College & Workforce Readiness

Teachers Share Their Best Advice for Graduating Seniors

By Lydia McFarlane — June 06, 2023 3 min read
Graduates take their seats on May 26, 2023, at the commencement ceremony for Harlingen High School's Class of 2023 in Harlingen, Texas.
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With graduation season upon us, many high school seniors are looking to their teachers, some of whom have become mentors, for advice to carry them through the next chapter in their lives. Whether it’s a job, moving away to college, joining the military, or anything else, “the real world” looks a lot different than the familiar halls of one’s high school.

If it’s good advice, it will outlive controversies rippling around the nation now over what students can or cannot wear to receive their diploma. Students in several states are currently challenging restrictive dress code laws that would prevent them from wearing items of cultural significance to graduation.

Clothing aside, though, Education Week asked teachers on Facebook and LinkedIn for their best advice for graduating seniors. Here’s what they said.

Do Your Best

Being obsessed with perfection is something many people struggle with in their adult lives. These teachers share that your best is always good enough and that striving for perfection can be dangerous.

“Perfectionism is abusive and addictive and practice saying sometimes ‘good enough is good enough.’”

- Jim S

“Always do the best you can ‘under the circumstances.’ Perfection will eat you up.”

- Jill W. M.

“Learn to accept your self strengths &weaknesses. Accept others at the stages they are in with their strengths and weaknesses.”

- Amanda C.G.

“Work hard for what you want to achieve no one owes you anything. You have to earn it.”

- Hill W.

College Isn’t for Everyone

While college might seem like an obvious choice for many students post-high school, it is certainly not the only one. These teachers advise students who are unsure of going to college to save their money by starting off with community college while also giving alternative suggestions.

“When in doubt about a career, consider what is/will be in demand and be open to trades, civil service or even the military. Not all well paying careers require college, even if they require their own kind of training.”

- James R.

“Go to trade school if college is not for you.”

- Trisha L.H.

“My advice to my students is always the same: if you’re not going right to college, consider working a seasonal job in a national park or tourism somewhere. Meet a lot of people from different countries and get to know yourself while working/traveling. Don’t jump right into marriage or debt. Just explore. Read a ton of books and then decide what you really want to study in college. Continue networking and find a place where you can make the world a better place by serving others.”

- Noah H.

Embrace Change

Graduating from high school is a huge life change. However, even after graduating from high school, the changes keep coming. These teachers tell students to go with the flow and embrace change as it happens.

“The advice to give graduating seniors is keeping an open mind. For an example trying some new ideas. This lets the peers know, it’s ok to change your major in college. This helps graduate students figure out things they do like via things don’t.”

- Kimberly H.

“Don’t be afraid to change your mind.”

- Julie G.B.

“Be open to opportunities you may not have expected, because a new direction may lie just ahead.”

- Hanne D.

You Don’t Have to Have It All Figured Out

Students may be feeling the pressure to plan the rest of their lives once they receive their high school diplomas. Below, teachers reassure graduating seniors that everything does not need to be figured out right now, and that changing your mind now or later in life is okay.

“It is ok and normal to not yet know what you want to do next.”

- Jennie S.H.

Keep Learning

Even if graduating seniors decide against going to college, learning never stops. These quotes are from teachers who encourage students to embrace it.

“Keep learning…it is the only fountain of youth!”

- Mary A.

“Never stop learning.”

- Claire O.

“Question, research, and think for yourself!”

- Doreen L.

“If you are going to college, pursue a double major and start your master’s degree right away. Momentum is important.”

- Eryn W.

Treat People with Kindness

Regardless of where you may end up after graduating high school, human connections are important. All of these teachers believe in the value of kindness and investing in relationships with those around you.

“Invest in your human capital. Cultivate kindness. Both are immensely possible.”

- Jeanne B.K.

“Cultivate kindness “

- Suzanne J.

“Be coachable. Be kind and compassionate. Work harder than others expect. Expect to fail so learn to fail and learn to get back up.”

- Jonathan V.

“Do good because good is good to do.”

- Scotty H.

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