Life after college can be overwhelming and scary. I remember thinking I wish someone created a manual or rulebook for it. Unfortunately (and fortunately), we’re all just figuring it out as we go. We’re all learning lessons to collect and share with other people. I didn’t grow up with an older sister, but if I did, I would expect her to tell me the things below.
- Saving money should be your #1 priority. Start building your emergency fund now.
Like a lot of college kids in their last year of school, getting a full-time job was at the top of my to-do list. Once I secured my spot, I was so excited about the idea of a paycheck. There were so many things I had my eye on in college that I could finally purchase with my own money.
Debt or no debt, an emergency fund should be the #1 thing you should be saving for. You need to prioritize setting aside money that can get you through at least 6 months of personal living expenses like rent, utilities, food, all the necessities.
There are also random things you’ll be spending on that you might not have considered like apartment application fees or moving expenses. Prioritize saving as soon as you land that job. No one is expecting you to live a high roller life right now.
In general, the best thing you can do for yourself now is take the time to learn all the things about personal finances. I personally love the Acorns app to simplify investing and books like Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach.
Read: 5 Free Phone Apps I Wish I Downloaded in College
Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor, so please talk to an expert for advice on your personal situation.
- Please accept now that friends will come and go.
I had what you call a “typical American college experience”. I lived on/near my college campus when I was enrolled in school. Most of the friends I made also did the same.
One thing I’m still learning to understand is that not all friendships are meant to last. Friend breakups happen. As I’ve grown up, my priorities and values have changed. The things that used to bond us don’t exist anymore, simply because we’ve grown apart.
Even with the friends that have lasted these years, I don’t see them all that often. A good chunk of them moved to other cities to start their lives after college. When I get a chance, I’ll call on the phone after work. Send memes over text. Wish a happy birthday and mail a gift. Send voice memos over text. Share news in a group chat. When we know there’s a holiday or big occasion coming up, we’ll plan a time to see each other.
Friends come and go. Come to terms with the ones that aren’t meant to last. Savor the time you have with good friends now, and prioritize putting in the work it takes for the ones you want to keep.
- Get a grip on your personal boundaries.
After college, there were so many things in my life that pushed me to learn more about comfort levels in different areas of my life.
For instance, work. Will my boss be happy with me if I showed up early like him? Should I stay up late because all my friends are in town right now? What if I don’t wake up in time for work?
Often, I’d ignore my own comfort for the sake of other people. I wouldn’t consider my personal boundaries, because frankly, I didn’t have any.
Notice the feelings you have towards specific areas of your life. Do they make you feel at ease? Uncomfortable?
Read: College Graduation Advice: The 5 Things I Always Tell Graduating College Seniors
- Comparison will kill your creativity and joy.
When I first landed my post-graduate full-time job, I couldn’t help but compare myself to the friends I made in college. Many of them were signing offers to big jobs with six-figure salaries with the addition of sign-on and moving bonuses. Some were moving to big cities. Some were already thinking of homeownership. Oh, and a lot of them were getting married already. #Texas
There are so many means of comparison when you graduate college. The best thing you can do for yourself is to really consider your own contentment. Everyone’s backgrounds, situations, and goals are so different. If you need some help in learning not to compare yourself to other people, I highly recommend this podcast episode from Café with Monica: Comparison Kills Creativity.
- No one expects you to have it all figured out right now.
When I talk to older, wiser, successful people about what life in their early 20s looked like, a lot of their answers surprise me. As successful as they now are, a lot of them told me they lived in the apartment the size of a shoebox, ate Top Ramen multiple nights a week, and didn’t have a clue what was happening with their lives.
Times have changed a lot. With so many means of comparison, a lot of us feel like we need to have so much of our lives figured out.
The hard truth? No one really has the answers. Move at your own pace. Do what you need to do right now. No one is expecting you to have it all figured out.