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Not Prepared for Life After College? Here Are 6 Tips to Help You Figure Your Sh*t Out

Anxious about graduating? We got you covered!

Credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

For many people, life during college has been a series of waking up, attending classes, completing assignments, and then starting it all over again. It was the best and worst times of our lives. However, it had structure and purpose. Everyone older would say, “Go to school and get an education. More doors will open for you.”

Then once you’ve completed that final exam and you’re waiting for your name to be called to walk the stage, you think I finally did it. This is true. Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment, and your whole life has been dedicated to it. However, no one mentioned that school is only a quarter of one’s life, and that also means there’s more freedom waiting ahead. As Toni Morrison once wrote:

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

Toni Morrison (Beloved)

It’s an unsettling transition from having a set routine every day to not knowing what to do with the rest of your life. So, here are some useful tips to help navigate life after college. 

An image of someone using social media on their phone with 'comments,' 'likes,' and 'friends' in three separate small dialogue bubbles.
Social media highlights the good parts of other people’s lives which leads to insecurity. Credit: Shuttershock/Sondem

1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This piece of advice is definitely easier to say than to put into action. However, it’s important for recent graduates who need help finding their footing in the chaos we call life. With quick and easy access to social media, we can be very susceptible to falling for a certain algorithm. Seeing young people landing internships, traveling the world, and starting families can be discouraging for someone who just graduated and moved back home with their family. 

Negative thoughts begin to hinder the mind with: Why do I feel like I haven’t progressed? Why are they accomplishing the things I want to do? It’s a horrible rabbit hole to get sucked into. Remembering that everything happens in its own time and that life is not a race can help with the process. 

It’s better to look at other people’s lives as an inspiration instead of competition. Let that be your motivation, and think of it as a do-over. A rebirth and death at once. You’re trading your old life for a new one. It’s generally all about having the right mindset not to compare your worth or your status to others. Especially people on the internet who do not know you and you don’t know them. 

Four stacks of coins going from smallest to largest and a person's hand adding a coin to the largest stack.
Money can come in small amounts after college but don’t let that discourage you. Credit: Shutterstock/Singkham

2. Be Realistic with Your Financial Stability

Realistically, the majority of people won’t be doctors, lawyers, actors, or teachers as soon as they graduate from a four-year university. And sometimes, you’ll get a degree in engineering, but somewhere down the line, you’ll realize you want to be a realtor or a chef. However, as a 20-something-year-old, you might have to settle for something that isn’t in line with your dream job. 

Sometimes, it’s waitressing, a part-time office position, or a summer counselor, and I want to emphasize that it’s okay. If you have your sights set on a different career goal, it doesn’t take away from what your occupation is now. Everything is a learning curve while you’re navigating your life after college, and who knows, maybe being at the right place at the right time can lead to bigger and better things as long as you continue to pursue your passions and trust yourself that you are capable of greatness.

Plain, small figurines placed in a horizontal row with a hand pushing one figurine outside of the row.
Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Credit: Shutterstock/Monster Ztudio

3. Try to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Coming out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to experience new things is a great way to find yourself after college. Trying out new hobbies, networking and meeting new people, and getting comfortable with doing things on your own will open your mind to new possibilities. 

So, try out that new dance class, pick up a new book, learn to play an instrument, and keep your mind stimulated because as you change and evolve, your dreams may change, or you may learn something new about yourself that sets the path for your future. Make sure you aren’t closing yourself off to new opportunities just because you’re afraid of change. 

A black and white image of two hands trying to grab each other's from opposite ends.
It’s easier to have a helping hand than doing it on your own. Credit: Shutterstock/KieferPix

4. Don’t Be Scared to Ask for Help from People you Trust

It’s okay and normal to struggle after college. Surrounding yourself with supportive people who will help you can be very reassuring in figuring out how you want to live your life. Maybe receiving that support is from your best friend, a parent, a cousin, or a therapist. Whomever it may be, it’s helpful not to let your pride or the fear of embarrassment get in the way of receiving help in order for you to grow. 

You never know what hurdles you’ll have to bypass, but it’s better to have a person or a niche of people to help you along the way. This is a good foundation to have because it is easier to navigate life after college when you’re not experiencing it alone.

Six women who are the same person are in a single file line and each woman is dressed in a different career uniform. Starting from the left, the woman is dressed as a student, then the same women is dressed as a musician. The next is dressed as a waitress. The fourth woman is dressed as a construction worker, then the fifth woman is dressed as a businesswoman, and then the last woman is dressed as some sort of authority figure.
Change is good. Change is okay. It is natural. Credit: Shuttershock/Ollyy

5. You’re Free to Change Your Future Path However You Like and at Your Own Will

Many college students already have a game plan for when they graduate college. Land an internship with their dream company. Become a permanent employee and climb the corporate ladder to success. However, that’s not always the case. Coming from a recent Cal State Long Beach graduate, Lauren Lee, who received a B.A. in Arts, has decided that maybe being an artist isn’t exactly what she had planned. She states that:

“I don’t really know what I’m doing but I think I want to try to accomplish something in acting instead. I wish I majored in theatre.” 

Lauren Lee

So many people go to school for one thing and end up pursuing something that’s completely different. As you continue to live and experience what life has to offer, plans and dreams begin to change. One of the scariest things about change is that change can be terrifying when you doubt yourself. Not knowing if this is the right path for you, but trusting yourself is a big part of the process. 

Lauren was skeptical of pursuing a career that’s highly competitive and close-gated, but in order to truly be happy with the choices you make, you need to be comfortable with allowing yourself to grow and change for the better. And learning never stops. If you want to go back to school, go back. If you want to quit your 9 to 5 and pursue becoming a doctor, go for it. If you have always wanted to write a novel, become the next best-selling author. Don’t get in your own way. 

This image has a turquoise background with two cupped hands on the far-right side of the picture holding a turquoise smiley face.
As cliche as it sounds, try to stay positive. Credit: Shutterstock/LAONG

6. Stay Positive

Now, I know how this sounds. It’s very unrealistic to stay positive throughout life’s ups and downs. Trust me; life can make you pessimistic. But a common pattern in all of this is that positivity is what you need to surround yourself with. It’s the foundation to change, motivation, inspiration, and passion. So, as difficult as it can be, it’s essential to practice it.

In conclusion, life after college isn’t easy. It can cause a lot of worries for graduate students who feel clueless. However, it can be less anxiety-inducing if looked at from a different perspective. Allow yourself to explore and try out dozens of different things. Fail and learn because that’s the way you’ll be able to find success.

Conclusion

In conclusion, life after college isn’t easy. However, it’s important to remember that you are in charge of your own future. So, don’t be afraid to fail and learn as much as you can because that is the key to success. Let your lifetime of summer breaks begin.

Written By

Hello! I'm Teylor and when I'm not reading and writing, I can be found somewhere in nature, dancing in the studio, doing arts & craft, binging my favorite TV series (New Girl or Game of Thrones), or spending time with family and friends. Did I mention I love thrifting?

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