For Those About To Walk

Benjamin Burnette, Staff Writer

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The past four years of your life have built up to this moment. The moment when, adorned in cap with tassel and flowing robe, you cross the stage and receive your high school diploma. The evening is filled with smiles and congratulations, and you receive almost enough in graduation presents to justify the late nights of stress studying for your chemistry final.

But next morning, life hits. And, great though it is, high school alone has not adequately prepared you for life. Do you know what a W-2 is? How ‘bout a 1040? Do you know when tax day is? Do you know what tax day is? If not, that’s fine. High school doesn’t prepare you for such things. And it shouldn’t. High school teachers have enough on their plates without explaining the 70,000 page tax code to students, most of whom probably can’t put the information to use immediately, and will have forgotten what they learned by the time they need it.

At Marshall, we say we value graduating prepared. However, many people seem to think that graduating prepared is as simple as doing homework, studying, and getting good grades. But it’s not. Those are all good things, but they do not by themselves prepare you for the jungle that is adult life. So then how do you prepare yourself for life? No one answer will fit all. Someone who wants to be a doctor should take different steps then someone who plans to pursue a career in music. Be not discouraged though! Certain general principles will serve you well no matter what path you plan to pursue.

First, explore. Take advantage of the opportunities before you. Join extracurriculars, develop relationships with teachers, and apply yourself to the work you do in school. Extracurriculars give you the opportunity to explore your interests, and find out what you enjoy. My involvement in mock trial led me to a job at a local law firm, something that wouldn’t have happened without my participation in the activity. Both Dr. Anderson and Ms. Rizzo emphasized the importance of getting outside of yourself and exploring. Mr. Ganschow talked about the value of the skills you learn in doing school work, even if the subject matter is not to your liking. True, you may never again in your life be expected to take the integral of a polynomial, but the thought process and reasoning skills learned as part of this process will serve you well no matter what you do. If you don’t like reading, you may never look back to the story you did a presentation on in 10th grade English class, but the skill of compiling slides and speaking in front of an audience will almost certainly prove relevant.

Second, get a job. Seriously. Doesn’t matter where, or what you do, a job is a good way to prep yourself for adulthood. As part of it, you will began to uncover the mysterious letters and numbers of the US’s tax system. A job also teaches you to be immediately and concretely responsible for your actions. Being answerable to a boss is very different from being answerable to a teacher, take my word for it.

Lastly, learn to be self sufficient. This skill is involved in the first two suggestion, but not completely tied to them. For much of your life up to this point, you  have had a crutch. People have wanted to help you. As a general rule, your parents want you to succeed in life. Teachers typically want to see their students thrive: that’s why the became teachers. In the workplace, not everyone will take this stance. Some lucky few will have kind bosses, but mostly what I’ve gleaned from interviewing people is that bosses want results. And our generation has a reputation as being whiny, somewhat self-serving, and not particularly competent. Be aware of that, as it may be an obstacle you have to overcome.

So seniors, if you have done all of the above, congratulations are indeed in order. If not, you still have time before college starts if that’s where you’re headed, or before you start earning a living for yourself if you plan to go straight into the workforce.

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