When college graduation was a few months away, I was like a deer in headlights. This is the wisdom I wish someone would have shared with me. If you know a college senior, share this with them now. They’ll thank you later.
1. Pretend You Already Have Your Degree
Seriously, pretend you’re holding that piece of paper in your hands. Now what? Get specific about what you will do, then start doing it…right right now. This was the biggest mistake I made during my senior year. I thought something magical would happen to me when I was handed my degree. This was not the case. This is also a good exercise to do before you start grad school. Here’s your $50,000 piece of paper, now what?
2. Get married. Be single. Or date like crazy.
If you’ve found someone you want to go through life together with or start a family with, get married right after graduation. Don’t wait. Have a May, June, or July wedding at the latest. Things will only get more challenging the further away you get from graduation. If you’re dating someone you’re not really serious about, it’s better to break up and be single so you can focus on what’s next. Better to have an awkward conversation today, than a nuclear explosion next year. And, if there is someone you like, you should pursue them. The time is now. It’s exponentially harder to find a life partner after graduation. It’s a hard truth everyone finds out after it’s too late. Be bold no matter what you decide to do.
3. Do This With Your Favorite Professors
One of the best things I did before I graduated was taking several of my favorite college professor’s and their spouses out to dinner as a way to thank them for making an impact on my life. I still remember where we ate and the conversations we had. Share your future plans with them, and invite them to give you wisdom and advice. Taking time to do this is an investment that will pay back dividends down the road. Make this a top priority in your final months of college. Transition one of your favorite professors into a real friend, not just a Facebook friend. It will be one of the best things you will do.
4. Talk to Three People Who Are Already Doing the Job You Want to Do
This is the advice you probably won’t take. The crazy thing is that 99% of college students will go into $50,000+ worth of debt that they’ll spend 30 years paying off, before they’ll spend a few minutes reaching out to get advice from someone who is already doing the job they want to do someday. And, they’ll come up with every excuse in the book why they can’t do it. Crazy, right?
If you do decide to do this, it will absolutely change your life. You should do this while you’re still in college. People are ten times more likely to help a college student than a college graduate. You should send an email, make a phone call, or show up in person. Be bold. Be genuine. Tell them you’re a college senior, and that you’re interested in getting their advice. Be specific. Ask them if you can meet them for coffee or schedule a phone call to talk with them for 30-60 minutes. The worst thing they can do is say no. If that’s the case, move on to someone else. But, the reality is that most people would love to help you. The information you will get from doing this will be pure gold.
5. Prepare for Necessary Endings
When college is over, it needs to end, so you can make room for what’s next. The fantasy is that you might hang around campus another year, continue to be best friends with all your roommates, and stay on a first name basis with all your favorite professors. That fantasy needs to die. College friends will always have a special place in your heart. They’ll always be life long friends. And, you’ll always be able to pick up right where you left off with most of them.
But, after graduation can be messy. Most people end up getting their feelings hurt after college because everyone has different expectations on what friendship looks like after graduation. My best wisdom is to avoid any friendship drama after graduation like the plague. There’s an 80’s rock song by 38 Special called ‘Hold On Loosely’. These are great words to live by. Hold on loosely to all your friendships. The ones that are good will survive, the ones that need to end will die a natural death, and you’ll always have room for new ones. I never thought it would be possible, but I made my best friends in life after college.
And, even 18 years later, I still have dreams that I’m going back to college and moving back on campus. When this happens, I wake up, acknowledge that college was an awesome time in my life, then continue moving forward with where I’m currently at. Always live in the present. Not the past.
6. Be Realistic About Your Degree
Don’t get stuck in fantasy land. I thought because I had a B.S. in Communications and a minor in Business, that I was magically going to land a job that paid $100,000 a year right away. I have no idea why, other than that was what I thought was “just supposed to happen” after college. That was a fantasy. Be realistic about which degree you’re getting and what your next plans should be. There’s 3 types of college degrees:
- A degree that requires more schooling (think pre-med, pre-law)
- A degree that means you can get a job after graduation in your field of study (think nursing, education, plumbing, electrical engineering)
- A degree that requires more planning (think history, art, communication)
If you’re getting Degree #1, you should have already decided where you’ll be continuing your education. If you haven’t yet, get moving.
If you’re getting Degree #2, you should be networking and applying for jobs all throughout your senior year, not after graduation. Take advantage of your status as a college student to get help networking and finding a job.
If you’re getting Degree #3, listen up…stop what you’re doing right now and read the book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad.’ Then, don’t fall into the trap of going to grad school and adding a pile of student loan debt to your plate just to put off the inevitable reality that you’re going to have to get a job or eventually decide on a career path. I was graduating with Degree #3, and I didn’t get serious until a month before graduation when I attended a job fair and realized that working at Applebee’s was the best option for someone who failed to actually plan ahead.
