Graduating from college is one of the most momentous occasions of your life, but it can also feel surreal and scary. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself in the real world where it’s entirely up to you to decide what to do with your life. Let’s face it, “adulting” can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to trigger an existential crisis.
From developing a monthly budget to learning how to set personal goals, here are five ways to help you master your transition from undergrad to life after college.
1. How to Accept Your New Normal
Leaving the university scene can feel like you just took the training wheels off your bike. Adjusting to life after college can be intense. But among the inevitable ups and downs of navigating your new normal, a healthy routine can help keep you grounded. Adopt a quality sleep schedule and exercise regularly. And don’t forget about your diet! Frozen chicken nuggets might be easy to whip up, but they typically offer very little nutritional value.
Finally, and this is the part no one tells you about, your 20s are not as glamorous as they are portrayed to be. As you trade your skinny jeans for sweatpants on a Saturday night, you might wonder if you’re the one out there feeling lonely — you’re not. The truth is, leaving college also means leaving your friends, the social scene, and the sense of community that comes with attending a sold-out basketball game. It’s a big change, but it can be a positive one. Embrace this time alone to learn about yourself and to establish your new identity as an adult. If you’re feeling lost, don’t panic. It’s perfectly normal, and it won’t last forever.
2. How to Dress Professionally
The most popular post-college goal is to start your professional career. While hoodies may have once taken over your entire wardrobe, they won’t work for a job interview. You’ve probably been told to scrub your social media feeds to ensure they represent you in a positive light. Consider doing the same with your closet. This doesn’t mean you have to start purging, but slowly adding professional pieces to your wardrobe will help you make a solid first impression with potential employers. Remember, networking is key to finding your first job after college, and you want to look the part.
3. How to Manage Your Money
Understanding your money is critical to future financial success and learning how to budget is the first step. Aside from ensuring you have enough money to cover the grocery bill, a budget helps you:
- Track your spending habits. Find areas you can cut back on and save.
- Save for an emergency. You never know when you could use the extra money. You might even have a “can’t pass it up but can’t drain your savings account” opportunity. Either way, it’s always good to expect (and be prepared for) the unexpected.
- Develop long-term goals. Set yourself up for success early. Whether you’re looking to eventually buy a home or start your own business, planning, budgeting, and understanding your money is key.
To create a realistic budget, start by calculating your monthly income. Then factor in your expenses by allocating money toward essential spending categories — rent or mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, transportation, and any other bills. Any remaining money could be saved for your financial goals, including a savings account or a vacation fund. Revisit your budget regularly as your finances change.
4. How to Repay Student Loans
Like many students, you might have used loans to finance your education. Now it’s time to start thinking about repaying them. Though the current federal student loan freeze has been extended until May 2022, it’s never too early to start planning. Set yourself up with an affordable repayment plan to protect yourself from missing any payments and defaulting on your loans.
Once you’ve secured gainful employment, factor your student loan payment into your budget. Take the time to educate yourself on all your student loan repayment options or consider speaking with a student loan counselor to find what works best for you. If it’s financially feasible, consider paying over the minimum monthly amount on your loan to help shorten the loan’s lifespan.
5. How to Move Smart
If you lived off-campus during college, you might’ve already developed an idea of what it takes to live on your own. But for many new graduates, uprooting your household or dorm room and moving to a new city or state is a novel process. Moving is notoriously overwhelming and can be expensive, so you’ll want to move smart. Here are some quick ways to take the stress out of moving:
- Be thrifty. You’ll be surprised how much stuff you’ll need when you’re living on your own, and your biggest expense will be furniture. While you’re just getting started, you might consider buying high-quality, second-hand furnishing from CORT Furniture Outlet for your first place. Our gently-used furniture and decor is up to 70% off original retail prices and thoroughly and professionally cleaned, maintained, and inspected so you’ll feel confident you’re receiving clean and quality furnishings without burning a hole through your wallet. If you need your items ASAP? Shop our collection of new and gently used furniture, decor, and rugs online or in-store today and enjoy same-day pickup.
- Purge your stuff. Why move stuff you no longer need or want? Declutter your space. You’ll thank yourself later!
- Label and color code. Staying organized while packing is the most effective way to avoid a headache while unpacking.
Starting out on your own is exciting! Just remember that your 20-somethings are a bit of an experiment, so don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way. Be patient with yourself as you enter the real world, but also take the time to prepare for your transition from campus to life beyond college.