My husband and I graduated from college last May. It’s amazing that almost a year has passed since then! A ton of changes have happened to us since then–getting married, moving 400 miles from home, starting new jobs, etc. (and that’s a big etc.!).
I didn’t actually attend commencement.
I remember not wanting to pay the $60 or whatever to rent a graduation gown. I was unimpressed with the choice of commencement speaker. The kicker: Nobody would announce my name to the masses, and I would not walk across a stage in front of my family. I guess you’ll have that when you go to a large state school.
Anyway, it didn’t sound like a good use of my day, and I didn’t really want to put my family through sitting through a boring ceremony. I don’t regret not attending.
So. If there are any soon-to-be college grads reading this blog, I’d like to tell you a few things.
1. I’m really sorry about the timing of your graduation and the state of the economy. If you haven’t already found a job, it can be tough finding something suitable. Don’t settle for a career-type job doing something that you hate. If you do, you could be stuck there for awhile. Your life shouldn’t be spent in misery.
Instead, if you don’t yet have a job lined up, talk with your folks and see if they’d be open to you living with them while you job-searched. Work part-time somewhere to have some money coming in, and be sure to pay for your own food and kick back some money to cover some “rent.” Remember, this is a temporary situation, but it could help you avoid settling on a terrible job and/or going into mounds of debt while you job-search in your own apartment. On the surface, it could look like you’re wimping out, but really, it could save you a lot of hassle.
2. Once you’re hired somewhere, don’t spend your first paycheck before you get it. Don’t try to buy a new car just yet, and don’t move into the fanciest apartment you can find. Live cheaply for at least your first few months out of college, and I promise you won’t regret it.
3. While you’re bringing in a better salary, be aggressive and save an emergency fund and pay off all of your credit cards and tackle your student loans. These debts need paid, and it’s better to just get them out of the way as soon as possible and move on with your life. Definitely budget your money, and don’t allocate more than 25 percent of your take-home pay to your rent. Seriously.
4. Along with your debt-repayment and saving-money aggression, start throwing a large portion of your paycheck into a retirement account. You probably won’t miss the money at this stage, and thanks to compound interest, you could have quite a bit saved at retirement. Time is on your side. Exploit it.
5. If you’re moving to a new city, realize that it could take you 6 months to a year to get to know your way around. I’ve been in Pittsburgh for 11 months now, and I still regularly use my GPS around “tahn.” Pittsburgh is semi-big and really confusing.
Just keep in mind that for the first time in like 17 years of your life, you’re no longer a student. You’re going through a huge transition. You might feel lonely, especially if your friends become scattered across the country. Keep in touch with them, and also seek to make new friends in your new environment. Many of my college friends have said meeting people after graduation has been really tough. When we’re in school, we have a built-in social network. After graduation, you’ll meet people at all stages of life, who may or may not be looking for friends.
6. You’ll probably hear all sorts of advice right now. Feel free to ignore it–after all, you’re a grown-up and can make your own decisions. But remember, it’s much easier to learn from other’s mistakes than to waste time making them yourself.