It is hard to predict what your life will be like after college. School only prepares you for the real world so much. Unfortunately, you don’t learn too much about life, being a responsible adult, and discovering your own wants and needs in a classroom. If you could go back and tell your former self something you wish you had known back then, what would it be? Here are 20 things that I wish someone had told me about life after college.
20. If you’re unsure about what you want to do, take some time.
Everyone doesn’t always have to be on the same timeline. Yes, people typically go to high school and then immediately to college but if you are feeling conflicted about what you think you may want to do, it is okay to take a year or two off and travel or find what makes you happy. It may bring you some clarity and you’ll have a much better college experience. You don’t want to finish four years of college and realize that you hate your major and don’t want to get a job in that field.
19. Budget your money wisely.
I was that college student living off of $20 for a week or calling and begging my parents to send me more money. Download an app like Mint that will help you keep track of your expenses, spend more carefully, and save more money.
Once you start working after college, it might seem like you are making a lot of money at first but there are so many expenses that come with life in general that you’ll soon realize your budget might be a lot tighter than you think.
18. Don’t rush to grow up.
My mom used to tell me that in college, I will have the most amount of free time I will ever have in my life and the least amount of responsibility I will ever have in my life. I hate that she was so right.
Don’t be in a rush to jump to adulthood, relish in these years of fun and freedom because once you graduate, there’s no going back. Life after college can be something you end up really enjoying.
17. It’s okay to go to community college first.
High schools, parents, and society, in general, put so much pressure on kids to get into a good school and hit the ground running. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with spending your first year or two in community college and then transferring to a university of your choice once you feel better equipt to make that decision. There’s nothing wrong with graduating from community college either. Also, your student loans will probably be a lot more manageable.
16. Start networking for your future in college.
You hear people say it all the time, “networking is everything.” Well, they’re right. These days you are not going to land your dream job by searching endlessly on Indeed.com. You’ve got to get in with the right people. That being said, it’s important to build genuine networking contacts that can you can learn from and who can help you advance throughout your career.
Join clubs, go to networking events, and always be open to new opportunities.
15. Don’t be a serial monogamist.
You’ll have plenty of time to find the one for you after college. If you are constantly in relationships during college, it can close you off from opportunities that could change your life. For instance, I didn’t study abroad because I was in a relationship with someone at the time and I didn’t want to leave them, and now I really regret that.
Casual dating is a great way to get to know yourself and what you want and don’t want out of a relationship. This way, when it’s actually a good time to settle down with someone, you will be able to quickly weed out the bad eggs.
14. You have to be your own advocate.
Sure, your parents love you, your family loves you, and your friends love you, but the only person who is going to be out there advocating for your life and your happiness every day is you. You have to strive to want the best for yourself and consistently put the effort in to create the best life you can because no one else is going to.
13. Learn how to invest your money wisely.
Unless you studied this in college, they don’t teach you how to invest your money into the stock market in your life after college. I was totally clueless about investing my money, but if I had learned about it sooner, it would have made transitioning into adulthood a lot easier to have a cushion of money to lean on.
12. You don’t have to get a job in the field you majored in.
I majored in business and marketing because I thought that was the best fit for me at the time. Shortly after graduating, I realized that I actually wanted to be a writer and create my own website. I know so many people that have jobs that are totally different from what they majored in college. It’s important to be open to all opportunities that come your way because you never know how your life could turn out.
11. Credit card debt is a big deal.
Credit card companies poach college students all the time to open new cards, but what they don’t tell you is that credit card debt is a bitch! If you don’t pay off that money quickly, you’ll wind up paying almost double what you initially spent after interest.
My advice: open one or two credit cards to build some credit and use on things like car payments, student loans, groceries, and gas so that you can make timely payments each month without worrying. I use a debit card for everything else.
10. Your credit score also matters… a lot.
Without a decent credit score, you’re going to have a very hard time renting an apartment by yourself, buying or leasing a car, getting a loan, or anything really for that matter. Make sure your credit score is in check.
9. Open a damn savings account.
You absolutely need a savings account for life after college. If you’re smart, you opened one in college. Savings accounts are essential for financial emergencies, to build a financial safety net, and to build a promising financial future.
8. Put at least 10% of your income into your 401k if you can.
It’s important to contribute as much as you can to your 401k if it’s available to you. Most employers will match (or partially match) their employees’ contributions and the money grows with interest over time. You don’t want to be 83 and still working because you didn’t properly save for retirement.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Don’t stress yourself out about the small stuff. Loosen up and live your life to the fullest because there are going to be big problems that arise in your life so don’t get your panties in a bunch over things you can’t control or things that won’t matter in the long run.
6. Don’t get married and have kids right away.
This may just be a personal preference, some people I know got married and had kids young and are very happy. That being said, our young adult brains are still developing into our twenties, we’re still figuring out who we are and what we want, so it’s a little ridiculous to expect that we can commit our lives to another human being, let alone produce new lives to care for forever at that age.
There is no rush! You’ve got plenty of time. Enjoy dating for a few years. Once you get married, enjoy being married for a few years and living life with your partner and then have kids and move on to the next stage of your life. Don’t try to do it all at once.
5. Never settle for less.
This holds true with your relationship, with your friendships, with your job, and with anything else that truly matters to you.
4. It can be hard to make new friends.
It was so easy to meet friends in college! Sometimes it seemed like everyone was open to meeting new people but once you get into the real world, people are not just walking around looking to talk to people and make friends. People are busy with their daily lives and it doesn’t leave much time to meet new friends.
3. Cut the cable cord.
Cable is hella expensive! It’s actually getting to be ridiculous these days. I don’t even watch that much TV so to pay over $100 month (at least) is not going to fly with me. You really don’t even need cable anymore. Just pay for subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, and Showtime depending on what you like to watch. You can also just watch shows online super easily.
2. Your first job is going to suck and probably pay poorly.
Yup. It sucks. You just graduated college and you’ve been promised the world but unfortunately, that won’t come immediately. Your first job is probably not going to pay what you’d like, you’re going to work your butt off, and you may or may not like it. It also might be harder to land that entry-level job than you thought it would be. Plus, if you have student loans, that’ll take a good chunk out of your paycheck. Just prepare yourself to know that the first job you get is not the job you have to have for the rest of your life. Look at it as a stepping stone for your career.
1. You have to make plans or you won’t be able to do anything with anyone.
In college, you could just walk down the hall and grab your friends to go get a drink. It was so simple to text your girlfriends to go out or go to the gym together. Once you’re in the full swing of adult life, you’ve got to plan in advance. People are busy with their own hectic lives and crazy schedules. If you don’t make plans ahead of time, you’ll never end up seeing your friends.