My Best Advice For Graduates – 16 Tips Every Graduate Needs To Hear

Are you wondering what is the best advice for graduates? Whether you or someone you know is graduating high school or college, I have some great tips and wisdom to share. Graduating is a life changing experience. You’ve worked incredibly hard to reach this achievement, and it’s both a stressful and exciting time. You might…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 18, 2024

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Are you wondering what is the best advice for graduates? Whether you or someone you know is graduating high school or college, I have some great tips and wisdom to share.

Graduating is a life changing experience.

You’ve worked incredibly hard to reach this achievement, and it’s both a stressful and exciting time.

You might be wondering what you’re going to do next with your life, or you may have a plan. There were times when I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do after graduation, but I was also completely clueless at times too. 

Graduation means you’re moving onto the next phase of your life, which is why it’s both so scary and thrilling.

It only makes sense that you would be looking for the best advice for graduates.

I recently had a family member ask me for my best advice for high school graduates, and I thought this would be a great idea for an entire article.

It made me excited to think about what my best advice for graduates would be.

And then I realized — there are too many things that I want to share!

The wisdom I’m sharing with you today is great for high school graduates, but it’s also some of the best advice for college graduates. 

And of course, congratulations on your achievement! You have your whole life ahead of you, and I’m so excited for you to get started!

Here’s my best advice for graduates.


1. Start saving for retirement now

No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have much money to start with, I recommend that you start saving for retirement as soon as you can.

It is great to start investing early because your money will have the ability to grow for years, and compound interest is your very best friend when you have that kind of time.

Plus, you will build great financial habits by starting early, and this will give you financial freedom for your future, even the possibility of retiring early.

This is some of the best advice for graduates that many people my age and older wish we would have taken more seriously. Because of compound interest, even investing a little at a young age can truly make a difference in your retirement savings.

You can learn more at How To Start Investing For Beginners.


2. Live your own life

I feel like so many people have this image in their head of how life should be.

Family, house with a white picket fence, 9 to 5 job, and so on and so on.

There is nothing wrong with that life, but it doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

And it definitely does not have to be your life.

You are in charge of your own future, and I recommend thinking about what YOU want most out of life.

Over the past several years, I have learned that there are so many different ways to live your life. There’s so much more out there if you are open to the possibilities of living differently than everyone else.

Traveling more and putting myself out there has taught me that there is a lot to learn about life — and so many different ways to live your life and be happy.


silhouettes of students throwing caps. best advice for graduates

3. Read more books

There are so many great things that you can learn from reading more.

Reading in general is great, but as a personal finance blogger, it’s obvious that some of my best advice for graduates would include reading books about money.

The best money books for young adults explain personal finance topics like saving, investing, making a higher income, and so on. And reading them when you’re young can help you get on the right track with your money.

The books below are books that I often give as graduation gifts, as they are so very helpful!

Here are 15 of the best money books for young adults, which include books like:


4. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle

Do you find that you compare yourself to others?

It’s okay if you do, many people do! But you need to be careful, and stop if it’s impacting you in a negative way.

Sometimes comparing yourself to others can motivate you to work harder, but there’s a fine line. It can easily cause you to become jealous, stressed out, sad, and more.

Remember, you’re just starting out. Everything takes time, and practice makes perfect.


5. Be positive

Things can get hard, and that’s just life. I know it is easier said than done, but I do believe that having a positive outlook is something that can help you tremendously.

Being positive can completely change your life — why it’s some of my best advice for graduating seniors. Being positive means that you may want to laugh more, smile more, be happy with yourself, stop with jealousy, complain less, and so on.

I think being positive is a good idea because it can help you to:

  • Seek out another option or route when things get tough
  • Feel more motivation so that you can keep on pushing through difficult times
  • Reach for your goals and succeed
  • Be happier in your life
  • Move on from your past mistakes and learn from them

Related article: Why I Believe Being Positive Can Change Your Financial Situation And Your Life.


6. Learn something new as often as you can

Back when I was in school, I hated learning new things. 

However, I still remember one day in college when I was a freshman, and a man in his 60’s was in one of my philosophy classes. We all asked him why he was there, because, as young 18-year-olds, we all thought school was boring and that he was crazy. 

He then explained to us about how learning and school were the best things in life and that one day, while maybe not right now, we would realize that.

Well, now I know.

I have now realized that I love learning and trying new things.

There is so much to learn in the world, and it is so easy to do so. There are classes, articles, books, and many more things that are so easily accessible in this day and age.

I know you may want to take a little break since you’ve just graduated. Bu, my best advice for graduates is to make learning a life-long passion. You can learn about anything you want, and that’s what’s so exciting about it.


7. Learn how to make extra money

Before I started blogging, I didn’t know much about making extra money. It just wasn’t something that I thought people did.

Of course, I was younger at the time, and not many people talked about side hustling.

Today, though, there are so many different kinds of side hustles.

I am a big fan of learning how to make extra money because it can change your life. It may allow you to pay off your debt, stop living paycheck to paycheck, save for retirement, go on a vacation, and more.

Related content:


8. Do things that make you uncomfortable

When was the last time that you did something that made you a little uncomfortable?

Some people never leave their comfort zone and explore the unknown because they are afraid of what may happen. However, you’ll never know what your future holds unless you try new things and welcome different experiences.

