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College Grad Guide: 7 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known

Graduation season is upon us. Across the country, people of all ages will be zipping up awkward, oversized gowns, donning stoles, and willingly securing ridiculous square-shaped caps on their heads. Fargo is no exception.

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College Grad Guide: 7 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known

Graduation season is upon us. Across the country, people of all ages will be zipping up awkward, oversized gowns, donning stoles, and willingly securing ridiculous square-shaped caps on their heads.

Fargo is no exception.

Proud parents will tear up today and this weekend as students stride to the podium to receive their degrees. They’ll throw their caps in victory feeling that—finally—the time they’ve spent studying and test taking (oh, and shot taking to relieve stress) has paid off. At last, there’s something to show for it.

Years later, I look back at my graduation day. I remember my big dreams, fears and outlook on my future. Today, I recognize how little I knew (and still know) wishing I would have known all the things I’ve learned in just a couple years. For all of you celebrating graduation this spring, first and foremost, congratulations. Consider these tips my gift.

Here are seven lessons I wish I would’ve learned earlier:

You Don’t Get Rich Quick

There are many things to be excited about after graduation: no more homework, independence and, above all, a paycheck. Those days of ramen noodles, PB&J’s and Jack’s pizza are behind me, you think. For some, it might be. But for many, the college food sees only a slight upgrade to Great Value brand products and a marginal increase to our fast food budget.

When graduation ends, there’s no fairy godmother to sweep us off our Cinderella feet. No one to give us the sparkly glass slippers. Part-time jobs and internships give way to little experience in the real world, and entry-level jobs don’t finance a Lamborghini… unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg don't get rich quick

Keep in mind that no matter what your first, full-time job pays, it does not determine your worth. You do. And the faster you figure out the price tag on your skill sets, the faster you’ll rise to the top.

Friends Change

If it wasn’t obvious after high school, it’ll be obvious now… your friends change.

In high school, friend groups depended upon who you shared the basketball court with or who blew the horn next to you in band. In college, you could be more choosy. You may have played it safe with former acquaintances, made friends with students pursuing the same degree or stuck with the same gals you shared the dorm floor with freshmen year (third-floor Oetting represent!).

Bottom line is, when your interests change or distance separates you, those low maintenance friendships become high maintenance. Unless you put time and effort into making them work, they will change or fade.

In the real world, the people you spend 40+ hours with a week become an important part of your life. If you’re lucky, they’ll become close friends you can confide in about work struggles or hopefully—worst-case-scenario—you’ll be able to tolerate them.

You May Feel Lost

Navigating the real world is tough.

Managing expectations from your boss, parents and friends can often be overwhelming. While your boss might expect you to stay late to finish a project, your bestie will never forgive you if you miss her birthday. Mom and Dad will expect to check in like they always do (at the most seemingly inconvenient times) and all the ways you’re making them proud (a.k.a. struggling your way through life).

Even with responsibilities and a job, you may feel lost. Work-life balance, rediscovering passions that were put on hold for school and prioritizing your love life may be more stressful than expected.

Here’s the secret: “fake it ‘til you make it” is totally a thing. The sooner you become confident in your role and purpose in life (and pretend you know what you’re doing), the more comfortable you’ll be. Chances are you’re not the only one feeling that way.

Weekends Are Never Long Enough

If you work a standard Monday through Friday work week, you’ll find that the weekends are life-saving. It’s incredible how mentally and—depending on your profession—physically exhausting a five-day work week can be. Though weekends are a great time for a good brain dump, rest and relaxation, you’ll find it’s never enough.

Whether you jam your schedule with activities or spend it Netflix-binging new series, Monday mornings always come faster than anticipated. (And in the work world, Mondays totally suck.)

Don’t Compare Life Timelines

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned since graduation is a critical one: never gauge your own success by comparing where you are in life to everyone else.

It’s easy to use a fellow graduate or friend as a rule for the norm. If they’re getting married, I should be too. Susie’s buying a house, I should start looking. My friends aren’t having kids yet, I guess I can’t either.


Whether you’re single, dating or married, with or without children, a pet parent, homeowner or a renter, that’s your decision. It’s your life and no one else is living with the same skill sets, circumstances or financial situation as you are. Don’t use others to determine what’s timely for your life. Where you are is exactly where you need to be. It’s your perfect timeline.

You Might Actually Miss School

It may be hard to imagine now, but it’s likely that sometime down the road you’ll miss college and its ability to keep you sharp. You’ll miss the challenges and yes, even the stress felt over petty homework assignments. Stress that will no longer rank next to rigid deadlines and critical decisions in your career.

You’ll find that, in school, the amount of effort you exert will only determine how much professors like you and whether or not you graduate. In your career, that same effort could mean the difference between putting food on the table or being unemployed.

So grads, take it all in. Enjoy these moments. You’ve closed one chapter in your book, but life awaits you for so many others.

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