College graduation is such a bittersweet time. You’re overwhelmingly proud of your success, sad to be saying goodbye to all of your friends, professors, and favorite spots on campus, excited (and terrified) about your life and career on the horizon, while simultaneously tired as hell from your final, rigorous semester at school. That’s a lot of feelings. So as you’re grappling with the insanity of post-graduation, here are a few bits of advice I hope help keep you grounded.
1. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate your success. Graduating from college is no easy feat — but you did it! Be proud. Celebrate. Treat yo’self.
2. If you’re lucky enough to have some time to breathe (as in, you don’t necessarily need to jump into a job right away), enjoy it. Seriously. Enjoy every single second of every free moment. Maybe plan a post-graduation road trip. Maybe volunteer. Maybe enjoy sleeping till noon and beaching it up with your friends. Whatever you do, make the most of it.
3. Come up with a plan. As much as I advocate for post-grad celebrating (and I totally do!), I also think it’s important to have an idea of what exactly your “post-grad” life will entail. Are you going to move back home? For how long? …Do your parents know? Are they on board? Do they expect you to pay rent? What’s your job timeline? What’s your plan for paying back your student loans? It’s a lot to think about, and it can be tempting to put it all off… but don’t. Have some idea of where you see your life going in the next few months, even if your plan is vague. Talk it over with the people who matter (probably your parents, maybe a significant other, sometimes yours friends!) and go from there. That said…
4. Try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Every decision you make now will probably feel huge, terrifying, and life-changing. Think of them as merely choices, not as The Things That Will Make Or Break Your Whole Life. Remember when choosing a college and selecting a major felt like the biggest decision ever? You survived that; you’ll survive this, too.
5. If possible, start paying off your student loans ASAP. Student loans suck. Student debt is mountainous. And post-grads are all broke… so, so broke. It can be tempting to ignore your student loans and spend money on, oh, I don’t know, literally anything else. Don’t. Your loans accumulate interest fast (and they likely already have) and the sooner you start to pay them off, the better.
6. Apply to lots and lots of jobs. Right now, the economy is tough and the job search process is long and hard. Soldier on. And keep in mind that…
7. There’s no “wrong” or “right” way to get started in your career. After I graduated, I know I felt tremendous pressure to find the perfect first job, one I could see myself in for years to come. The reality is that’s simply not how the job market is anymore. It’s not unusual to change jobs every 2 years or so. It’s okay if your first job isn’t the perfect job. So just go for it — you can always find a new job later.
8. Forget what your peers are up to. Up till now, you and most of the people your age likely followed similar paths. You enrolled at school as a kindergartener, graduated at 17/18, went to college right after, and then graduated four years later. But now is where all that changes. No two post-grads will have the same life path. Some of your friends will have an easy time finding a job. Others will not. Some will head off to backpack in Europe for a year on their parents’ dime. Some will have already started their families. Everyone’s different, and try to keep that in mind the next time the urge strikes to check up and see if so-and-so got that Important Job at Big Company. Remember: there’s no right way to live a life.
9. Go easy on yourself. Moving from the classroom to the office can be a complete culture shock; going from living in a dorm to living in your own apartment — where you pay your own bills and are responsible for everything — is even more of a culture shock. Being an adult is hard, but it also means you can eat ice cream for breakfast.
10. If nothing else, be sure to remember this: it only looks like everyone else knows what they are doing. We’re all just bumbling around trying to figure this “life” stuff out, too. You’re in good company.