Many of the best things in life are probably going to make you feel uncomfortable. Staying in your box all the time, while it can feel easier, may actually prevent you from living up to your full potential.

I believe that growth often comes from trying things that make you feel uncomfortable, which is why this is some of my best advice for graduates.

Doing something that makes you uncomfortable may mean moving to a new place, public speaking, selling all of your belongings to travel full-time, learning a new skill, making new friends, and so on.

You will be surprised about the new things you learn about yourself along the way.


9. Don’t let life pass you by

“First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire. And now I am dying, and suddenly I realize I forgot to live.” – Sustainable Human

It can be really easy to let life pass you by. Before you know it, years or perhaps decades will be gone.

Too many people have the mindset of, “Oh, in 10 years life will be so much better because of this and that.” And then they just let their lives go by without ever thinking about the present.

Well, what about now?!

10 years is a long time!

Instead, be more present and enjoy the life that you are currently living.

I wrote more about this best advice for graduates at: For Those Who Want Life To Speed Up – Are You Dreaming Too Much About Tomorrow?


10. Appreciate moments with those you love

Now that we travel full-time, we don’t see family and friends as often as we used to.

I’ve always appreciated the moments with those that I love, but now I make sure to make each moment that I have with them even more special and memorable.

You should never take a moment for granted with those that you love. 


11. Less stuff = more freedom

The idea that less is more is something I think about nearly every day.

When we got rid of the majority of our belongings to travel full-time, I truly realized how less is more. We had so much junk that we had never touched, and it wasn’t contributing to our life in a positive way.

Realizing that less is more is simple advice for graduates that goes a long way because having less means:

  • You can give more attention to what actually matters in your life
  • You waste less money on things that don’t really matter to you
  • There’s less clutter in your home and mind

Now, to follow this best advice for graduates you don’t have to get rid of everything. Instead, I am saying that you should be more mindful so that your stuff doesn’t take over your life.


12. Help others

Helping others can completely change your life and change other lives as well. Whether you do something big or small, do something to help those around you.

A gesture, even something very small to you, can completely change someone’s day.

Here are a few ways to help others:

  • Smile and say hello to everyone you cross paths with
  • Donate items from your home
  • Help someone who is struggling
  • Foster an animal
  • Volunteer
  • Donate blood

Read more at 58 Random Acts Of Kindness.


13. Build a budget

A budget will show you where you are spending your money, how much money you are making, and how much money you need to save to reach your goals. 

Starting a budget early can help you build a habit that will help you throughout the rest of your life. You’ll know how to adjust your finances as your job changes, if you buy a house, if you decide to get married or have kids, and so on.

Whether you are looking for college or high school graduation advice, this one is important!

Read more at The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works.

14. Have an emergency fund

An emergency fund is money you save for unexpected expenses. Starting one now is some of the best advice for graduates because it will help you when something eventually happens. And if we’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that we all need to be prepared.

Unexpected things can be something such as paying for bills if you lose your job (or if your hours or salary are cut), paying for a car repair such as a flat tire, a medical bill, or something like a plumbing issue in your home.

With an emergency fund, you are less likely to take on debt and stress that may arise from the unexpected situation that you are in.

15. Believe in yourself

This advice might sound a little cheesy, but it’s something that is so important as you enter this next phase in your life. 

You’re going to experience new things, meet new people, and it’s not always going to be easy. Believing in yourself will give you the confidence you need to work through the hard times.

I know being more confident is difficult, so reflect on your life and think about your strengths. What are you good at? What makes you happy? When do you feel the best?

Think about those things when you are struggling to believe in yourself.

16. Know that not all adults know what they are doing

This might not be the kind of best advice for graduates you’d expect to get, but I want to be honest with you. It’s easy to look around at those who are older than you and think they’ve got it all figured out.

Well, many of us don’t!

It takes time to understand who you are and what you want to do with your life. Plus, we’re all learning things as we go. 

When you remember that not all adults know what they’re doing, you can be more compassionate and understanding. 


What to say to a student who is graduating?

What do you wish you realized when you were graduating from high school or college?

The above is what I would tell myself, and while I may not have listened to everything, I do think that it would have made me think long and hard.

Perhaps, it would have changed my life even better for the future!

What advice would you give to a person who is just graduating high school? How about someone who is graduating from college? What is your best graduation advice for 2021? Share in the comments below.

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Well done with this, Michelle. Wise recommendations for all young people to know. I hope that many, many graduates get to read this article and follow its advice.

  2. Awesome advice for graduates here.

    Sometimes I wish someone had sat me down to prepare for life after school from the very beginning. I would have spent more time building a side hustle.

    I love the part you advised graduates not to compare their beginning with someone else’s middle. That’s a great advice right there.

    Most people fall into depression because of worthless comparison.

    Thanks a lot for your advice.

    – Emmanuel

  3. Hi Michelle, I teach high school age children, many of them seniors. It’s never too early to begin contemplating going out into the world. Excellent advice across the board. I will be forwarding to my students. Thank you for the article.

  4. Moses

    Lovely. I think I should keep this piece of information such that my children can learn from when they graduate from high school. It is sacrificing the present for the future. I think would be the super most kind of advise to share… sounds inspirational*