In the next few weeks, 2.7 million graduates will head to their ceremonies, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They'll receive 676,000 Associate degrees, 1.4 million Bachelor's degrees, 519,000 Master's degrees, 45,000 Doctorates, and 90,000 professional degrees.
The degree is just one of many life goals each of these graduates will achieve in their life. Here are some tips that can help them fulfill additional dreams:
1. Choose Your Life
You don't get what you wish for in life, you get what you go for. So don't let your life just happen -- create it! Choose your career (or more likely, careers). Choose where you live and with whom you surround yourself. Choose with whom you fall in love -- and with whom you don't. Choose how you take care of your health. Choose your spiritual life. Choose how and how much you give back to society by helping others.
Having to make so many of those choices at once -- especially regarding relationship, career, financial, identity, and spiritual questions -- can result in a "quarterlife crisis" that is also a terrific opportunity for growth. Here are some resources that can help you make the most of your opportunities:
* QuarterLifeCrisis.com is an online community for twentysomethings in transition that features message boards, a career center, and information and advice on life, work, and play.
* DigsMagazine.com is a home and lifestyle e-zine for "the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation."
* BellaOnline.com/site/postcollege is a women-oriented site featuring information on continuing education, finances, job hunting, lifestyle, networking, travel, and more.
2. Follow Your Plan
I've got news for you: The "what am I going to do with my life" question that may loom so large for you now never really goes away. You'll ask yourself the same thing at 30, 40, 50, 60, and so on. So get used to it -- and don't blindly follow the expectations of your parents, professors, or mentors. Their beliefs are based on their life experience, not yours. They don't control your destiny, you do. Live your plan, and follow your spiritual purpose, not someone else's.
That's easy to say, but can be hard to do. For some guidance, check out one or more of the following books. They're written by, for, and about people in their twenties:
* "Quarterlife Crisis" by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner shares inspirational stories of more than a hundred folks who are navigating though the unique challenges of life's third decade.
* "20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-Life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction" by Christine Hassler helps women deal with what the author calls the "twenties triangle": Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?
* "@ the Entry Level: On Survival, Success, and Your Calling as a Young Professional" helps you discover success, passion, and fulfillment in your work, with an emphasis on the corporate environment.
* "Twentysomthing: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World" by Margaret Feinberg offers a spiritual perspective on finding your purpose.
3. See the World
According to the American Council on Education, 93 percent of undergrads who wanted to study abroad never did. If you're one of them -- or if you got a taste of travel and want to do more -- now's a great time to do it before a career, mortgage, kids, and other responsibilities loom large in your life.
Not only is it fun, travel can be life-shaping -- and the independence, flexibility, and comfort with other cultures you learn can be career-enhancing, too. For more information:
* TransitionsAbroad.com is a comprehensive guide to work, study, cultural travel, and living abroad.
* The Peace Corps offers travel with a purpose and provides a small living stipend while you're away, plus a transition allowance when you return. You can also defer student-loan payments while you're serving and may qualify for the cancellation of a portion of your student loans.
* AIESEC runs an exchange program that allows 3,500 students and recent graduates the chance to live and work in another country.
4. Become a Young "Automatic Millionaire"
Once you get your first job, pay yourself first. If you start by saving just $10 a day, or about one hour a day of an entry-level job's income, you'll have $678,146 in savings 30 years from now, assuming a 10% annual rate of return. In 40 years, you'd have $1,897,244. That means you'll have more freedom to do what you want to do with your life then 90% of your friends. The sooner you start to save money the more freedom you will have to be who you really want to be. Get more details from my book, "The Automatic Millionaire".
5. Take Some Risks
My grandmother Bach shared something with me just before she died at age of 86 (see "An Early Start on the Road to Riches").
"David," she said, "your life will come down to a handful of major decision where you'll hit a fork in the road. You will need to decide whether to play it safe or to take some risk. My five major regrets all involved this choice, and each time I played it safe. Now at 86, I will never know what could have been. If could give you a gift it would be this -- take more risk at a young age. Take more risk in life. You will have fewer regrets."
These words have stayed with me since my early twenties. And now I give them to you. The sooner you go for your dreams, the better your chances of living a life where your dreams come true. The longer you wait, the harder dreams are to achieve. That's because living out your dreams is a lot like exercise. You build dream muscle over your lifetime that makes it easier to define and work toward your goals every time you try.
You only have one life and it's precious, so get out and go for it!