I’m A Recent Grad: Here’s What I Wish I Had Known as a Student
- With fewer than half of college seniors feeling ready to graduate, understanding the unique experiences and challenges of college students is key for instructors to be able to provide support.
- Read the story of Brandon Medina, a recent graduate from Texas Tech University, and learn about the challenges and life lessons he’s experienced since graduating.
We know that when it comes to preparing students for the challenges they face after graduation, instructors are constantly on the lookout for new perspectives that can help empower their lessons. Considering fewer than half of college seniors feel ready to graduate, we set out to explore the unique experiences and challenges when they were students.
We asked Brandon Medina, a recent graduate from Texas Tech University, for his unique story. Read on to learn about the challenges and life lessons he’s experienced since graduating.
Looking Back: Hindsight from a Recent Graduate
In college, I quickly learned that you get out what you put in—a mindset that drove me forward throughout my college career. But as a student, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel: graduation. I did my best to work toward success, and thought of the cap and gown as the end of the adventure, assuming things would fall into place once I graduated.
While life after college has been an incredible learning experience and an exciting journey, when I crossed the stage on graduation day, there are some things I wish I had known when I was still in school.
All college kids wish for something while in school. For some, it’s more sleep, for others, it’s an easier major. For me, it was a job. Growing up—especially in high school—there was a lot of emphasis placed on going to school and finding a career to excel at. You’re told what will and won’t be accepted in the “real world,” and as graduation drew closer, I found that ethos more and more nerve-racking.
Finding work was a tedious process. I sent in countless applications and wrote cover letter after cover letter, but none of that effort promised to yield a dream job or a great salary. I had to constantly remind myself that everybody has to start somewhere—that I needed to be patient. College gives you the education you need to get a job, but what they don’t teach is how to navigate the pressures new graduates face while searching for work. Nobody likes those awkward chats with family members who ask, “What are you going to do now?” or, “What plans do you have for the future?”
Then, there are the student loans. To this day, they are a constant consideration in the back of my mind, only compounding the pressure of finding a job that makes me happy.
The thing is, everyone has experienced this pressure—so much so that many settled into careers when they weren’t ready. No one tells you when it’s the right time to jump into your career. Loans need to be paid, but at the same time, I didn’t want to abandon my dreams for a paycheck. For me, this has been both the hardest and most exciting part of post-grad life. I’m in complete control of my destiny.
So, after graduation I took the summer off to have fun, which helped me stay patient and focused on finding the right job for me. I witnessed plenty of former classmates dive head first into their careers, but at the end of the day, I did what was right for me. There’s a lot of pressure today for graduates—from societal standards to family or peer pressure. Looking back though, there wasn’t any real reason to rush anything. Settling for a job you may not be happy in is a waste of money and it took a lot of effort to keep myself from falling into that trap.
I’m happy to report that being patient paid off! Currently, I’m a freelance multimedia journalist and part-time on-air broadcaster. I cover topics I find interesting, in a space that aligns well with my passions. Plus, I get to be creative, bringing my own personality and voice to the topics I work on. Needless to say, at the start of my post-grad adventure I had no idea my journey would have led me here. I had no idea where I would go—period. This uncertainty proved to be a valuable lesson in-and-of-itself. Expecting to know exactly what you want to do, or even how you’re going to do it right out of college can be unrealistic. Graduating and entering the “real world” has taught me that it’s OK not to know everything.
Like many college grads, I was in my early twenties when I left school, and I didn’t have all the answers. I had to get comfortable with uncertainty I learned to pause and After some thought, it became clear that the only way I could progress in my post-grad life was to keep an open mind—looking for any and all opportunities to experiment, learn and progress.
I took the time to learn about myself—and looked to others for their advice. This helped, but, I found out early on that people live different lives, and what worked for one person wouldn’t necessarily work for me.
The most surprising thing I’ve realized since leaving college is the sheer amount of opportunity there is to learn and better myself. When I graduated, I figured the learning was over. Wrong. I was just done paying for it. Since then, every success or failure—no matter how big or small—has taught me something.
Whether it was lessons learned from my experiences, friends or family, there’s real value in recognizing that life is a teacher. I’ve learned how to manage my finances, take better care of my physical and mental health, pursue a career that’s meaningful to me and spend time pursuing the interests that bring me joy.
Speaking of interests, that’s another thing I’ve learned. Life moves fast and it’s easy to stress about things beyond your control. Having something you’re genuinely passionate about can be the outlet you need to keep your head on straight.
For me, it’s music. I started writing music in high school and actually got the chance to record my first project in college—an extremely meaningful moment for me. Now that I’m in the working world, I’ve found it can be difficult to manage a healthy work-life balance without having non-work interests. In the digital age, people are constantly “on,” and there can be a lot of pressure to take work home with you.
By focusing on my music, I have an outlet that lets me decompress and leave my work at work. These days, I try to do a couple live shows per month and I’m releasing my next project in March. My passion for music has made it easier to manage my workload without constant stress. That way when it’s time to clock in I can focus on being the best worker possible.
Learn more about what’s working and what’s not for today’s college students when it comes to preparing for life after graduation.