It has been over a year and a half since I graduated from college and the amount of time which has passed has by no means been a time of reflection and self-reliance. The topic of life after college is one I have thought quite a bit about over the last few years since graduating. In the time since May 2015, I have processed through life, grown, matured, met new friends in the “adult world”, traveled, and learned more about myself. In this year and a half, I have come farther and learned more than I ever thought possible. There have certainly been some tough times in the same token that there have been joyous times.
I feel grateful to have attended a college where I still feel connected to my classmates and a school where I was able to build lifelong relationships with my peers. Luther is a small school but because of that, my time there was enriched by many different opportunities. So leaving….well that was a little tough. However, it showed me my own strength through this time after graduation.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned and a few things no one really prepares you for after you pick up your diploma and cross the stage.
1 // You truly realize the value of friendship
One of the biggest blessings of my college experience was my friends. Having lived together our Senior year and 4 years of shared memories, leaving my friends was the single most difficult thing post-college. In all honesty, I really struggled with being around people that I knew, especially having been on a small college campus where my friends were always around. Many of us were and still are, spread out throughout the Midwest + Colorado, it has made reunions oh so much sweeter. Through distance, I have realized the value of friendship as well as how significant technology is in this day and age to help us stay in touch. I could get sentimental about this and explain how much these college friends mean, but I think it goes without saying that once you found your people, they’re friends for life. (Grateful for y’all!)
2 // The Independence and Time Management you Learned in College won’t go away
Coming home from four years in another state, I realized how much I had grown in my independence and confidence. Growing in these two areas is so helpful for any graduate when finding a job, keeping up with bills, and learning how to time manage with work, social life, etc.
3 // Progress Takes Patience
In contrast from jumping from one class to another in college, the world outside of college is full of slower-paced moments. This means that sometimes finding a job isn’t going to happen with the click of a button. Sometimes the right job takes time to come across. And when you have that job, the entry-level positions may feel like you are underappreciated. In the work world it takes a great deal of hard work and perseverance to prove that you are of value, and really, that’s what employers want to see. This may take time, but in the long run, that patience will pay off. Just keep truckin’ on.
4 // There will be tough times
Truthfully, the months following school, I was a mess on the weekends after the work week was done and I was no longer busy. I would feel lost and alone because working was way different than doing my homework and getting grades for my classes. It’s a whole different mindset to be in the real world, especially when you don’t have housemates or roommates. If this is something you identify with, know you are definitely not alone. There are so many graduates who feel this way.
5 // Don’t judge your success by what you see on social media
Yes, Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are all wonderful ways to stay in touch with friends and classmates. However, when you constantly see pictures of classmates hanging out with their colleagues and you aren’t hanging out with your colleagues, this can be a but deflating to see. Don’t beat yourself up over it. (This was something I did frequently when I wasn’t hanging out with people.) There are so many graduates who are feeling the same way as you. Often, the socializing is so much less than it was in college. You’re not a loser if you aren’t partying or hanging out with people every Friday night. You hold a job, and you also uphold a respectable bed time.
6 // Finances become real
The minute you graduate, for many, is the time to start paying off college loans. This also means that with a paycheck you have the money to pay off bills and student debt. It is so important as you head in to the “real world” that you do maintain a budget and make sure you are paying off those loans. It may be a good idea to plan things in advance so you know what you have coming. Financial Counselors are also hugely beneficial after college. You want to make sure that you’re off to a good start and why not start with a good foot on your finances??
7 // The opportunities that come your way may be different than you expect
When I was planning out my life post-graduation my Junior Year of college, I wasn’t quite expecting to go back to my hometown. As a result, when I first returned I wasn’t the happiest camper about returning home. It felt like I was failing somehow and that I hadn’t really gone very far since high school graduation. (This didn’t help when a bank teller asked me if I had just graduated from high school…) I quickly realized that coming back home wasn’t showing failure, but it showed me just how far I had come and in the end it made me appreciate home with a very different set of eyes. I was surprised to end up back in my hometown but in the end, I am grateful for the opportunities it has allowed me, none of which I could have bet on four years ago. I have been able to travel and live as an adult in the community that I love being a part of.
8 // Less Homework
In a recent conversation with a college friend, we talked about how fortunate we are to not have to worry about late night papers on Sundays, or on missing out on NFL games. (I used to live stream Broncos games on my computer as I did homework in the library every Sunday…so being able to watch Broncos games sans papers is hugely gratifying) Once you finish college, you are no longer bogged down by papers and projects and studying, unless you’re in Grad School and in that case, the homework load is more case-specific so a little bit different. In the end, I’m grateful for Sundays to be able to catch up on sleep, enjoy time with friends and family, and actually being able to sit down and watch a movie or football game.
9 // Dreams may become a lot bigger
Like I said before, when I planned out my life in college I figured I would be doing the same thing all my life. However being in the “real world” has led me to realize truly anything is possible. I have the tools with my college education to succeed with hard work and dedication. There are limitless possibilities to what you can do after school. It may take a little time to realize those dreams, but many of the dreams I have right at the moment I had never even conjured up four years ago. It’s amazing what a short amount of time and experience can do.
So maybe you’re in the same boat. The boat where you’re sailing away from your life at college, still looking back at the shore of your campus. You’re hesitant about the open water because it’s unknown. That big blue ocean awaiting you may be bigger than you ever could have dreamed. It’s filled with ups and downs and pivotal points in time, and in the end, it’s an ocean that is worth it to cross. You’ll grow a great deal as a human if you have the courage to take a peek and see what the world holds. Know you’re not alone in this journey. Yes, college may hold some marvelous memories, but trust me, you have so many more wonderful memories ahead.
I believe in you, you can do this.
And will you succeed? Yes. Yes indeed. Kid you’ll move mountains.