Life is all about overcoming obstacles, and graduating from college was definitely a mess for a lot of people. After seeing my peers struggle after walking off the stage, and facing my own bundle of troubles, I decided to create a list of things to prepare for. And even then, something completely random might get thrown your way! But here’s my list of what graduating college was like.
(Note this list is in no particular order)
1. Jobs aren’t handed out just because you have a degree.
A lot of people might think in their heads that after college comes a job, and leave it at that. But in reality, you should be searching for jobs your first month of senior year. The best positions are “trainee” jobs – you’re paid well/decently for doing nothing but training for several months to a year. If you land one at a big company, they might even send you around the country for training. And who doesn’t love all expense paid travel? By April these positions are nearly gone, and you should shift your focus to the normal entry level jobs, if you haven’t gotten a trainee offer yet.
One reason why new graduates don’t search for jobs early is because they’re inexperienced and don’t realize that a corporate interview process is not the same as interviewing for a part time job! My average process was one phone screening about 1-2 weeks after my online application, an in person interview 1-2 weeks after that, and 2-3 weeks wait or another interview before getting a response. Some companies took 4-6 months to get back to me. Why? There’s an applicant who applied before you who they prefer, and is waiting on that applicant to finish their interview and respond to their offer letter. Or, there are many applicants after you that they need to finish their scheduled interviews as a matter of courtesy. Either way, don’t expect to land a job the week of graduation, and don’t get discouraged if it’s been a month and you still have no job.
2. Living on your own is different from living on your own in college.
Sure you may have the same routine of paying the utilities and rent each month, but it’s much more stressful alone. All the expenses you never thought of: your phone bill, Netflix, Spotify, commute, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, etc. Stay on your parents’ plan as long as you can, since these expenses rack up hundreds a month. I personally stay on my parents’ phone plan and don’t use any subscription service at the moment to save money.
3. Not taking care of your health has real financial consequences.
This is an important one, especially if you live in the US. To save money (by “only” paying about $60/month) on health insurance, I picked a high deductible plan. This means that if my deductible is $2500, and I get sick and need to go to the hospital, and the fees are $2000, I’m paying that myself, on top of the monthly premium. But if I choose a lower deductible plan, I’d be paying a couple hundred each month.
To avoid going broke, you need to maintain your health and don’t take risks with food! Getting food poisoning is a good way to miss work and either use up PTO time or having less money on your paycheck if you don’t have paid sick leave. It sucks but if I’m not sure something is expired, I simply throw it out now, whereas in college I’d gamble on the expiration date for up to 5 days. I also include my deductible in my savings in case something does happen to me.
4. Don’t think you have money to spend. You have money to save.
When you see your first paycheck it’s easy to get excited and treat yourself to some nice things. There’s nothing wrong with that! I think self care is important, and you deserve it after college and landing a job. But don’t think that this means you can stop budgeting! Create a budget of your needs, and allocate a small amount to wants. Everything else you should be saving. Some people will argue about the exact percentage, but I think it depends on your goals. I personally am saving up for some big events in my life, so my budget is to save 50% of my income. Of course, if you have other higher expenses like a weekly appointment or live in an area with high rent, this number will come down, but it’s up to you to spend and save smart.
5. It can get lonely being an adult.
I live a thousand miles from my parents, a few thousand more from other relatives, and moved cities after college to be close to my new job. I still see people each week, and visit my boyfriend regularly, but the first month was difficult. It wasn’t just about the distance, but I simply felt tired every day after work. By 5pm the only thing I want is a warm dinner and bed.
But those evenings in bed on my phone felt so lonely. I started to feel a little depressed from being alone with no one to talk to 5 days a week. It took a whole month to get used to my new schedule. Before starting my job I was excited that I had 5pm to 12am to do whatever I wanted, but now I’m realizing this isn’t exactly true. I need to sleep early if I want to wake up at 6:30am feeling rested, so I stay up until 10pm, or 11pm at the latest. I’ve learned to balance my time between 5pm and 10pm to be able to fit in dinner, an activity, and a shower. Sometimes this means I can’t see anyone for a few days or so if I have to use that time to buy groceries, clean, or do laundry, but I’m starting to accept it for what it is.
So enjoy the time you have now in college, but also think about preparing yourself. If you’re moving to a new city, look at meetups online and figure out a fast commute. And regardless of where you go, figure out time management and your personal finances!