What Now? A Survival Guide for Life after High School
Graduation from high school can feel both liberating and terrifying. The future is yours to shape, but where do you go from here?
Make a Plan
It’s hard to know what to do next if you don’t know what you’re trying to do. You need a plan—not an elaborate, 50-page scheme to take over the world but something that will leave you feeling like, “I’m in control.”
Maybe your next step is to leave on a mission, study at a university, learn a trade, enter the job market, or just explore options for what you want to do with your life. Whatever your plan is, here are some tips to help you confidently move forward in your life.
Get Some Help
Set your independent nature aside for a minute. You’ve probably heard this already, but talking to career counselors, teachers, parents, or job coaches at an LDS employment center can help you figure out your next step. It may have been a while since they’ve been in your shoes, but the adults in your life can offer helpful insights.
Develop a Dream
Having a job you love is the dream, but you probably won’t find it by accident. So start experimenting. Explore jobs that might fit. Learn about how you can pursue your talents, interests, and hobbies. Don’t limit yourself to traditional job descriptions alone—consider jobs you would love if you realized that they actually existed. Whether you love sports, music, video games, astronomy, reading, mountain biking, fashion, or anything else, learn about jobs connected to things that interest you.
Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Inc., gave the advice: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking” (Stanford University Commencement Address, June 12, 2005, news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505). And remember that you can learn a lot about what you're looking for in a career from the basic jobs you might have early on.
Figure Out Finances
Like it or not, you have to find a way to cover your expenses. And the best way to know that you’ll have what you need is to use a budget. Boring, intimidating, and complicated? Not if you keep it simple. Try this four-step method.
- Track what you plan to spend each month. Plan for essentials first—food, rent, tuition, transportation. But don’t forget hidden expenses. Will you purchase music, pay for the Internet, or eat fast food?
- Figure out how much money you’ll need to make. What will your income be? If you will be attending college, include financial aid, scholarships, and government grants in your budget.
- Identify how much you have in savings. If you’re going to use savings to pay for expenses, remember to set aside a certain amount for each month.
- Spend less than you make. If the amount you plan to spend is more than the amount you will earn or have in savings, then you need to find a way to make more or spend less.
You can create a budget on paper or use apps and websites to keep track of your finances. Just be careful when disclosing financial information online, especially bank account numbers. Consider talking to a parent or someone else who has experience with budgeting before you get started.
Find a Place to Live
You might continue living with your family, or you might move into an apartment. Whatever you choose, living arrangements will affect your life. Here are a few things to consider:
- Will the people you live with encourage you to live gospel standards?
- Can you get along and be happy living with them?
- Do you have similar expectations about cleanliness, visitors, and the division of expenses?
- Can you afford to live away from home?
- Can you get to school or work easily?
Take It One Day at a Time
Adjusting to new responsibilities and stresses can seem overwhelming if you try and tackle everything at once. Make a list of what you need to work out, then pick one thing at a time to focus on.
Have Some Fun
Don’t get so bogged down by all of the grown-up responsibilities that you forget to have fun. This is a wonderful time to find friends and activities that you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life.
Trust Heavenly Father
Trust that your Heavenly Father is going to help you. He wants you to succeed. He will guide you, support you, and give you strength as you figure out the next few months and years.