9 tips for recent college graduates

Graduates react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, May 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Noni Marshall

  • Relax

Just take a deep breath. You’ve accomplished something huge by finishing college. You need to acknowledge that and bask in the glory of it all, if only for a few weeks. “You can’t just graduate and jump right into ‘real life’. Enjoy being class free, school free, responsibility free. This is probably the last time life will be like this,” says Carly Sanders, a graduating senior at Howard University. Once you finish celebrating, then you can jump into being an adult. No need to expedite the process. 

  • Find someone who has done it before.

This is the time to make new friends. Your friends from college have helped you through the past four (or five or six) years and that is commendable, but you meet new people everyday. “I feel like the whole ‘I keep my circle small’ idea has us all a little messed up. You do need people. Having just one friend really isn’t enough sometimes,” says Sydney Riseau, a rising senior at Tennessee State University. Take advantage of new spaces and get to know people. Reach out to a relative or friend who recently made the transition from college to the “real world”. Ask them what worked and what didn’t Take some of their experience and use it to create your own path. 
Get to know yourself (for real this time).2

You think you got to know yourself in college, but you didn’t. You get to reinvent yourself everyday if you want to. David McNamara from Alcorn State University says that he thought he knew himself until he graduated. “Graduation came and went, and then I was at home with no class to go to and my friends all went back to their home states. I had to figure out what I wanted to do everyday until my job started. I figured out that some of the things I thought I enjoyed were really just things my friends liked and I tolerated,” McNamara said . You don’t have to just tolerate things anymore. You’re a real adult now and you can do what you want. Finally. 

  • Refuse to feel rushed.

This one is simple. Do not rush. Just don’t do it. Take your time with everything. Don’t look at your friends and compare their progress to your lack of it. Don’t decide to take a job because you feel like it’s been too long since you’ve been busy. Think things through and weigh your costs and benefits. While you can do what you want, your decisions hold more weight now. Be wise and wait. 

  • Get comfortable with being super uncomfortable

“I used to hate anything that didn’t resemble my comfort zone” said Melony Ralley, a 2015 graduate of Fisk University. “I mean I hated it. After school ended, I was determined to keep the same routine and hang out with the same people and frequent the same happy hours. I was sick when that comfort was gone.” One of the truths about adulthood is that what used to be comfortable expires, and that’s okay. Embrace it and make it work. 

  • Learn how to manage your money now. 

What better time than right now to learn how money works. After graduation, you’re nowhere near rich, and you would like to be. This is the time to find a budget and spending plan that works for you. If you get a hold of your finances now, it will make life much easier. Read books about it and talk to people who have mastered it until it becomes second nature. 

  • Let go of (some of) your ideals.

Your five-year plan is great, but it can’t be set in stone. Calhoun Riley, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University said, “I had to work in some wiggle room to my plan. After some things didn’t work out like I wanted them to, I just had to do some rearranging and keep it pushing.” You can’t dwell in that plan, you have to let it wiggle a little. 

  • Get a planner.

Write stuff down: your appointments, your obligations, your meetings, your free time, your schedule. Just write it all down. It will help you stay focused and organized even when you feel lost. 

  • If you get stuck…just keep swimming.

You will get stuck. There’s no way around it. You will miss your college days and at some point you’ll feel like you’re going in the wrong direction.Nemo said it first, of course, but just keep swimming. It will all fall in place and in no time you’ll have ‘adulting’ down to a science. But whatever you do, stopping isn’t an option. Swim on.

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