Life After College: 7 Things Nobody Tells You

Is life better after college? Here are 7 things you need to know about life after college.

After college, life gets better. Graduating from college is just the beginning of your life, and there are a lot of opportunities to find success. In case you’re worried about life after college, I’m going to share these 7 honest truths.

Life after college isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either

Transitioning from college to adulthood can be a bit of a shock. However, it’s no surprise that after being in school for the past 20 years you’re used to the structure and grind of learning something new, getting tested on it, and moving up one grade level at a time. But now that you’re graduating, you’re heading into the world of adulthood, full of uncertainty. Soon-to-be graduates might be relieved at the thought of life after college. There’s no more homework, no more tests, and you won’t be controlled by your teachers.

For others, life after college is scary. There’s no manual for adulthood. It’s like being handed a big blank canvas and told to paint whatever you want on it. I am here to give you the inside scoop on what life is really like after college graduation: here are 7 things no one tells you about life after college.

Things get easier after college

For the past 20 years, you’ve had a safe, consistent routine at school. It’s a routine you can probably do blindfolded after being spun around 5 times-get up, get dressed, go to school, do homework, eat, shower, and sleep. Having said that, once you graduate college you’ll realize how soul-sucking it can be to go to school all day, do homework all night, and be expected to function day in and day out for the next 20 years.

Considering that–life after college is a whole lot easier. Here’s how…

Your success isn’t based on letters

Getting a bad grade in school is the worst, especially if you’re driven and study hard, but still don’t get the grade you deserve. Some college students get anxious about grades, and one bad grade can wreck their confidence. You don’t have to worry about grades after college. Having no grades can be freeing. You’re working for money now instead of grades, which can buy and get you a lot more than just an A+ on your test.

You’re free to pivot at any time

If you do not choose a college major right away, you’ll be stuck in college longer than you anticipated and spend more money just trying to find your path to a fulfilling degree. If, however, you decide on a major and then decide you want to change it… well good luck to you if you want to graduate on time.

After college, you can pivot as much as you like.

Life gives you the freedom to start something, stop something, and keep on going. There are always new opportunities available, as long as you seek them out, and there are many different pathways to success. Passing one class at a time is the only way to succeed in college.

Money can buy you happiness and comfort

You’ve probably heard that money doesn’t buy happiness time and time again. While in some cases, money cannot buy happiness — like working an extremely stressful job that pays well — in most cases, it does. But even more importantly, money buys you comfort. A huge burden is lifted from your shoulders when you know you can pay for rent, groceries, gas, clothes, and non-essentials.

In reality, many soon-to-be college graduates are struggling with the concept of figuring out how to pay back their student loans and how to make a plan to do so. The average student loan debt per student in 2018 was $29,200, according to Nerd Wallet. Having to pay back that money plus your basic needs can be overwhelming, especially if you do not have a job lined up after graduation. In order to ease your worries about student loan debt before graduation, here are a few things you can do:

  1. In college, start saving a $1,000 emergency fund, and then build an emergency fund that lasts 3 months, then 6 months.
  2. Learn how to be more frugal with your money, like buying only the things you need and buying second-hand.
  3. Attend job fairs, pay attention to who you interact with, and follow up with recruiters afterward.
  4. Take on a part-time job and set aside 5-15% of your paycheck to pay off your student loans–every penny counts.
  5. Set up a savings account that allows you to round up your purchases to the next dollar and use those roundups to help you pay off your student loan debt.
  6. You should deep clean your college apartment and sell the items you won’t need after graduation. Use eBay, Mercari, Poshmark, and even Facebook Marketplace to sell, advertise your listings, and communicate with potential buyers.

GPA isn’t important after college

How’s that GPA you worked so hard for?

Once you cross the stage at graduation, it doesn’t even matter. The real world or the workforce doesn’t care if you got an A+ in Pharmacology or a C in Gen Med.  No one uses their GPA as an icebreaker at parties. Ultimately, all that matters is that you got your degree and, more importantly, that you are able to accurately apply the skills you learned in college.

When it comes to a Master’s, Ph.D, medical degree, law degree, etc., your GPA is very important, so keep it up! Just keep it in perspective, though.

While you are in college, you shouldn’t ignore your GPA. Furthermore, I am not telling you just to do the bare minimum in your classes. You pay for your classes, so make the most of them and strive to always do your best. The real message is that a good GPA doesn’t guarantee success after college. You won’t automatically receive a 6-figure salary upon graduating from college just because you have a 4.0 GPA. If that were the case, everyone would be aiming for a 4.0. But do you know what can lead to a 6-figure salary after graduation?

