What Comes Next

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It's graduation season in Palo Alto County. Many area high school seniors are currently celebrating their hard work and stellar achievements with family and friends, excited about what the future has in store. I offer my sincerest congratulations to all of you who have made it past such a crucial milestone in your lives!

As the next phase in each of your lives begins, it becomes crucial to move forward and adjust to an entirely new set of concerns and challenges. While most long-term goals involve getting a degree and finding gainful, productive employment, the reality of navigating the difficult path required to fulfill these goals can be quite intimidating, even at the best of times.

Fortunately we live in a day and age where numerous, reputable online sources exist to help provide guidance on the next phase of the journey, and I'd like to share a couple of suggestions regarding common challenges faced by today's graduates.

Debt - Tuition costs are rising at alarmingly high rates. Add to that the cost of housing, meals, supplies, transportation, and textbooks, and you have a recipe for unmanageable debt. According to U.S. News, almost half of today's students say the cost is making them reconsider even earning a degree, and students are increasingly dropping out of college because they cannot afford the expense.

While student loans may be relatively easy to get, many students don't know how repayment works and how many years they may spend paying off their loans. This lack of understanding only adds to the stress. An important part of education is educating yourself about the structure of the loans you take on to pay for your education. Most financial advisors recommend borrowing no more than one expects to earn the first year out of college, but sitting down with a financial advisor personally to get a firm grasp on the debt you're taking on is encouraged. Students may onside an on-campus job, which will cut out potential transportation expenses and help you stay more focused academically. If you had a job in high school and are going to college locally, see if you can continue working while in school. If you are going away to school, inquire about transferring to a job location near your school. In addition, create a budget for shopping trips and eating out and stick to it.

Time Management - College is academically challenging. For many, college courses require much more effort than high school classes did. Many students take a full 15 credit semester, while others take up to 18 or even 21 credits. Combine the class workload with a job and at times, it seems impossible to stay on top of it all. In this case, know your limits. If you can't handle 18 credits in one semester, it is worth it in the long run to slow down and take less. While the purpose of a college education is to learn, that doesn't mean studying all the time. It is important to schedule time for leisure and to take breaks to keep your mind fresh and clear. Learning effective study habits is a must!

Depression - Know your limits! If stress and depression become an issue, seek professional support. Many campuses have free counseling programs for students. Counselors are trained to listen and help students get back on track. In a month dedicated to mental health awareness, it is important to remember to take care of yourself in order to find the success you deserve!

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