Prom & Graduation

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Advice for soon-to-be graduates

Graduation season, an oft-emotional time of great celebration and reflection, is on the horizon. Though soon-to-be graduates are about to have one set of challenges firmly behind them, other important life decisions and experiences are looming in the not-too-distant future.

Although there's no magic set of rules for post-graduation, the following advice can help recent gradates transition from the classroom to the ceremony and then life after school.

• Attend the graduation ceremony. Graduating students may debate whether or not to attend their graduation ceremonies. Such ceremonies tend to be lengthy, and outdoor affairs can be hot and uncomfortable. However, graduation is a milestone moment that you won't get to enjoy again. Attending graduation allows you one last academic experience, and even if that may seem like too meaningful right now, you might regret skipping the ceremony down the road.

• Enjoy graduation but buckle down once the dust settles. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the job market for new graduates is improving marginally. But the Institute for College Access and Success notes that many college graduates will be saddled with around $25,000 in debt upon earning their degrees. Many student loans have a six-month repayment grace period after graduation, so new grads who don't already have a job lined up may want to use some of that grace period to travel, visit distant relatives or relax and recharge before their first payment comes due. Use the time wisely, but be prepared to buckle down when the time comes to start repaying loans.

• Join an alumni association. Regardless of the size of your school, chances are strong they have a local alumni association and several chapters across the country. Take advantage of these organizations to connect with fellow alumni, who can be invaluable sources of information and provide connections that may help you find a job in your field.

• Read and learn new skills. If you have yet to land that first job, use some of your down time to reacquaint yourself with reading for pleasure instead of reading as part of an assignment. You also can use extra time to explore new skills, such as learning certain software or applications that may help you stand out in a competitive job market.

• Before you decide what you want to do, you may have to figure out what you don't like. Another way to use free time is to volunteer or apply for internships in fields you may want to work in. These experiences can help you determine your career options and find a career you find both challenging and exciting. But such opportunities can also help you determine when a given line of work isn't for you. Oftentimes, finding the right career path takes some trial and error. Don't get too down if an opportunity doesn't pan out. Instead, keep your head up and take advantage of the next opportunity that comes your way.

Graduation is a time of mixed emotions. Graduates can not only use graduation season to make lasting memories with friends but also to take the first steps toward the next phase of their lives.