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Things I wish I knew before graduating college

This year has flashed before my eyes. In less than a month from now is my college graduation anniversary.

I have been blessed enough to find a full-time job one month after graduation, and have been working full-time ever since. The amount of pressure I put on myself to achieve my goals is a special gift, one that I am grateful to have. However, the journey this year has put me through has not been smooth-sailing. There is nothing that could have prepared me for how difficult the post-grad adjustment is.

For decades, your life is planned for you. Your parents make you go to school. The school plans your schedule, your curriculum and your extra-curricular activities. You graduate and head to college, where you gain an ounce of freedom. You get to choose your professors, your course of study, whether you join Greek life or not, and your spring break trips. Still, your freedom is shaped around your University’s degree plan.

After graduation, everything is up to you. No one tells you that you have to get a job utilizing your degree. Your community of friends from college disappear, go their separate ways and start figuring out their own lives without you. The government starts hounding you to pay off your student loans, controlling your life with unemployment rates and cost of living expenses, and you’re left deciphering what insurance and retirement plans are right for you. Soon, all of the fun from that fraternity party or all-night study session with your friends in the library become a faded memory.

There is no class or piece of advice that prepares you for the real world and the lessons it teaches you. In an attempt to help and give back to some friends who are graduating soon, these are the lessons I learned after graduating college.

Your plans shift and change

I remember planning exactly what I was going to do once I finished school. At first it was working at a fun PR agency, then it was going to law school and soon I realized my plans were just that.. plans. You don’t know what your life will throw at you until you’re finally immersed in it. You find that job hunting is hard, the competition is fierce, and you have to just take what you can get in order to gain experience for that dream position you want. Your life doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would, and that’s okay. It’s not necessarily your career that changes, it could also be your relationships. Maybe you thought you found the one, then life happens and you’re facing single life for the first time in years. Whatever it may be, flexibility is key. Have faith that whatever happens, is supposed to happen.

PTO rules your life

You know that fun month off you get between semesters? What about that week off for spring break or those several months off for summer vacation? Kiss all of that goodbye. That is probably the hardest realities of the real world. PTO (paid time off) rules your life once you graduate. You find yourself having to allocate those precious 10 days off accordingly. Remember to include time off for holidays and holiday travel during those 10 days. Oh, and if you get sick.. there’s a day for that too (especially for those entry-level jobs that don’t believe in sick days). Hopefully, if you have any days left after all of that, maybe then you can take that actual vacation and go somewhere fun.

8-5 is exhausting

I remember thinking I had it harder than working adults. I mean, I was going to school, working AND in extra-curricular activities! I stayed up late and woke up early, sometimes pulling all-nighters. But that 8-5 schedule is a lot tougher than I thought it was. You wake up, get ready, go to work, go back home, cook dinner and get ready for bed.. just to do it all over again. Your time is precious after work, but sometimes you find that winding down in front of a TV is the only thing you have energy for. Thirsty Thursdays turn into a “one and done” evening. Your weekends are spent running errands and doing things you didn’t have time for during the week. Finally, you find yourself in sweats on a Saturday night blogging, while catching up on your shows. (Hey, you’ll take that over a crowded, stinky bar any day!)

You’ll need your parents/family more than before

You need that support from your family now more than ever. They’ve been through it all before and know what’s best for you. But, if they’re a good family, they will let you make mistakes. They will watch you make all the wrong decisions, but they will also be on standby to pick up the pieces. The lectures will still happen, but this time you will actually listen. They’ll give you the money you need to get that apartment. They’ll research health insurance plans for you to make sure you choose the best one for your medical conditions. They’ll even let you move back home for a couple of months until you get on your feet. You’ll realize you couldn’t have done it without them and because of them.. you finally know how to file your taxes, which IRA to get, and which job offers to turn down.

I’m not going to lie to you, graduating is scary. There is so much uncertainty, especially with the economy and the reputation our generation has. But, every single person faces it. Everyone has their own story and goes through life their own way. Good luck and have faith! Congratulations on getting that bachelors/masters, by the way!

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