a box of Yogi Tea, they have wonderful, sage bits of wisdom on every teabag tag. And a nice spot of tea every day gives you time to breathe, reflect on your day and relax.

    For Andy who asked about what a 3 month summer gap looks on your resume…as a staffing manager at a huge company…take the time (because as you can read here we all wish we had taken some time to do what we wanted before entering the rat race!) and just be honest about it. Acknowledge it, note the gap on your resume and that’s it. Any good recruiter will ask about a gap in time but taking some time off between college and a job is a reasonable reason.

    Good luck!

  124. Danielle says:

    I graduated last July and decided to be a stay at home mother to my then four-month-old daughter. My husband and I moved so that he could get a great job in a place where we could afford for me to stay home. Staying in our hometown would have had us both working to scrape by; moving 6 hours away has us both doing what we love and owning our home.

    My advice: Do what YOU want and be prepared to let following your dreams change every aspect of your life if it needs to. I can’t imagine what I would have given up if we hadn’t been willing to move.

  125. Gabriel says:

    To Dana the lingustics grad –

    There seems to be a lot of neat areas that are capitalizing on linguistics, artificial intelligence for one! It’s a very useful background to have in the technology and cognitive research worlds. Good luck to you!

  126. Hackerette says:

    Never settle – not for a job, not in a relationship, and not for anything less than your most ambitious dreams. Keep working and pushing for the best.

  127. Carrick says:

    Funnily enough, what I really wished my mom sit me down to talk about was health insurance. Although this tip may not apply to most grads since a lot of them enter huge corporations with automatic health insurance benefits, the ones that don’t should get this asap. Because I was self-employed most of the time in my early twenties, I had to navigate the stormy waters of health insurance myself. And because the system is set up specifically to rip people off, it was an incredibly frustrating experience. At one point, I was practically hyperventilating with panic over having been denied coverage. Finally, after bungling through years of hassles, I feel I have a handle on it, but it would have been great to have gotten a little tutorial right at the beginning.

  128. Maureen says:

    No one knows what the right choice is but you are smart to ask the question and weigh the advice with your own instincts. You really got some really great advice from what has been posted already. I can say what I wish I did when I was your age (I am 38 now):
    – stayed in school longer
    – in my field, computer science, experience in the field matters a lot and I wish I took at least one COOP job after university to get some experience and a mix of education and experience
    – have confidence in your abilities and don’t settle if you can avoid it
    – keep learning through out life and learn how you learn so you can use your skills in your best interests, both while in university and working
    – avoid debt
    – be positive and don’t get pulled into group or clicks that complain esp at work. Rise above negativity
    Good Luck!

  129. reulte says:

    Write the best obituary for yourself now . . . then spend the rest of your life living up to it.

    Adventure is what happens when plans fall through.

    Never trust anyone who says “Trust me”.

    Mind the details.

    Pack light.


  130. Max says:

    As it turns out, I am a graduating senior as well and have really enjoyed the question that you posted. All of the advice on here sounds great. I have talked about these same question different times with my family and friends as well. The only thing that I might be able to add to these many posts is to get you to remember that everything is up to you from here on out. No person has more to gain than you do right now. I know this because I am in the exact same situation and reading this posting helped me in some ways and made more questions in others.
    If others read this, please let me ask to those who have gone traveling before me.

    How have you paid for these trips?
    The one thing I know that I want to do is see more of the world. The major problem is that right now I have student loans and very little savings. Is there any advice that you might give me on either places I could go to work overseas or tips on cheap travel/lodging. Anything and I would be grateful. As a college student about to graduate in one of the worst times for the American economy, I am very nervous about the future. One thing that I know is that I do not want to miss out on something that I have always wanted to do. So please any advice if you have it and thank you in advance.

  131. JustOneKalpa says:

    Live compassionately.

  132. Read the book Who Moved My Cheese. It provides some very good advice to how things change.

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