For students set to graduate college in the next month or two, your head is probably spinning. You’ve got your finals, papers, and projects to contend with, but that’s not all. On top of the usual academic stress you’re familiar with, there’s the looming dread of graduating.
In 2022, graduating college is especially stressful. There’s a global pandemic still lurking around. The economy is quickly changing (for the worst, it seems). And worst of all, the job market is a competitive mess. None of that is even to speak of the long-term issues we’ve been facing, like climate change, or worldwide historical events.
With all this doom and gloom, graduating might have lost some of its luster for you. You might be wondering, “Is graduating college a big deal? Does it even matter? And what on earth am I supposed to do after I walk?”
First, breathe. You’re not up a creek without a paddle just yet. Here are three tips to help graduating college seniors navigate post-college craziness.
Graduating College Tip #1: Your life isn’t over (unless you let it be).
Remember when you graduated high school and it felt like your whole world was ending? Graduating from college can feel the same way. You and your friends are likely going in different directions. Familiar routines are ending and the school-year pattern you’ve known for your entire life is a thing of the past.
Your parents and other family members don’t help. You’ve heard things like, “wait until the real world hits ya!” or “Time to be a real adult now, huh?” too much.
You probably feel like your life is over. Time to leave your friends, your freedom, and your fun behind and start “adulting”, right?
Nope! The truth is, you’ve already gotten the hang of many skills you’ll need in the “real world” (aka, outside of academia).
First, there’s time management. You might have squeaked by on a couple of due dates or put off studying until the night before, but you know how to manage your time and persevere. (Remember when you didn’t know what to major in and had to figure it out at the last minute?)
After college, you’ll need these skills for things like paying bills, dealing with projects at your job, and managing your health and home.
Next, you can make more friends. After all, are you still in touch with all your friends from high school? Did you know all of your college buddies before you came to campus? Of course not! You met people, found common ground, and made friends.
After graduating college, you can follow similar formulas. Many workplaces have an orientation, where you can meet other new employees. At the very least, you’ll be working in close proximity to other people, and can strike up a conversation.
Finally, college taught you how to work with the tools you have. “College dorm meals” are the butt of jokes sometimes, but the truth is, they’re pretty amazing. If you ever figured out how to cook in your dorm at 3 am using only a microwave and whatever you could scrounge from the vending machine, you’re pretty dang resourceful.
Post-graduation, you can put that same thinking cap on when you need to stretch a dollar and can’t furnish your new apartment (yet).
The only way you’ll be totally unprepared for adulting and find that your life after college is over is if you don’t use the tools you already have. Don’t let the stress of working with people of different ages and backgrounds get to you. You’ve made friends with perfect strangers and learned how to make something out of nothing once before. You can do it again!
Graduating College Tip #2: Find a backup.
College applications feel like ages ago, but if you take a walk down memory lane, you might recall something called “safety schools”. These were the schools you were sure that you could get into. They might not have been ideal – maybe they didn’t have specific classes, critical acclaim or the locale wasn’t what you’d like – but they were there just in case.
You can do the same while preparing for your post-college life. After graduating college, you definitely have an idea of a preferred job, housing situation, and means of transportation. Work on all of those things, but make sure you have a backup.
When you’re stepping into the job market, apply to a few “safety jobs”. These are the jobs you know you can get, even if they don’t use your major or aren’t quite in your preferred salary range.
Apply to some backup jobs that will still let you pay your bills, or at least buy you some time while you keep looking. This is some of the most practical advice for college graduates, and it’s going to do two things for you.
First, it’ll allow you some leverage in job offers when you’re angling for the job you really want. You might find that your application is being batted around or you’re asked to come in for round after round after round of interviews. Or you might get an offer that’s just shy of what you’d like.
Either way, you can let the interviewer know that you are looking at other opportunities, but you want to give them preference and just need an answer. (They don’t have to know that “other opportunities” is a barista position at the local Starbucks.)
Secondly, having backups can give you a bit of a confidence boost. Instead of pouring your time and energy into one job and being rejected, you can spread out your efforts – confident in the knowledge that at least one or two will work out.
This goes for apartments and transportation, too. The last thing you want is to have a job but no place to live and no way to get there. Check out a few apartments that you know are accepting and apply. You don’t have to sign a lease at every apartment you apply to, but it does help to have a few options.
Make sure you look at public transportation or carpooling options, too. Car trouble can happen to anyone and you may end up needing something to fill the gap.
Graduating College Tip #3: Be Patient
Last but not least, after graduating college, be patient. There’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out after college.
Your career might not be clear, and it definitely won’t happen all at once. No one goes from college grad to CEO overnight. Give yourself space and time to grow. You might end up with little jobs or living situations to close the gap between where you are and where you’d like to be.
For example, did you know that as many as half of college graduates plan to move back home after graduation? And for adults who aren’t living in their parents’ house, millions are living or plan to live with roommates. It’s no wonder since living with a roommate can save you around $800, depending on where you live.
So if you aren’t ready to get your own place and start a life on your own – you’re not alone.
The same goes for starting a family, buying a new vehicle, or even getting a “real” job. None of these delays means that you’ve failed. All changing course means is that you’re adaptable, you’re growing, and you have a lot of life left to live.
Be patient with yourself and be patient with your friends. You all have lots of the skills you need, but that doesn’t mean you feel 100% ready to be on your own yet.
Advice to College Graduates: Don’t Limit Yourself
College is a chapter of your life, not the whole dang book. Advice to graduating college seniors is plentiful, but some of it can seem worthless. With all the stress and pressure being put on graduating college, you might feel like college itself was worthless, too.
That isn’t the case at all. What you learned at college more than anything else was how to learn. “Using your degree” is about more than finding a job in a lucrative field or going to grad school. You can use your degree to grow your mind, too. Keep reading and learning about your major even after you leave school.
Use your degree by continuing to grow yourself and your relationships. In today’s competitive job market, the hunger for learning and growing is more valuable than anything else. Even with jobs and housing aside, investing in your happiness is the best thing you can do – with or without a college degree.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that you might be wondering if graduating college is a big deal. The answer is no… and yes. Graduating college is like writing a book, knitting a scarf, or painting a picture.
Sure, lots of people have done those things… but lots of people haven’t. You put in the time and the hard work to go to college. Not just that, but you kept it up and put in the time and hard work to graduate college.
You deserve to celebrate! Celebrate your hard work, the closing of this chapter, and all the difficulties you’ve overcome. Celebrate yourself, and celebrate the bright future you have ahead of you.
And for more help with managing adult finances, growing your career, or continuing your education, give us a follow. Here at Millennial Dollar, we’re dedicated to helping today’s adults manage their money wisely so your financial future is as bright as you are.