Top 5 Things Alumni Wish They Knew Before They Graduated

Nia Hendricks
This group pools together different walks of life, professions, and perspectives, so we had a feeling they would have some wisdom to share with the class!

Twenty years of providing Christian education for students in South Florida has led to a diverse community of CCA Alumni. We asked them what advice they had for our high school students, especially seniors, as they plan for the future. With practical advice about faith, finance, and finding the right profession, here are their top five responses.

1. Get wise about money and beware student loans!

Almost every response we received included something about getting savvy with your finances early. Many alumni also gave a strong warning to our soon-to-be young professionals: don’t take out student loans. Instead, they advised students get creative. Work on campus, go to a community college, dual-enroll in high school—anything to shave dollars off the high cost of tuition and save you from being bound to student debt for years after you graduate.

“The thing is, there are good reasons to take out loans. But, it’s also true that the less debt you accumulate early on, the more freedom you’ll have later to do other things with your earnings. So just take your time figuring that stuff out, ask wise people for advice, and if/when you need a loan, try to minimize what you borrow.”
—Lauren, ‘07

“Don’t feel like you took the easy road if you go to a state/community college for the first two years and then transfer to a university. I know tons of people that say they wished they did that because class sizes are smaller and if you need extra help in a subject it’s easier to get it from the teacher when there’s way fewer students. You save lots of money, have less debt, and are still able to hold a job easily while going to school full time. Also, don’t think if you don’t get your degree as fast as others [it means] you are a failure. You are not. God’s timing is everything and everyone's timeline is different. Never make yourself feel like a failure because God will NEVER think that about you, ever.”
—Trisha, ‘10

“Do not take out loans if you don’t absolutely have to!”
—Kaley, ‘12

“Start saving and balancing your money as soon as you can and don’t live outside your means. Start saving not only to have a cushion but for when those crazy situations happen in life and you need to pay for a new washing machine, or parts for your vehicle, or an unexpected hospital visit.”
—Mike, ‘08

“Don’t take on student loans for a degree that will get you nowhere in life! Try to find a profession that has a market that you can actually make money in, you are GOOD at, [and] you like or love to do. In that order.”
—Monica, '12

[The] less debt you accumulate early on, the more freedom you’ll have later to do other things with your earnings.

2. Choose a practical major and profession.

Choose a major that will provide you with breadwinning skills. If your life’s passion is to study philosophy or anthropology, majors that don’t exactly have a growing job market, great! Maybe minor in something practical like communications that will provide you with an entry-level job that can support your passion. That way you’re free to pursue your dream without the pressure of having to make money from the pursuit.

“I’m a nurse now and a second year student in a nurse practitioner grad program. My dream was and is to do talk radio and political commentary. Haha! Those things have almost nothing to do with each other. I’m happy I have a job that allows me to support myself and be a contributing member of society, [while also allowing] me the time and resources to pursue my dreams.”
—Monica, '12

“I am currently a student pharmacist at [Nova Southeastern University] and my first advice would be to make sure you decide what career you want to pursue now; DO NOT WAIT. I made the mistake of deciding what I wanted to do with my future when I got to college and my biggest regret was not figuring it out when I was in high school. When you get to college time will go by faster than you know it. If you can, try to dual enroll in some classes so you don’t have to worry about them when you actually get to college.”
—Matt, ‘13

3. Don’t grow up too fast.

While it’s good to mature and make wise choices about money, vocation, and relationships, it doesn’t mean you have to have to settle down right away. This season—no spouse, no children, no mortgage payment—is likely to be the shortest season of your life. Think about it, if you get married at 30 and you and your spouse live to be 80, that’s 50 years of a life together—still over half your lifetime! So don’t feel you have to rush through your adolescence. Enjoy and take advantage of each season you’re in as much as you can!

“Take a year off after graduating [high school]! Once school, marriage, children and/or careers start it gets much more difficult to do so! Do an internship, spend a year on the mission field, or find a job in the field you are interested in. There are so many options available, and it will help you find your gifts and what you are passionate about.”
—Ashley, ‘07

“Don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out life-wise once you leave CCA. Give yourself permission to change your mind about your career open to change, and don’t let it scare you. God might have a completely different plan for you than the one that makes sense right now.”
—Samantha, ‘09

“Over ten years later, we still regularly keep in touch with our CCA friends. There have been vacations together, weddings, babies, and all the good and bad that comes with growing up. Enjoy these days. Each season brings new good things, and I continue to reflect on past seasons with fondness. Don’t wish them away in a rush to grow old.”
—Lauren, ‘07

4. Embrace the journey.

To quote one of my favorite songwriters, Ben Rector, “life is not the mountaintops, it’s the walking in-between.” Life will be full of ups and downs and all manner of in-betweens. You can be at peace knowing that it's all just a part of your journey—embrace it!

“When I left for college 10 years ago I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I felt alone and weird because the people I became friends with were not Christians. But eventually I was able to feel comfortable with my new surroundings, yet still maintain and holdfast to my beliefs. Never forget where you came from or how rooted you are because you will fall back to it. There are going to be things, situations, and people that will challenge your faith and beliefs. You will ask yourself why you believe what you believe. When that happens, don’t freak out.”
—Mike, ‘08

“It's okay to make mistakes. It's how you learn and grow.”
Emily, ‘08

“Let yourself be surprised by God and realize His plan may only unfold one step at a time. I followed God’s direction to a college that changed my trajectory from where I thought I would be. He then called me again to move across the country and pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology at a Seminary. I didn’t know it at the time, but in high school God was preparing me for a calling that I was specifically created for. But I needed to listen and to let myself be surprised by God’s call, even when it shifted my own ideas about it.”
Brianna, ‘11

Give yourself permission to change your mind about your career open to change, and don’t let it scare you.

5. Own Your Faith.

Finally, be intentional to explore what you believe and why. Just as life is a journey, so is your faith, and it’s yours to walk!

“When you doubt, seek God not man. Be real with God when you pray. Tell Him your struggles, doubts, feelings. Trust Him and His word, He will not fail you. Small steps of faithfulness lead to long walks of faithfulness.”
—Brandon ‘10

“Your faith is the MOST important thing when it comes to approaching college. It will no longer be your parents' faith or your teachers,’ it will be yours. Take time with God to figure out exactly what you believe and why, and make every effort to spend time with God on a daily basis. Everything else is of second importance, because your faith (or lack thereof) will change the course of your life. I have faced many challenges in college but can honestly say that God brought me through them all.”
—Becks, ‘10

“Never think you won’t be tempted by things in college, make sure your faith is secure and you rely on God. It is so easy to lose your footing if you lose sight of God...never feel that you have strayed too far from God! He loves you unconditionally and welcomes you back no matter what!!”
—Kaley, ‘12

There’s a lot to look forward to in the years after you graduate from high school. The faculty and staff at Calvary Christian Academy are thankful for the part we get to play in preparing you for your journey. As you prepare for the next season, we’re excited for the stories and advice you’ll get to share with the next generations of graduates. Know that you are a part of a community that wants to see you succeed. The best is yet to come!
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