So you did it. It might have taken you 4 or 5 (or 6) years but you’re finally getting that piece of paper showing the world that you have a college degree and are now in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Congratulations. Now the question is, how do you not only survive but also thrive during your first year after college?
Know that you’re not prepared for everything
No matter how prepared you think you are for life after college graduation, there will be something that doesn’t go quite as you anticipated. It may not be immediate, but you’ll encounter some bumps sometime during your first year after college graduation.
That diploma doesn’t guarantee you your dream job
Unfortunately, every year there are a lot of people that graduate and send out hundreds of resumes but only manage to land an hourly job that doesn’t require a college degree. If you end up one of those people, just know that you’re not alone. If you’re lucky enough to get a great job in your field, know that it’s ok if you decide it’s not what you wanted. Six months or a year in you might decide that what you studied for the last 4+ years doesn’t quite translate to the real world. It might be the company, your boss, or the work. Whatever it is, figure out why it’s not what you want.
“Adulting” is now everyday life
In college you were adulting if you cleaned up the house and got it all set up for a cute pregame celebration. You were adulting if you ran errands on a Saturday and did chores like vacuuming or dusting. Now that you’re out of college you’re a full fledged adult and you don’t need to point that out to everyone every time you do something that responsible adults do. No one is impressed, and your roommates will expect you to help out with such “adulting activities” around the house. If you want to take it up a notch, decorate your home like an adult. Check out our guide on how to decorate your home with clean and modern design.
Have a budget & a plan
Even if your parents are still helping you out until you get settled, you should know your way around the basics of a budget and financial planning. Here’s a breakdown of things you should research and be comfortable with:
Monthly budget - There a million apps out there to help you track your budget and spending so you don’t have to do it the old school way, unless that’s your style. I personally use Mint.
Loan repayment - Know your options when it comes to repaying your loans. Look into deferment or forbearance if you can’t afford to repay them right out of school. But it’s better to start chipping away at them sooner rather than later. Interest on loans is not your friend.
401K - Retirement is a long time from now, but if you can spare $20 per paycheck, do it. That’ll add up quickly with interest over the next 40 years. Plus, your future self will thank you.
Health insurance - If you’re on your own health insurance now make sure you know how much you’re paying per pay period and what your deductibles and copays are before you go to the doctor's office.
Credit score - At some point you’ll be looking to buy a new car and your credit score will matter. Some apartments also check your credit score before leasing it to you. So know your credit score and do what you can to make it great now. Check out the free Credit Karma app for help with this.
Find hobbies & friends
You no longer have your sorority, clubs or classes giving you a built-in friend group. You might have to move to a city where you know no one and need to make all new friends. So find a hobby or a gym or some activity that you can do to make friends and do something other than work. Don’t count on your job to provide you friends and don’t expect to make any when you go home to binge watch Netflix every night. Having friends and things to do will completely change your view of a new city and a new life. Don’t give up until you’ve actually tried and given it a shot.
Work on skills & activities you never had time for
Between classes, homework, clubs, a part-time job, and anything else you threw on your plate, you’ve been busy. Now you probably work 9-5 Monday - Friday and have a lot of free time you don’t know what to do with. I don’t recommend going out to the bars every night, so consider working on some of those skills you never had the time or money for in college. Learn to cook some really good meals and travel anytime you can find a cheap flight or place to stay. Don’t say no to new things and don’t let yourself get too stuck in a routine of the same experiences. This is your time to shine (within budget).
Find your unique style
You spend a lot of time in t-shirts and yoga pants in college. Now you have to work everyday and look cute for brunch on the weekends. This is your time to build your wardrobe and find your own style. Look for great sales and items that can be worn for work or weekends. There are a couple of items like a great work purse that are worth splurging on, but you don’t need to max out your credit card to build your new wardrobe. Thankfully, you know about an affordable boutique called The Copper Closet where everything is under $45 and there’s a new sale every week.
Lastly, do you girl. Don’t restrict yourself and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith on a job, a trip or a man. Your whole life is ahead of you now.