Useful Tips for Greenie Graduates

Seniors+pose+for+their+annual+panoramic+photo.

Donna Wheeler

Seniors pose for their annual panoramic photo.

Seniors: whether you like it or not, graduation is coming. It is a memorable day in your life. After high school, you are officially an adult and you begin to integrate yourself into society.

In this article, I would like to focus on some specific things to do after Christ School. You may still be wondering: what does life look like after my graduation? Suddenly without limits and directives from faculty and parents, what should I do to keep my life on track? Well, here I invite some of our school’s professionals and some of our peers to reflect on their own ideas about what you should do to prepare yourself for a bright future.

Most young adults may question themselves when they graduate: what do I want to do in the future? Some people can firmly say that they would like to be a doctor, a lawyer, an officer, or a researcher. However, a lot of people cannot find this answer at the time of their graduation from high school. But don’t worry—the spark of your life career can come at any moment. Even for those who say that they have made their career decision, they might still change their plans due to a variety of reasons.

Mr. Ron Ramsey, Christ School’s Principal, originally wanted to be a U.S. Army officer and had joined ROTC after high school. Unfortunately, he got sick and temporarily paralyzed due to an illness. He quit the ROTC and spent time in recovery. However, Mr. Ramsey soon realized how much he missed the outdoors during his recovery. When he thankfully got better, he chose to become an instructor at a Bible school. He started to learn biology and environmental science because he believed that such would give him a better chance of finding a teaching job. Thus, he successfully transitioned from a former ROTC member to a science teacher. Even someone as awesome as Mr. Ramsey had to find his way.

Mr. Kirk Blackard, Christ School’s Director of College Guidance, also had some advice to add. He claims that “good people skills, a strong work ethic, and good character” are great things to cultivate after high school. “Practice the first two skills and demonstrate the third each and every day. In the end, you will leave college a more determined, skilled, and confident young man,” says Mr. Blackard. If you have demonstrated these skills, you can secure a good position for yourself both in college and in future careers.

Some Greenies may have come up with a clear image of what they would like to be in college and afterwards. Others may feel like they have no idea how to achieve such a goal. So what are the differences between college and high school? What should you expect to learn from whatever college you are attending? Some members from the Class of 2021 weigh in.

Edward Lin ’21 believes that “college is the last step before we go into society. College prepares us for what we will be facing and what our lives will be like in the future. I feel like the biggest difference between college and high school is that in college you have more freedom in how you manage your time. You have to take care of yourself and learn to handle problems on your own.” Christ School may train us to be independent, but college will certainly put that to the test.

In college, Kevin Zheng expects to “learn career skills, become more mature, and learn how to better socialize with people. I think that EQ becomes more important than IQ in college. For me, connection with people around me is important. Therefore I would like to practice my communication skills in college.” Being responsive to the environment around you, building up your connections with teachers and friends, and maintaining a good work ethic are some key takeaways to achieve success in college. From Kevin and Edward’s perspectives, we can get an idea of what college offers us.

For other students, however, college is not their first choice after high school. They prefer to take a “gap year” before entering college. Mr. Ramsey recalls about his own experience with Teach For America (TFA): “Gap year isn’t just sitting there. You have to do something, like joining TFA or attend a national travel program. Gap year for me is living what you want to become instead of just working. If you choose to take a gap year, you have to be more intentional about using your time. Going on a trip with a small group of friends, true friends that know you, is everything. Forge the bonds for the rest of your life with those friends. Going on a trip is about discovering your purpose: it is the beginning of a spiritual ritual, the first step of life. If you choose to travel, go to cool places, slow down, and dive deep in the place you travel to in order to appreciate the beauty of it.”

Mr. Blackard shares his perspective on gap years: “You can’t do everything, but do something, and make the most of that opportunity, whether it’s work, volunteering, traveling, or experience. For those thinking of time off, don’t sit idle too long. Explore a skill or a hobby or a trade you thought about but don’t have the time to pursue. The hobby you originally did just for joy can become something larger than you ever imagined.”

Kevin believes that if he chooses to take a year off before college, he would pursue one of his dreams, like playing or working in the NBA. Choices for gap years are versatile, and you do not have to make the decision quickly. However, always remember your intention of doing a gap year, and explore the possibilities of your life throughout this year. Then you can benefit most from this fun time period.

If you do choose to enter college straightaway, Edward believes that you should make every effort to connect with older students. “Talk with the upperclassmen at your college, and ask about their experiences, what you should expect, and what troubles they had. Make sure you are not going to repeat those mistakes and use this to prepare for your own college experience.”

Mr. Blackard also reminds seniors to “join the college’s social media groups and get to know your future classmates. Be responsive to communications received from others, particularly colleges who often have important information to share, and respond to their requests promptly.” Mr. Blackard also passed along this helpful list from John Gardner, the Executive Director of Policy Center on First Year of College, who shared with Christ School students several years ago:

  1. Avoid procrastination. The number 1 first-year student enemy is procrastination.
  2. Go to class. Build a good grade point average early.
  3. Have fun, but not at the expense of your grades.
  4. Invest yourself in school activities of interest: Joiners are stayers.
  5. Develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise, and rest.
  6. Set reasonable goals; don’t be too critical of yourself.
  7. Manage stress. Anxiety is common in the first year of college. Find out where to get help.
  8. Learn about campus resources for assistance early (Counseling Office, Academic Support, Career Center).
  9. Choose your friends wisely. You become like those with whom you associate.
  10. Stay in touch. Know that we (faculty, coaches, administrators) at Christ School would like to hear about your college experience and what we did well or how we may have been able to help more.

Seniors: thank you for reading this article. I hope these suggestions from faculty and classmates can help you to navigate your college and life in the future. I hope you have a meaningful, restful summer, and I wish you a happy Graduation Weekend and good luck in college life!