Before you toss your cap in the air, make sure you've learned these life lessons from the pros. Before you toss your cap in the air, make sure you've learned these life lessons from the pros.

It isn’t easy to pinpoint what lessons students have learned after four years of college, which is why we went to the experts for help. We spoke with college administrators, presidents, and financial services to find out what they think grads should know by the time they finish school.

Know the right (and wrong) way to handle debt

We hate to start the list off on such a heavy note, but ignoring your loans is only going to hurt you. “The best way to handle your loans is to be proactive,” says Chanel Greene, Manager of Financial Aid at Peirce College. “If you haven’t found a job or are unemployed, let your lender know,” adds Greene. “Just as the Department of Education helped you finance your education, they will be there to help you figure out your repayment.”


Know how to plan, organize, and prioritize work

Your employer will love you for it. “Employers need people who are self-directed and are not going to sit around waiting for instructions and direction,” explains Steve Hassinger, Career Services Director at Central Penn College. “Employees are being asked to do more as budgets are trimmed and businesses are downsized.” Hassinger adds that extra-curricular activities help students learn to prioritize. “You cannot show up for practice on time, every day, and still get good grades if you don’t have these skills.”

Know how to work in a group

Get ready for the real world, kid, because it requires that you work well with others. “Most of the time we can accomplish more when we work together,” says Zach Messitte, President of Ripon College. “Students should be able to work collaboratively as well as alone,” he adds. The occasional group project at school is actually good insight into the working world. Pay attention to how you brainstorm as a team, delegate tasks, and how you handle a less than hard worker.

What employers are thinking:

Scott Harris, President on Mustang Marketing, shares his own list.

1. A thorough understanding of economics, because almost every life decision involves economics.

2. An understanding of history in order to have perspective.

3. An ability to communicate effectively and efficiently through writing letters, notes, and emails.

4. An ability to communicate passionately and persuasively verbally. Otherwise prepare for a career of listening to others.

5. Have a definition of success so you know where you want to go.

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