As the weather gets warmer and the days become longer, the arrival of summertime has many teens embarking on summer vacations. For high school graduates across the nation the arrival of the warm weather signifies the celebration of milestone events. You might be part of the select group of students who find themselves at a crossroads either in your Junior or Senior year. The reality for these students is that with the end of their High School career comes the million-dollar question of “What will I do after graduation?”
For many Latinas who are the first in their family to graduate High School the topics of college, earning a degree, and life post-grad in general are all of great mystery and uncertainty. Already facing other financial and cultural obstacles, this absence of knowledge can greatly and negatively impact the aspirations of the Latina collective of accomplishing their professional and academic dreams.
As “women of color” it is important to keep in mind the following “Golden Rules” to strengthen your post-grad journey:
I. Be Informed
As Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, explained, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” As a graduating student it is important to have information on the educational options and opportunities that are available. If paying for college makes you anxious, don’t fret! Getting the funding via scholarships, student grants and other government aid that is accessible will help fund and therefore fulfill your academic dreams. Do not let money be a determining factor in deciding what academic or professional route to take. Do your research and stay informed!
II. Have Clear Goals
So, how can you prepare to enter the real world as a recent Post-Graduate? For one, having clear goals of your academic and professional interests and expectations decreases the anxiety. Knowing what career path you wish to follow can direct you towards volunteer and internship opportunities that will provide you with the necessary experience and can help you establish a network. Ultimately, spending a couple weeks during the summer interning at a firm or at a non-profit can help in creating a support system that can guide you while on the job search or when in need of academic letters of recommendation when filling out college applications or scholarships.
III. Seek a Mentor or a Role Model
Dina M. Horwedel explains, in her article Latina Women and Higher Education – Making it Happen, that by identifying the power in knowledge, developing self-confidence and a support system as well as seeking out role models and mentors can Latina women be better equipped to achieve success in the workforce or in the classroom. It is therefore important to find that someone that you look up to, whose professional life interests you or that individual whose support has greatly inspired you. You will find great comfort in their personal experience and great motivation in their knowledge.
IV. Confidence is Key
Sometimes “planning ahead” for the real world means taking a different path. While in college you have the opportunity to take a “gap year.” Often times this translates into neither entering the workforce nor entering the classroom but a combination of them both: taking a gap year and living abroad. The idea of the gap year is an option that allows you to gain some international experience via volunteering. This not only helps in building an international network and having life-changing experiences but it also allows you to acquire real-world life and work skills that will help determine and strengthen your goals and future professional interests. Do not fear taking an alternate route by crossing international borders, the key to success when taking the road less traveled is confidence!
With graduation there emerges the pressure of not knowing what is to come or what is expected of you once you have concluded your High School career. Therefore it is important to explore the different possibilities there are, whether it is heading off to college in the fall, taking a year off and volunteering abroad or even entering the workforce. The key to success when planning ahead for the real world is knowledge, confidence, and determination. Whatever route you decide to take it is vital to consider that as an educated Latina if the road you decide to take is the one less traveled, despite the uncertainties, it is what will make a difference.