Graduation — now what

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2019

High school graduations have or are occurring all-around. I congratulate all that have accomplished this step in your life. It is the first of, I hope, many of the milestones that you will reach in the coming years. I know that your parents and extended family are proud of you. The next question is what do you do now? Some have already partially thought through and have planned out their life. Others have gotten away with just planning to go to college with no real plans as to what the next step will be. Now, however, is a good time to stop and think about what you want your future to look like and the best route to achieve that hoped for future.

If you have read my columns through the last several years, you know that I have been a big proponent of getting certified training for a skill. If you like to work with your hands as well as your mind, you can do very well financially if you develop your skill level to higher levels. Our community colleges have become much more focused on offering recognized certifications rather than degrees in the last few years. Doing this, as they align themselves with employers in the area, makes them a much greater asset to our communities. As with everything in life, you will do best if it is something that you enjoy.

For those who are focused on receiving a degree in one of the many universities in Virginia, you are well served by many great schools in Virginia, both public and private. Before I write about them, our community colleges can be an excellent value for families for those basic college classes.

This year in the national rankings of colleges, Virginia proudly has 11 colleges that received high national rankings, and we are proud of those whether public or private. Those rankings are good, but what is better is to attend the school that best suits your needs and your goals for the future. Each school places greater focus on those areas of studies that they think that most students, families or businesses want. Hopefully that was calculated into why you applied to the schools you did.

What is very important now, as you pack your bags, is to do some serious homework. There are various websites that help you focus on what fields of study are likely to have job openings in the next few years. Those sites will provide ranges of annual income the first few years. Understanding if there are going to be openings and if the salary is one on which one can live is important. Too frequently young people do not focus on these issues early enough in their college years. Then, as they get closer to graduation, they learn there are few good opportunities in the path they have chosen. At that point, they have to make a hard choice between continuing toward that major and taking a lesser job in something they are not educated in or changing majors and adding time and the burden of more college expenses to their life. It is far wiser to do your research now, before signing up for classes this fall.

Parents, you too have a role in this. Yes, you want your son or daughter to decide for themselves what they want their future to look like. However, without some guidance from you or some other adult that they respect, some will not choose the best path. A perfect example was a young man who wanted to be a lawyer. His family wanted him to be a lawyer. He spent four years at a top-notch university focused on the easiest major with the least demanding classes in order to have straight A’s. In the end, however, he was not able to get into law school. He probably was lucky. If he had, he would have found out that we are graduating more attorneys than are needed.

I write this in hopes that at least some of our recent graduates will plan their future to best serve their needs and interests rather than amble down pathways that might be dead-end or unrewarding.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.