Your college experience and skills.

If you are considering taking college classes over an internship, take the internship instead!

Having an internship will look much better on your resume, you’ll have the opportunity to network with people in the industry, and you may also have a job lined up after college.

It’s better than graduating early or worrying about a B- on your last test.

Friends will disappear from your life

Sadly, some of the friendships you made during college will fade once you graduate.

You may slowly stop talking to your sorority sisters after college graduation, or stop reaching out to your former roommates except for a few times a year on their birthdays or around the holidays. It wasn’t that those friendships weren’t important to you, because they were, but when you graduate college your priorities change.

You no longer have to worry about studying for the next test or figuring out who will join you for lunch on campus before your next class. Your focus now is on finding a job and building a future for yourself, whether that means starting your own business, starting a family, or moving across the country for an exciting career opportunity.

Inevitably, your friendships will grow apart and you will find yourself keeping up with your college friends on social media like Facebook and Instagram. It’s perfectly normal. As you move through life, you will make new friends as well as gain comfort from the people who mean the most to you, such as your significant other, siblings, parents/guardians, and one or two best friends from college or childhood.

Always feeling behind will be a constant feeling

Life after college can be difficult because you will constantly feel like you aren’t good enough.

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and LinkedIn, make it easy to feel like you are 10 steps behind your peers in life. Seeing all your college friends get engaged might make you angry, but you’re still single and continuing to swipe right every day. Perhaps you feel discouraged about your new job at Target as a cashier while everyone else on your Facebook feed is getting sophisticated job titles at interesting organizations. 

Feeling behind in life is normal, and honestly, everyone feels that way. No matter what you do, there will always be someone 10 steps ahead of you. The most important thing is to find a way to be satisfied with your life currently and to take steps to shape your future into the way you want it to be.

Where can you find more happiness in your life? Consider the following:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal like the Five-Minute Journal or simply keep a blank journal to write down 2-5 things you are grateful for each day.
  2. Focus on your life and yourself by staying off social media the first hour you wake up and the hour before you go to bed.
  3. Think about your accomplishments and achievements. They didn’t happen overnight, but you made them happen. Reflect on them and write them down. You can save this list on your computer or in a journal and read it whenever you feel down. This list can even be used to help you write a resume or cover letter.
  4. Remember that everyone is on their own journey and that there are probably others in your life who wish they were you.
  5. Fill your time instead of spending it on social media with a fulfilling hobby or side business. 

After college, it’s okay to not love your first or second job

College graduates and soon-to-be college graduates often get caught up in trying to find the perfect first job after college. In reality, however, your chances of finding the perfect job right out of college that you will be with until the day you retire are slim. It’s likely you’ll switch jobs many times before you find the job you want to stick with for the rest of your life.

Having three or more jobs throughout your lifetime will allow you to gain as much experience and knowledge as working the same job for 40 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most people will change jobs 12 times during their lifetime. The majority of these jobs are held by people aged 18 to 24.

If you start your first job out of college and quit it within a year, that’s okay. The first job you get out of college doesn’t have to be long-term. The moment you see red flags, you can pivot, and trust me, it is more worthwhile to quit a job to maintain your sanity and mental health than to struggle day-to-day to get up for a soul-crushing job.

Routines and systems are essential for success

You need to create sustainable routines and systems for yourself to be successful after college.

Having systems and routines in place such as…

  • A morning routine
  • An after-work routine
  • A night routine
  • A system to pay your monthly bills
  • A system when you go grocery shopping
  • A system to clean your home

…makes your life more organized, productive, and manageable, especially during a busy week.

As soon as I graduated from college, I started my first job as a graduate assistant athletic trainer and moved into my first apartment with my roommate who was also a GA. I felt completely overwhelmed by everything. It would keep me awake at night worrying about how I would pay rent, get the laundry done, and when I would have time to go shopping. I ended up, over time, creating routines and systems for myself. 

Start by putting aside just five minutes to do laundry or clean the dishes every day if you are feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do when you start your life after college.

Next, decide what day you’ll pay your bills. Base it around your pay schedule. 

Final thoughts on life after college

Life after college is full of unknowns. The truth about life after college is a lot more nuanced than people will tell you. But you’ll figure it out! It just won’t happen overnight. 

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