Future Friday: Life After Graduation

I'm delighted to feature a guest post today from Laura Sgro. When we first got in touch and she offered to write a post on this topic, I was so excited because let's be real, y'all--I have no idea what I'm doing. Hopefully this post was as informative and reassuring for you as it was for me! Thank you, Laura!

14 Things I Wish I Knew Before My College Graduation

You’ve picked out the perfect sundress to wear under your gown. You’ve decorated your cap. You splurged an insane amount of money on a fancy frame for your diploma. It’s official. You’re graduating!

It was so exciting – so surreal – when I walked across the stage at my commencement, shaking the dean’s hand, smiling for the camera. At that moment, nothing could knock me down. I was finally ready for the real world!

The next day, the real world began. And I realized I had no idea what to do.

Here are 14 things I wish I knew before my graduation, so that I could have been better equipped for life after college.

  1. Stress is unavoidable – but learning how to cope and not sweat the small stuff can be so beneficial for your mental wellbeing. Learning this skill in college (before the pressures of full-time work and student loans) will make your challenges much more manageable.
  2. Adult relationships involve a lot more than walking to classes together and watching movies in your dorm room. Look for a partner who has good character and integrity. 
  3. Student services like free counseling, resume workshops, and seminars are valuable – and hard to come by as an alum without spending a ton of money. While you’re still in school, take advantage of these resources!
  4. Connect with as many professors as possible, because you’ll need those references when you apply for jobs in your industry. Gone are the days of waitressing at the Olive Garden – thank God – but now we have to learn how to network.
  5. Busting out a 10-page research paper the day that it’s due is not how you should write your cover letters. Practice writing intentionally and planning ahead as you prepare your last few term papers, and your cover letters will be much stronger when you’re applying for your dream job.
  6. Working full-time is exhausting. Try phasing out of your weekly #MargaritaMondays and #ThirstyThursdays as you get closer to graduation. Adjusting to a drastic change of schedule will be easier without a massive hangover.
  7. While coffee might have gotten you through days full of classes, it is not actually breakfast and will not be enough to carry you through the workday. Make sure that you’re properly nourishing your body – yes, even during finals – and you will have more energy and be more productive.
  8. It can be tempting to spend money on frivolous things now that you don’t have to pay for books, but create a budget and keep track of your finances! Without financial aid to help you, you’re solely responsible for managing your own money once you graduate, and it will be helpful to nail it down early on.
  9. Keep copies of your academic papers, projects and transcripts. You never know when they might come in handy to highlight your skills or experience.
  10. You are your own guidance counselor now – make sure to research every option as thoroughly as possible before making any major decisions. Weighing pros and cons is a surprisingly effective way to decide how to handle a major dilemma.
  11. When you’re out of the campus apartments, you’ll need to furnish your own place. Do some research about what kinds of furniture to splurge on versus what to buy cheap. You can find a decent couch on Craigslist for a good price, but you shouldn’t skimp out on the mattress for your bed.
  12. Attend your school’s career fairs, utilize their job boards, and start applying to jobs before graduation. Those services are more expensive as an alum, and it’s helpful to practice these skills before you’re out in the real world and desperate to find a job.
  13. Get involved in as many clubs and organizations as your schedule will allow. This is how I scored an internship and then a job out of college, and also how I realized my love for a cappella singing. Fostering these passions now will provide you with both contacts and hobbies you can continue pursuing post-grad.
  14. You will miss college as soon as you walk off campus for the last time. Try not to skip too many classes before it’s all over.

Knowing these things before you actually walk across that stage will hopefully help you better prepare for life after leaving campus. Enjoy these last few weeks while you can – and then get ready for your next adventure!

Laura Sgro is a professional copywriter, blogger and editor – as well as a certified domestic violence counselor. She is currently working on applications to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. She graduated from UC Irvine in 2014 and spends her time regretting how often she skipped classes to go to Starbucks (she can also be found drinking lots of coffee or reading at the beach). You can follow her at twitter.com/@vibrantmusings.