The Advice I Wish I Knew Before Graduating College
As I watch my friends still in school begin to gear up for their next year of college - and some of them their last - I get sad. There's this sense of nostalgia around August and September where I remember the time (not long ago) that I was one of those people in Target, shopping for cute coffee table decor. I would text and call all the girls to see who was going back when, and planned to meet up for celebratory "back to school" drinks. I remember that feeling of excitement to be back walking around campus, seeing that cute guy I crushed on or my sorority sisters out and about with their signature Starbucks drink in hand. I miss having my name called from across the street to meet up with a group of my best friends, laughing and walking to class together - always managing to be 5 minutes late.
The one thing I wasn't prepared for, in my last year of school, was the real world.
Whenever people advised me to "take advantage" of my college years and "appreciate every second of it," I took it for granted. Yeah, I knew this would be some of the best times in my life, but I never really thought about what followed. I thought when people told me this, they were referring to me being young and able to go out and socialize all the time. And I'm here telling you now, for whoever might be reading, it's college that they were referring to; the late nights, the late mornings, the part time job, the friends, the tolerance (particularly to alcohol), the time.
Time is such a crucial part to what I'm talking about - and where I'm going with this. I didn't realize that time (and now, miles) keeps me away from my closest friends from school. I didn't realize that time was a determining factor in my resume - not taking advantage of as many internships and industry exposure as I possibly could in school. I didn't realize that time would take such a huge toll on my tolerance to nightlife - like those hangovers that now last an entire day and a half instead of just a morning pre-coffee. And most importantly, I didn't realize the time would go by so quickly.
I advise you, most obviously, to take advantage of the time you have left. When you don't have many responsibilities, take on an extra internship that interests you, for experience - not credit. Think of savings, while you don't have added expenses, because a small safety net that was accumulated while in school will help you out A TON once graduated. I want to give you a rundown of what happened to me right after school, from feelings to expectations to unexpected happenings.
After my final class...
I "graduated" early, meaning I finished classes before I walked in the spring. Immediate reaction: relief and a big fucking FINALLY. I decided I would jumpstart my job search, sublet my apartment until the lease finished, and move back home. The emotion that set in once I decided this, was regret. Right before I left, I fell for a guy I still kick myself for, not trying to figure it out earlier. And once I got home, I didn't immediately find the job I wanted. All the while, I watched my friends go crazy in their last term of school, without me.
Retrospect: I wish I stayed, and just worked full time serving or bartending to stack up my savings.
After I walked...
It was a crazy roller-coaster of excitement, nerves, and grief. I pretended I was ecstatic about the future, but I was scared shitless. I knew I would miss my friends, and some of them I probably wouldn't see again for a long time. I was so incredibly nervous and excited to start this new chapter in my life, but also knew this new chapter was a wild card. At school, transitioning from middle school to high school, and high school to college, there was a known pattern. You would have a routine, that was familiar - go to class, do the extra-curricular activities or sport, go home or hang with friends. There was a sense of comfort in the transition because you knew, though all new people and a new area, you would have a schedule you were familiar with. The real world isn't like that. Opportunities can change - some are completely missed. I was under the impression, from what professors led me to believe, I would have a job lined up - particularly one in the field I was studying, at a company I would enjoy.
Retrospect: It just doesn't work out like that. At this time of your life you need to prepare for a few things:
- You, most likely, will have no fucking idea what you want to do.
- You, most likely, won't have a job set up immediately after school.
- You will miss your friends like freaking crazy. Even though there's social media, and Snapchat, and Facetime - you don't get to randomly show up to their apartment, smoke a bowl or down a 6-pack, and order pizza/laugh your ass off all night with them anymore.
- This time, is pretty much a low in your post-college experience...and that's just the sad, harsh truth so get ready.
Also keep in mind, for those that move back home like I did, you're probably going to fight with your parents like cats and dogs for a while. You're stressed, and sometimes feel like you failed - which is completely normal - because you feel like you should have everything figured out when in reality, you're being pulled in 10 different directions, emotionally. And your parents, they have their baby back...that's not so much a baby anymore. You'll hear their opinions on things, the nagging, the continual struggle of power between you being their child but also being an independent adult that's figuring out life. Be patient and also be grateful, because they welcomed you back with open arms and hopefully not charging you rent. It gets better once both parties get used to the change.
When you land your first job...
Once that first paycheck gets direct deposited into your bank account, there's no better feeling. This will be the high in your post-college experience - having the money to do nicer things instead of beat-the-clock because it's $1 beers (but that's still cool to do too). You can finally go out to nice dinners, like really nice, book a trip for yourself and travel alone or with a friend on your own dime. You feel responsible, hyped to be an "adult," and just overall in a way better place than those post-college blues.
Retrospect: Grinding and patience is essential. A really good job isn't going to fall into your lap. You have to go out and apply for it, follow up, follow up like 7 times until you annoy the fuck out of the person of contact, kill the interview, follow up again. When you get it, you have to be presentable, approachable, and reliable. You have to be on time - there's no more sleeping in and being like "sorry my tire went flat," like you did when you tardy for class.
When you settle into your first job...
And you realize, this how it is - long days, but the months pass faster than you think. In a blink of an eye, it's Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then you're halfway through July and you're like, "Wait, what?!" Once you get over the euphoric feeling of boss-ery (that direct deposit we were talking about) and you now have new expenses that add up, like health insurance (if you have to go on your own, like I did), car payment, travel if you commute, lunches if you don't meal prep...you learn you actually don't really make enough at this stage in your career to save substantially and live somewhat comfortably. I live at home with my parents, to save. I can't justify living paycheck to paycheck, or damn near, just to be away for the sake of it.
Retrospect: Create a side-hustle. I'll talk more about this later in a separate post, but find a way to bring in additional income. Pick something you like to do, or wouldn't mind doing, and seek out how to make money from it. You'll get into a more consistent routine when you work in corporate, or the like - you'll have your weekends free to do as you please. I opted for doing what I please, while monetizing a hobby. It's doable, you just have to put the time in to figure it out - and build your skill set.
Did you have any post-college woes? Leave a comment below on how you dealt!