Advice for Class of 2022 high school and college grads

Another school year has come to an end. The graduation party invites are starting to roll in.

Graduation is an exciting time. For parents, it’s satisfying to watch our children blossom and head into the world. For students, there’s a sense of accomplishment, whether they are leaving college for the workforce or leaving high school for college, trade school, the military or a job.

Here is some advice for recent grads as they embark on their next adventure. (Previous advice to grads in columns from a few years ago can be found here and here.)

As your career takes off and your salary rises, it will be tempting to buy a new phone every year, the coolest car, a massive house and luxurious clothes. While it’s fine to reward yourself to some extent, don’t overdo it.

Things eventually wear out. But you always will have memories of trips you take, concerts and ballgames you attend and other experiences, from museums to family reunions.

There is a lot of truth to the adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” Regardless of how talented you are, sometimes you need someone to make an introduction for your talents to get noticed.

Learn to make new connections. Build a wide network. Even casual relationships can help. I got an interview at The Morning Call 18 years ago based on an introduction by a former Call reporter whom I had met only briefly at a journalism conference.

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Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or depressed, seek help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Preventive health care is essential at all ages. Get an annual physical and visit the dentist regularly. Your insurance should cover preventive care, so you might as well use it.

It can be scary moving to a new city or taking a new job that you’re not quite sure you can handle. But doing so can help you grow, personally and professionally. Putting yourself out there is never easy, but have confidence that you can conquer new challenges.

If for some reason it doesn’t work out, you still will have learned from it. And you will bounce back.

We’ve all had that feeling that something just isn’t right. You may sense it when you’re buying a used car. Or when you’re looking at apartments or houses. Or when you get a job offer. Or when you start a new relationship.

Trust your instincts when you get that feeling. Get out of the situation and look for one that doesn’t make you uneasy.

Pre-chop vegetables and measure other ingredients into small containers before you begin cooking. This can save you from forgetting ingredients or rushing around in a frenzy while the stove is on.

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The sooner you learn to cook, the better off you’ll be. You will save money by not dining out as much, and you will eat healthier. Plus, there’s quite a sense of achievement when you experiment with a new dish that turns out perfectly. Cooking can quickly become a relaxing hobby.

There is more wiggle room in your life than you think. There’s a long tradition of haggling while buying a car. You can try to negotiate at other times, too. I can tell you from experience that if you complain about your cable bill and threaten to cancel, your cable company may cut you a break. If you have good credit, your bank may reduce the rate on your credit card, too, if you ask.

When hiring someone to do home repairs or provide other services, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. The worst that can happen is your request will be denied. Then you can decide whether to accept the offer or shop around.

We all have our share of frustrations, ranging from rising gas prices to situations at work or at home.

Focus on what you can change. Sometimes even a small adjustment can make a big difference. Exercising and eating better can improve your health, for example. Changing jobs or ending a caustic relationship may reduce your stress.

Recognize that you will not be able to change everything. You can’t pick your neighbors or do anything about inflation. Manage the situations as best you can, but don’t let them overwhelm you, as you can’t do much about it.

Being a young adult can be overwhelming. It’s important to take time to get yourself on the right path. But don’t become self-centered. It’s always important to be part of something bigger. That could be a labor union at work, a charity or civic organization in your community or a cause such as environmentalism.

A shining example is an Emmaus High School senior I wrote about recently after she recruited 113 volunteers to clean up trash at Jordan Park in Allentown for Earth Day.

If you move away from your hometown and your family and friends, that doesn’t mean you aren’t part of that community. You can always go home again. And if you have the opportunity, pay back your community for the start it gave you.

I recently wrote about how the Class of 1970 from Dieruff High School in Allentown brainstormed for a way to give back to their alma mater during their 50th reunion. The idea sparked a broader, communitywide effort to build an outdoor classroom.

If you can’t afford to donate money, donate your time. Schools and art, civic and sports associations always are looking for volunteers and mentors who can share their wisdom with younger generations.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or