Before I graduated college, I had visions of myself taking a bath in money, repaying my student loans like I was paying off a parking ticket, and taking up professional wine tasting (it’s a thing) with all my newfound free time.
In reality: I sit in my 500-square foot apartment after work with my third bowl of cereal for the day and try not to think about what life will be like when my loan grace period is up.
Believe it or not, once you survive your last torturous class, it’s all downhill after that. Here’s how to not let that overwhelm you.
1. Graduating college is still one of the best feelings.
You will have realized that you actually did survive that eternal class and found ways to bullshit your way through that 32-page long Ethics in Healthcare final. You battled the Financial Aid Office semester after semester as they blindly deleted and added lines to your Account Balance. You are now on a first name basis with your Academic Advisor after you visit them weekly for assurance that yes—you will in fact graduate this year. Congratulations, you survived your college’s backwards and incompetent administrative system.
2. All those useless things you learned how to do are actually… useful.
Do I know how to graph a tangent line? Yes, but that’s actually useless. More impressively, I can create a masterpiece out of lasagna noodles, alfredo sauce, and probably expired parmesan. (Total of $6.65 for all materials + food poisoning, in case you were wondering) You know what it’s like to live on a homeless person budget and can somehow manage to survive and take care of yourself on that. When you graduate, you will not magically have endless amounts of disposable income. You will still be as poor as you are today because there are things called bills and living expenses that your parents expect you to pay by yourself now. So hold onto those frugal spending skills, you’ll still need them.
3. The big exciting world you were looking forward to entering is actually a terrifying sphere of indecision and the phrase ‘Unfortunately, due to the large volume of applicants…’
Your job hunt may take a while. Prevent that up-all-night-worrying-about-how-to-pay-your-bills panic now by starting internships and investing all your energy into that and less into finishing strong at school. Stay with me: if you can manage to prove your dedication, smarts, and willingness to work (temporarily) for free, the company WILL repay you. If not with a job, then with something substantial to put on your resume and a great reference/letter of recommendation. Those networks you build while still in school will quite literally save your ass the closer you get to graduation and will benefit you more than an impressive final semester GPA. That being said, obviously don’t neglect school either.
4. Develop a good relationship with at least 2 or 3 of your professors.
During your job hunt, you will need a few good references to list besides your old boss at Applebee’s and that lady you babysat for three summers ago. Showing that you have good working relationships with educators proves that you didn’t just pass the class, you went out of your way to connect with the professor and plan for future networking needs. The Human Resources department will appreciate seeing that.
5. DO NOT fall victim to the excuse that it’s a tough job market and that there are no jobs out there.
This is an excuse to not even try or to give up way too early after applying minimal effort. Those who are motivated and cut out for a successful job will find a rewarding career. If you can’t find anything right away, make it your full time job to find a full time job. Use your school’s career center, set up camp at Starbucks with your laptop and scour job sites. Do whatever it takes to find your perfect start.
6. Have realistic expectations about where you will start.
Not everyone lands their dream job right away. See all of these lower-level jobs as a gateway to what you really want. One of the biggest complaints about our generation is that we expect immediate success and don’t want to work hard to get to the top. Let’s prove those old people wrong. Each job can be a small step to get you where you want to be and by the time you get there, you’ll have the right skills and connections to rock at that job more than if you would have started out there. The patience is worth it.
7. Make a big effort to continue meeting new people.
I’m sure you’ll be graduating with dozens of very close friends that you’re sure you’ll keep in touch with forever. And you probably will. However, those friends will gradually start to get married, move away, and have kids. When that happens, their life will no longer revolve around hanging out with you and hearing about all your problems. They’ll settle into family life and you’re going to need to find new people in similar places in their life while you hold onto those old friendships.
Congratulations new/soon to be graduates! Life is hard, but it’s also really rewarding.