Congrats, College Grad! …Uh, What Happens Now?

Nathan Wilgeroth / Colleges of Distinction »

Well, you did it. You made it through four (or more!) years of hard work and all the life changes that make up the college experience. And on top of that, you managed to survive a pandemic throughout nearly two of your most formative years. Congratulations! This is truly a time to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished. Now, pardon me, and I may sound like a nosy aunt you only see during the holidays, but I have to ask: What are your plans for after college?

I know, that question can come with lots of pressure—what if you don’t have any clear plans? Does that mean you’ve fallen behind everyone else?

No!

Transitioning from college to the real world is a big step with no single “correct” path. Consider the following possibilities for how you might spend these next couple of months or years as a recent college grad.



1. Continuing Education 

Thinking about going to grad school? It’s possible that your career path as either an academic or high-ranking professional might require a master’s degree. Likewise, the trade you’re pursuing still might require you to earn a certificate or complete some other type of continuing education. 

Whether you’ve been certain about the fact that you want to go to grad school or are still deciding, there is no rush to enroll. It may be worth it to consider a gap year to work, travel, and regroup. That way, you’ll be able to prepare a great grad school application and enroll in a program with a refreshed, rested, and eager mindset. 

When you are ready to start looking at and applying to a graduate program, remember that Abound: Grad School is a one-stop shop for advice and your school search.

2. Gainful Employment

One obvious choice available to you is to start looking for a job. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you need to start looking for your forever job and lifelong career. Everyone has to start somewhere, so acknowledge that you may have to roll up your sleeves to get where you want to go. 

Check out your school’s job board, connect with your former internship coordinators via email or LinkedIn, or ask professors, mentors, and peers whether they know of any positions that need filling. Starting at an entry-level job within your desired career field is an excellent display of your commitment to both personal and professional growth.  


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Ultimately, your possibilities vary from retail to research assistant. Understand your situation as an independent adult to make an informed decision about where to apply and how much money you need each month. 

3. Reality Check

Speaking of being an independent adult, the early twenties is a critical period in which most young adults take on an extraordinary amount of responsibility with little parental support. Of course it’s true that plenty of people, maybe even you, have already been working very hard to support themselves through college, but there is definitely something new about living in a world without the consistent amenities of a college campus. 

Money matters—take the time to understand how you will be able to support yourself and pay for rent, utilities, and groceries. Outside of the college dorm, there are a number of expenses that you may not have had to think about in the past. 

Create a clear budget and gain an understanding of how much you will need to work in order to live a functional and fulfilling life. Understanding finances isn’t something you need to do alone; reach out to your parents, a professional, or maybe even a career services staff member at your alma mater. 



4. Deep Roots and Passion

As you get older, it is important to know how you can keep your passion alive. Student organizations and academic environments make being creative and having fun a natural part of students’ everyday lives. In adulthood, keeping that momentum going can be a bit more challenging. You and all your friends will start to see each other less often, and work and financial stressors might begin to take priority over the things you find enjoyable. After all, finding a work-life balance is an ongoing learning experience. Once you find stability, it will become easier to branch out beyond your responsibilities and back to the things that make you happiest.

 

As you settle into post-graduate life, you will experience lots of changes and growth opportunities. Remember the goals you had while still in college as well as the hobbies and passions you have today. Develop a strong support group with people nearby, whether they be lifelong friends or new peers in the neighborhood. Making and maintaining friendships, as well as discovering and nurturing passions, are all things that take real effort in adulthood. 

Step into this stage of your life with strong intentions and a sense of motivation. Whatever challenges that life after college may bring are vastly outweighed by the sheer potential of your life from this point forward. Congratulations, again, and we wish you the best of luck after undergrad!