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Dear Grade 12 Grads, This Is A Big Step Towards Your Future

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I've never been asked to address a high school graduating class, much to my children's relief, but with my third child finishing grade 12 in a month, I thought about what I might say to these graduates, especially those heading off to college or university.

college graduation

1. Learn about money. Financial literacy is not taught in high school. Find out how a credit card (really) works, make sure you have your own (no-fee) bank account and set yourself up with a budget. Please also note that the Bank of Mom and Dad does not have unlimited funds available. Parents, please note this also.

2. You most likely have time to work at a part time job when you're in university or college. Not only does it build up your 'beer and books' bank account, but it gives you valuable experience and networking when you graduate. As well, it's been my discovery that the less free time you have, the more likely you are to hit deadlines for school assignments.

3. When you are away at school, no one wakes you up in the morning except your own phone or alarm clock. Get an old-school alarm clock and turn off the phone when you go to bed. You need a good night's sleep to sit through a three-hour psych lecture.

4. No, you probably will never need to do calculus ever again. Take this as a win and move on.

5. Contrary to my oldest daughter's belief, you need to scrub a toilet with a toilet brush to get it clean. "That's what flushing is for" is not the appropriate answer.

6. Sheets need washing more than once a month. Actually, I don't care; you're sleeping in them, not me.

7. See? I am actually a good cook. Now you know. It's all relative.

8. Your professor really doesn't care if you turn up for class or not. They get paid either way. Go to the lectures, and take advantage of the time with your Tutorial Assistants. They are your best resource.

university students

9. Join, join, join. Find groups at college and university that you want to be a part of - whether its Chess Club or intramural hockey, you'll have immediate friends and a social life. There could be 30,000 students at your school; so many people, but so few you know.

10. Related to joining, take every advantage to network. Some of the contacts you make in university you will carry through to your career, and can prove invaluable. That whole thing about 'It's who you know' may seem unfair but it usually represents hard work in creating and maintaining good contacts.

11. Those kids that were cool in high school? They're regular now. Post secondary is the great equalizer. And you know what? They might actually be pretty OK people. Don't dismiss them as they may have dismissed you.

12. Go to bed early. I know this is a tough one because perhaps for the first time in your life no one is nagging you to go to bed. But getting to bed early lessens your chance of drinking more beer, saying silly things online, doing silly things, and amazingly increases your chances of getting a good night's sleep. We all know that old line about "whatever happens after midnight could have easily happened before midnight." We also know that it is logistically, but not actually true.

13. Show initiative. Whether it's in class or at a part time job, as a person who used to manage a team of 35 people, initiative is the one quality that pushes good people into the field of excellence. Go above and beyond. Without complaint. It will get noticed.

14. Have a plan. But accept that you will probably need to change that plan. And that's OK. But have a new plan.

15. Work really, really hard not to lose your love of reading while buried under those textbooks. Alternatively, try to develop a love of reading if you don't have one. Immeasurable benefits including improving your spelling, grammar, knowledge of the world, understanding human nature and escape, to name a few.

Above all, recognize that this is a big step, not only for you, but for your parents. Show them that they can put a check mark on their Parenting To Do list next to "Raise an independent child." Good luck and make sure to text me when you get home tonight.

Kathy Buckworth is the author of six books, including "I Am So The Boss Of You". She is currently at work on her seventh book "What Were You Thinking? One Mother's Attempt At Cracking The Teenage Code."

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