7. Have a Lot of Fun
Your senior year should be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. The memories I made my senior year of college have sustained me over the past 18 years. I have fond memories of hilarious pranks, traveling with friends, spending two weeks making a student film, all the senior events, and lots of laughs. If you have an opportunity to have fun with friends in college…do it. All the friends I have who used the “I can’t, I have to study tonight” as an excuse not to hang out, now tell me that was a huge mistake. Don’t be that guy or girl. Now is the time to enjoy this magical season of your life. Of course, you won’t know it’s magical until after you leave. Have fun.
8. Celebrate Your Graduation
Don’t be shy about celebrating your graduation. You should have a graduation party and invite as many friends and family as possible. Don’t wait for someone else to organize it for you. It’s up to you. Don’t be shy. People will want to celebrate your achievement with you. And, the little bit of money you will receive at your graduation party will come in handy as you get ready to start the next phase of your life. Besides getting married or having a baby, this is the last big celebratory party you’ll have. Grad school is different. Birthdays are different after you turn 22. This is the time to have a big party. Do it.
9. Take FPU After You Graduate. People in America Love a Financially Dumb College Graduate Because You Make Them Rich.
Let’s be honest. You won’t do this while you’re in college. But, after you graduate, when the financial realities of life hit you in the face, and when you finally understand that credit card debt and student loan debt sucks, and you have your first pity party that no one told you how hard things would be…take a moment to breath. Instead of ranting on Facebook or blaming your parents, turn to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). It’s a 13-week program offered nationwide. You’ll learn everything you need to know about having success with your finances and navigating the world of credit, debt, budgeting, planning for emergencies, car insurance, health insurance, real estate, saving, and investing. Save this URL for when that ‘moment’ happens after graduation (yes this moment will happen to you, because it happens to everyone): https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu. A lot of churches and financial advisors host weekly FPU groups in the evenings.
Note: This is not a trackable link, and I receive no incentive for promoting Dave Ramsey’s FPU. I had over $80,000 of debt after I graduated, and was miserable. My aunt and uncle suggested I take Financial Peace University, and after I did my entire life changed. I went from major debt, to paying off my debt, to becoming financially independent within in a few years. My only regret is not taking this course sooner.
Here’s what NO ONE else will tell you: most people in America love a financially dumb college graduate, because you help make everyone else rich when you:
- make minimum payments on your credit cards
- continue to buy $9 beers at the bar
- stay distracted with movies, music, politics, and celebrity gossip
- buy a brand new car with a $400/month payment for 8 years
- put your student loans in forbearance while the interest piles up
- go back to school to spend $50,000 on another diploma
- pay $150 for concert tickets you can’t afford
- stay glued to Facebook instead of spending time actually working on your career
Yep. America really does love dumb college grads, because you’re making everyone else rich. Don’t be dumb. They WILL eat you alive if you let them. Listen to Dave.
1. Become friends with your parents after you graduate.
2. Travel abroad if you have the opportunity now, not later. Just do it.
3. Don’t be the person who drops out of college with two months to go. Finish your degree no matter what.
4. If you haven’t already, stop using your school email address. You can’t use it after you graduate. Start using a Gmail address with your name, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Use your real name. Stop using weird email addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Update your Facebook profile photo to be a professional looking picture of your face making eye contact with the camera. And, update your cover photo, too. Trust me. Facebook is the first place potential employers usually look. And, nothing screams “don’t hire me” like a profile photo of a beer can. And, you should only have ONE Facebook profile, not two, not three. Just one. And, it should be your real name. And, one more thing…stop posting all your emotions on Facebook. No one cares. Those likes are fake. Sorry.
6. Find a mentor. Preferably someone around 10 years older. Someone young enough to understand how things work today, but old enough to know what they’re doing. They can help you navigate through the challenges that await you. And, you don’t say “Hey, will you be my mentor?” That’s weird and people will be scared away. What you DO say is, “Can I take you to lunch sometime next week? I’d love to get your advice on life stuff.” If it goes well, follow up again in a month for another lunch. Do this for a few months. It will probably change your life for the better.
7. Be humble. There’s nothing more satisfying to a lot of people than seeing a cocky college grad get body slammed by life. Ask for help. Admit you don’t know what you’re doing. Ask lots of questions. The people who ask the questions are the ones who become successful. And, there’s nothing wrong with working at Applebee’s. I worked a lot of non-glamorous jobs on my way to where I am today. And, I ALWAYS tip waiters and waitresses really well because I know they’re working hard to make life work.
8. Watch the movie ‘Into The Wild‘ before you graduate. Don’t spend your whole life trying to fit into a mold that society has created for you. Get out and explore the world. There’s real beauty out there to be discovered. Set forth on your adventure.
Good luck and thanks for reading my wisdom. –Nevan Hooker, January 21, 2020