My Open Letter to 2020 Grads

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Yesterday, I spent an embarrassing amount of time on my phone. Which, frankly, has been the case most days during quarantine. What prompted my rampant scrolling and reminiscing yesterday was my alma mater’s. University of San Diego, graduation day. My feeds were flooded with pictures of people posing in front of campuses’ most known buildings in their stolles, emotional captions, and plentiful “Congratulations!” and “I will miss you!” comments. 

With that in mind, I wanted to pass along some thoughts and reflections on post grad life. 

Dear 2020 Graduates. 

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! You have undoubtedly worked very hard to get here: sleepless nights writing papers, hours spent on Zoom working on that one group project, moments of laughter and crying in the library. Now is your time to celebrate and catch up on that much needed sleep. 

A few thoughts for you going forward- 

You will miss college. You will spend nights alone on your couch wishing your roommates were right next to you, laughing along and drinking a glass of wine. You will contemplate how you were physically able to go out on a Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday night and, and give anything to have that kind of stamina again. You’ll realize how incredibly lucky you were to have all your friends living so incredibly close to you, when everyone is now spread across the country. 

Regardless, missing something is not the same as getting stuck in it. You can spend your time replaying your memories from college in your mind, or you can spend your time making new ones. Cherish and hold on to those memories and friendships, but don’t let them get in the way of creating new communities and friendships. 

No matter where you move, you will need to make new friends. This takes a lot longer than it did in college, and can seem more forced at times. Prepare yourself for some cringeworthy networking happy hours, where you will strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, whom you really like, and awkwardly ask for their number, NOT to date them, but to just be friends and hang out. Everywhere you go is a new social opportunity, and every person you meet is a potential new friend. 

The professional world is going to be a lot different than your college orbit. Nobody will know who you are, what clubs you are involved with, what sorority you were in, etc. And honestly, they might not even care. You are going to have to re-brand yourself and prove you are an asset to your workplace.  You’re no longer “Monica Sutherland, Director of Standards and Ethics in Alpha Delta Pi”. You’ll have time and opportunity to explore different aspects of your identity and redefine who you are in this new phase; embrace it! 

Things are probably going to get harder before they get easier in your next phase in life. You’ll face challenges you didn’t know exist, get to know yourself on a whole different level, and see the world differently than you ever have before. Your worldview will be expanded outside of the bubble of your university, and you may not always like what you see. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Practicing patience will become your greatest asset. 

Let go of the idea that there is a “path” that you need to follow. There isn’t, and you don’t.It’s ok to take risks professionally, and even switch paths. I’ve already done it twice, and I graduated two years ago.  You are in charge of all your choices going forward, which is as empowering as it is terrifying. Know that there are no real mistakes: just different paths forward. 

Lastly, never forget the lessons you have learned and the confidence you have gained in the past four years. You are as amazing as your college years made you feel- don’t lose sight of that, no matter what the real world throws at you. You are your strongest ally going forward, so start acting like it. 


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