1. You’re going to feel heartbroken.
Something about what you’re leaving is going to make you feel a little lost and alone, much like breaking up with a significant other. You may even have that movie moment as you drive away from your university and break down in tears as the school gets smaller in your rearview mirror. It sounds silly, but it’s going to happen. You’ll go to hug a friend and out of nowhere you’ll start to ugly cry. You’ll get emotional about all the little things all at once and it’s okay to just let those feelings happen. It’s perfectly normal to be sad about leaving such a comforting place that helped you grow into a new person. When you come back to visit in a few months, you’ll realize that while you don’t necessarily miss college, you miss your friends. The hardest lesson about leaving college is realizing you’ll never be in one place with all of these friends again. Sure, you can have reunions, but there’s something wonderful about doing mundane everyday things with these friends and that won’t happen again.
2. Don’t be afraid to graduate and don’t be excited to leave.
I know that sounds contradictory, but it’s true. I remember so many people telling me to “stay in college as long as you can,” “don’t rush to graduate,” “these are the best years of your life!” I’m not sure about you, but those used to freak me out beyond any belief. I was so worried about leaving this seemingly perfect bubble of life and nobody was helping with those phrases thrown at me to make me feel like it was all downhill from there. The real world is not horrible. It’s a little rough and it can be lonely at first, but you’re moving on to a new phase of life and it can be pretty freaking fantastic. You’re going to have money and you’re going to meet new people and you’re going to see new places. At the same time, don’t focus so much on graduating that you miss the chance to do everything that you can only do in college. I had a lot of friends who would tell me they “couldn’t wait to graduate and move on from college” as if where they were at in life was horrible. Take the time to appreciate your college experience and prepare yourself for the real world. See your friends as much as possible and throw yourself into everything you possibly can. I know of nobody who regrets doing too much. Like college, and any other phase of your life, it’s not going to be anything like what you expect.
3. You are not going to have your dream job right away.
The biggest struggle is finding ANY job directly after you graduate. It won’t help that everyone you know will ask you what you’re going to do and what jobs you’ve applied for, which will make you feel worse about having to answer with “I’m not sure yet.” Most new jobs created today are part-time and it takes at least a year to find a real, salary paying job for most graduates. Don’t be afraid to take a job at a restaurant or another obscure job that you don’t think will ever relate to what you want to do. You never know who you’ll meet at that job or what experiences you may have. Find bosses that only want to see you succeed and grow because this will make any job worthwhile.
4. Make time for your friends.
I’ve found that the most comforting thing has been when I’ve been able to travel to see friends. It helps to know you’re not alone in your current struggle of life because your best friends are right there with you. Everyone is having a hard time applying to jobs and trying to figure out what to do with his/her life. Sure, travelling to Europe is pretty great, but travelling to see people who heal your soul is a whole other wonderful thing.
5. Don’t be ashamed to move back home.
I know that moving back home is never what anyone wants to do when they graduate. Everyone has dreams of moving to NYC or living in a different country, but that probably won’t happen right away for you. In all honesty, moving home is a fantastic way to not only save some money, but to grow closer to your parents. Appreciate that this is one of the last times you’ll be able to spend so much time with your family. I’ve actually started to feel a little sad for those who don’t have the chance to do this for a bit. You’ve become a different person at college and you can see a lot more through your parent’s eyes than you ever have before. Like any other phase in life, it has its pros and cons. Focus on the pros and don’t obsess yourself with the future. The present can be pretty wonderful.
6. You’re going to get what you want, just not right away.
Don’t get discouraged. Life is difficult and it won’t be friendly right away, but you’re going to make it one day. You really are. Know that you always have a support system in your life, whether it is your family, your friends, the people you work with, or your alma mater. I’ve found this quote from Conan O’Brien to be absolutely perfect advice for any upcoming graduate: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”