What I Wish I Knew Before My College Graduation

by Jess Bennett

I dreaded my graduation. The end of education was the end of life as I knew it, and as the date crept closer, my anxiety only grew. The thought of putting on a cap and gown and walking across that stage made my chest tighten up with panic. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all the friends, professors, and experiences that had made my studies so great. I wasn’t ready to jump into the void of adult life, not knowing when or where or if I would land on my feet. There are therefore some things I wish I knew before my graduation day.

You aren’t a failure if you don’t have an after graduation plan

Though it may feel like it, graduation is not a deadline. You don’t have to have your whole life mapped out by that date. It’s easy to feel pressured to have a plan with everyone constantly asking, “What are your plans after graduation?” It’s okay if the answer to that question is a big fat “I don’t know.” Not having a job or a post-grad plan all lined up does not mean you’re a failure. Give yourself a break. You just survived nearly two decades of continuous education. Figuring out what’s next is a huge step—and it doesn’t always come easily.

It’s okay if it takes you a while to get it together

You don’t have to dive headfirst off the graduation stage directly into adult life. You’re allowed to take some time before embarking on your career. That may mean backpacking during the summer or picking up a waitressing job to earn some cash as you continue job searching. Whether it’s by choice or by necessity, taking a few weeks (or months) off between graduating and starting your career is perfectly acceptable.

You need to begin budgeting

Entering the adult world means you’re completely in charge of your own finances for what might be the first time ever. Bills, student loan payments, and after-work happy hours are going to start hitting your bank account hard and fast, so having a budget is absolutely essential. Take charge of your finances right away and start tracking exactly how much money is coming in and going out of your accounts each month. Then use those figures to draft up a budget and stick to it. Getting on top of your money matters sooner rather than later will help you figure out where you can splurge and where you should save as you start navigating adult life.

Your first job after graduation doesn’t define your whole career

There’s a good chance your very first job will not be your dream job. If you had hopes of landing a big important role at a big important company right after graduation, taking another internship or working as someone’s assistant might be a bit of a let-down. But remember that your first job is first and foremost an opportunity to gain experience, which will help you land that dream job later in your career. It may not be perfect, but it’s a job and it doesn’t have to last forever.

No one else knows how to adult either

Adult life is one giant, confusing puzzle that school never prepared you to solve. Remember that no one else really has this thing figured out either, so it’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing most of the time. When in doubt, just Google it.

The friends who matter aren’t going anywhere

Sure, it’s going to be a huge adjustment when your friends live across the country instead of down the hall, but the real friends will stay in your life no matter the distance. You may have to replace those late-night hangs and daily coffee runs with FaceTime dates and occasional visits, but you’ll make it work if the friendship is worth it. All it takes is a little more effort.

You’re going to feel lonely at times

Living on your own away from home and your friends can feel so isolating. With your usual support system no longer nearby, you’re going to feel alone sometimes, especially on those Friday nights when you’re at home doing laundry (again) instead of going out with friends like you might have done before. Feeling a little lonely from time to time does not mean you’re alone.

Making adult friends is hard, but you’ll do it

School and extracurricular activities provided endless opportunities for new friendships, but in the real world, making friends can be way more difficult, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Where are you supposed to meet people? How do you let someone know you want to be friends with them? It can seem downright impossible sometimes to make genuine friendships as an adult, but it’ll happen. It takes time—and may require you to step outside your comfort zone—but you will make new friends.

It wasn’t the best four years of your life

People hype university up to be the “best four years of your life,” but that’s simply not true. As a twenty-something graduate, you still have so much life left to experience. It can’t possibly be all downhill from here, and in fact, the best is yet to come.  You have so much time for more memories and adventures.

You ARE ready for graduation and being an adult.

Trust me. You got this.

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