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Inside the Minds of College Graduates Entering the ‘Real World’: Reflections and Advice from the Class of 2023

Another year, another graduating class. What does the class of 2023 have to say about it?

Graduates hold their caps and diplomas in the sky.
PeopleImages/Yuri A/ Shutterstock

As the class of 2023 prepares to graduate from colleges across the country, they reflect on the past four years to advise the next generation of students. While they reminisce on the past, their minds are filled with excitement and trepidation for what lies ahead in the ‘real world,’ but ambition will hopefully carry them through.

As they enter the ‘real world’ upon graduation, these students are embarking on a new chapter in their lives with a range of perspectives and attitudes. From reflecting on their college experiences to considering their future plans, these graduates offer insights into their mindset as they embark on the next phase of their lives.

Each year, graduating seniors are confronted with the reality that once they walk across that stage, they are no longer undergraduate students. So what’s next? What will they do? Where will life take them? A few 2023 College graduates have voiced their thoughts expressing excitement, hesitation, angst, and a plethora of vast emotions.

A normal college experience?

2023 graduates are unique in the sense that they never had a ‘normal’ college life. Their freshman year, everything was flipped upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic, and nothing ‘normal’ has happened since.

Sid Hecht, a Coastal Environmental Science major at Flagler College, speaks to the challenges of her college years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, shootings, and everything else going on in the world, college life was interesting.

Hecht believes that she will never be prepared for the real world. She encourages students who are just entering college to take it slow, enjoy each day and be open to creating new friendships.

Openness

Openness seems to be a common thread of advice from 2023 graduates. Despite the differences in studies and schools, these students share some common thoughts. They stress the importance of seizing the day, taking every opportunity within reach, and being open to anything.

Hannah Sullivan, a Communications and Political Science major at the University at Buffalo, advises incoming freshmen not to wish their college years away as she considers them to be the best times of her life.

“You only live once so take all the opportunities you can because you will regret it one day if you don’t!”

Sullivan

Sullivan speaks to the idea that college is a time to embrace new experiences. College flies by and one should not take this time for granted.

Amanda Taiano, a Security and Risk Analysis major focusing on Cybersecurity at Penn State, shares what she wishes someone would have told her.

“Here are a few things I wish someone told me. Take advantage of every opportunity whether that be professional development or for your social life. Build relationships with your professors by staying after to ask questions and going to their office hours, your senior-year self will thank you when you need a reference for a job. Join clubs your first year! This is the best way to make friends, branch out, and help acclimate yourself.”

Taiano
Amanda Taiano popping a bottle of champagne in celebration of graduating.
Amanda Taiano popping a bottle of champagne in celebration of becoming a Penn State alumni. Credit: Amanda Taiano

Overall, students encourage incoming freshmen and current college students to be as present and open as possible.

Ansley Pacetti is ready to take on the ‘real world’ after graduating from Flagler College with a degree in Social Entrepreneurship. She advises freshmen to take a variety of classes to explore different interests and avoid committing to a major too early.

“Don’t marry a major when you come into school. It’ll probably change.”

Pacetti
Ansley Pacetti throwing her cap into the air on Flagler College campus. Credit: Jenna Alexander

Are 2023 graduates ready?

Sarah Kobler, a Political Science major with a minor in History and Law at the University at Buffalo, reflects on her own experience with a legal internship. She thought she knew what she wanted to do, but the internship helped her discover that a legal career was not the right route.

Kobler advises students to get involved in internships and extracurricular activities to find their true passions. She would have never known without being open to taking advantage of the internship opportunity herself.

Despite being open, seizing opportunities, being involved, etc. many students do not yet feel ready for the ‘real’ world. But…

“Is anyone ever ready?”

Kobler

Some students express that they are ‘done with college’ and ready to see what’s next like Pacetti and Nick Everson. While Everson reflects on his four years at Binghampton University where he studied Economics, he admits he is ready to move on to the next phase of his life. He is eager to move on to something new but graduating can still be scary for many students.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘ready’ so I just have to take the first step and learn from there.”

Hauville

This feeling is shared by many graduates across the board. Whether they are French majors or Electrical Engineering graduates like Chris Hartnagel, the transition from college to the next chapter is an uncertain time.

Hartnagel graduated three years ago from the University of Dayton and shared his reflections on the challenges of entering the real world.

“Nothing can prepare you for real life out on your own or where your career will take you. Best to enjoy the journey and embrace it all. Ambition will carry you places you can’t imagine.”

Hartnagel

The next chapter

The mindset of the class of 2023 college graduates is diverse and reflects their individual experiences during their time in higher education. Graduation is a time to reflect on the good times (and the bad) but also share excitement for the future.

Some are eager to enter the ‘real world’ and some may not yet know where this chapter will take them. Regardless of their plans, these graduates are embarking on a new chapter in their lives. They are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives they need to succeed whether they know it or not.

No matter what, the next chapter will look different for everyone. Chloe Hauville, a French major at Boston College advises students not to compare themselves to others. It is important for each graduate to forge their own path.

“Everyone is on different paths, and you might feel like you’re being left behind. But everything will work out in the end, and you are your own person. So don’t compare yourself.”

Hauville

The 2023 graduate recognizes the importance of taking advantage of opportunities and embracing new experiences. Some are ready to move on to the real world, others are hesitant, but all are eager to see where their ambition will take them.

Written By

Graduated from Flagler College, with a liberal arts degree concentrating in political science, economics, and English to develop a multifaceted perspective on the world. What started as a childhood hobby, writing has become a passion and has formed into a career interest in Journalism.

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