Advice for the College Graduate

By: Nikki Michelle Charnstrom


As graduation season nears its end, many of you have already walked across the stage to shake hands with a president you hardly know to be handed anything but your official degree. I’m not trying to sound narcissistic — just honest. Graduation is an incredibly fulfilling and awarding time worth celebrating. How do I know this? Well, two years ago I was that girl crying in my chair and crossing my fingers I wouldn’t trip in my five-inch heels.

Enduring the sleepless nights, anxious afternoon exams, and seemingly unnecessary “busy work” is a whirlwind experience. Now that I’ve made it out on the other side, I’ve come to realize a few things. Right now, you might be like I was — absolutely no job lined up. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that college was certainly not a waste of time.


College is Not Just About Earning a Degree

Sure, the reason we buy expensive textbooks and sit through two-hour lectures is because we want that validating piece of paper. However, college is not just about earning an education. College challenges your character and sharpens your overall wisdom. It pushes you to think bigger, imagine greater, and pursue the unfamiliar. It is because of my university’s curriculum that I now have an understanding and skill in videography. I would have never felt comfortable picking up a camera and pushing record otherwise — but in school, I was forced to do so. Now, I am beyond grateful for that experience, even if it stressed me out in the process. It led me to produce two short documentary films, something I never thought I could do.


College Matures You

There’s something to be said about moving out from under your family’s roof to one you call your own for a time. Think about when you graduated high school. You probably weren’t fully mature in thought or behavior. Being “on your own” strengthens and shapes you in ways you would have never known if you continued living at home. Especially if you surround yourself with like-minded people who are enthusiastic about their education, you’ll find there is growth in support. It wasn’t until I had my own apartment while paying my own bills and making my own grocery lists that I fully realized how important independence really is for personal maturity. College mentally prepares you for the journey ahead — if you take everything it has to offer.


You’re Going to Miss it

Friends, is this point oh so true! Although college is rough at times and you question if you’ll make it out alive, I promise you the memories will remain with you forever. I can’t begin to count how many moments I’ve caught myself reminiscing — amateur bowling leagues, spontaneous drives to the lake, and galavanting around town interviewing some of the best people. Honestly, I would do it all over again. So, while being rid of tests and term papers is all you could ever dream of just remember you’ll probably come to miss those too. Call me crazy but I find myself wishing I could accomplish just one more assignment. I know the college experience will be different for everyone but once it’s over, I promise you’ll be wishing for just one more night out with your college pals.


It’s OK if You Don’t Have a Job

We all know that person who’s had a job lined up for them since their first semester of senior year. Good for them. However, that’s just not the case for most of us and it certainly wasn’t for me. I had an idea of the kind of job I wanted but had no clue if it was out there — especially for a fresh-out-of-school grad. So, I didn’t work for months and then finally I decided to find a job working at a coffee shop (again). Which don’t get me wrong, I LOVED being a barista and honestly it will forever be a part of me. All of this to say, it’s perfectly okay if you don’t get that job right out of school. In fact, just come into it expecting to wait. I didn’t get my first real “adult” job until I was eight months post-graduation. So, if you’re submitting application after application but not hearing back, it’s perfectly normal. Don’t panic.


You Will Have to Work For it

We all have this preconceived notion that once we’re given that golden ticket (A.K.A. bachelors degree), then we’ll land the dream job. I’m about to crush your every hope and I apologize in advance. You won’t get your preferred, ideal job straight out of college and if you do, you’re a rare breed. No matter what industry you’re in, you’re going to have to put in the time. It sounds so cliché but it’s true. You have to earn your stripes and get your hands dirty if you want that promotion, position or dream career. Don’t let this intimidate you, instead allow this knowledge to give you an edge. Go into that interview like it’s the position you’ve been waiting for because I promise when the time comes, you’re going to advance one way or another. The biggest hurdle is getting that first job — so be prepared to work for it.


Your Dreams Will Change

If your goals and aspirations in life always remain the same, you’re going to keep checking off those same boxes that were etched in ink ages ago. What I’m saying is to be ready and eager to allow yourself to follow new paths and dreams. If you aren’t aspiring to greater things, you should be concerned. Whatever your dream is at this very moment, chase it. Give it all you’ve got. Once you’ve reached that goal, after awhile you’re going to find yourself bored and unfulfilled, that’s normal. Give yourself permission to dream new dreams — it’s everything.


Nikki is the owner and founder of Crowned Chics. She lives in the warm desert of Phoenix, Arizona with her beloved family. If she's not ferociously clanking away on her typewriter, she's behind the camera capturing moments for her business Charnstrom Captures Photography.