You did it! You can finally add graduating from college to your list of accomplishments. You’ve sat through the graduation speeches, turned your tassel, and tossed your cap in the air. Now what?
Here are some of the realities that come along with graduating from undergrad.
1. College friendships will take twice the effort to maintain
Everyone has those interactions weeks before the end of the semester that go something like this: “Let’s keep in touch!” “Let’s hang out this summer!”
Depending on where you plan to live after graduating from college, this may or may not end up being the case. If you end up going home — which many college students tend to do a least for a few months — it’s most likely not going to happen.
Thankfully, the powers that be — aka your phone — will lessen the blow of very little physical contact.
Amicable relationships that you’ve had with college roommates and classmates are important to keep. They’ve seen you at your best and your worst. They’ve been there during that 24 hour study session and that 3 am pizza run. Plus, you never know when a college friendship could end up landing you a job down the line.
So set up a group chat or send monthly emails. It might not be as easy as walking down the hallway and knocking on a door, but maintaining college friendships is possible (and worth it!) with just a little extra effort.
2. College is NOT the real world.
Obviously, this goes without saying. But it should be said anyway.
This is particularly the case when you’ve lived on or near campus for all four years. It’s especially the case when you’ve roomed with friends.
Oftentimes, high school seniors preparing to graduate and move on to a higher level of education are warned that college is not going to be anything like high school. The same can be said about transitioning from college into the “real world.” But while the transition to a new schedule, new challenges, and new environment may be difficult after graduating, there are still many resources and safety nets that college students have at their fingertips.
For example, prior to graduation college students can take advantage of services available on campus. Your professors can be great resources since they’ve literally been where you are and made it through to the other side. Utilize office hours to pick their brain about how they got to where they are today. And don’t forget about your university’s career services, which generally provide students with advising, resume writing services, and career aptitude tests.
Once you’ve graduated from college you’ll have to go a bit more out of your way to get the help you need — but it is available for those willing to look for it. For instance, reach out to your current network via email or phone call. This includes friends, family members, and (if you didn’t speak to them before) past professors. You may also want to look into temping agencies if you’re having trouble finding work.
3. You have to make decisions on your own.
This could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Although you have freedom in what you study in college — especially as you move up in the ranks and complete your general education requirements — there is still a general structure that you’ve had to adhere to. You probably had to take certain kinds of classes to fulfill your major, and a guidance counselor was there to steer you in the right direction.
Now you need to figure out your direction on your own.
If you’ve yet to decide what you want to do following college graduation, you may find yourself asking where you want to live, what makes you happy, and whether or not you want to continue on to graduate school. Suddenly, in a sense, you have a chance to “start over.”
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. This can be a very exciting time if you approach it with the right attitude. You’re about to embark on a whole new adventure — embrace the uncertainty and don’t get discouraged!
4. Your framed degree isn’t going to do anything by itself.
You may think you’re hot stuff after you’ve mounted your diploma on the wall and framed the pictures of you receiving it. But it doesn’t mean much if you don’t do something with it.
Eventually, you will have to make that diploma talk. Many people have bachelor’s degrees; it is up to you to decide how you use yours to your own advantage after graduating.
Sharing your own personal experiences with future employers or advisers is what will make you stand out, especially if you explain specific skills you’ve picked up from specific courses. (Or how studying abroad made you the perfect job candidate.)
5. It was all worth it (hopefully).
Unless you’ve managed to get lucky with scholarships, stern emails from loan officers will be replacing those congratulatory cards and pat-on-the-backs that you’ve been receiving for a job well done.
Don’t worry — panic is a natural reaction. But before you stress about paying off student debt or start kicking yourself for going to your dream school, remember that there’s a reason you did.
In a literal sense, college is usually worth it: studies show that on average, people with college degrees earn approximately $800,000 more than their high school diploma counterparts over the course of a lifetime.
On a more personally fulfilling level, the relationships you made and the things you learned in undergrad most likely taught you skills that you may not even be aware of, like how to deal with particular social situations or how to address real life problems.
Whether you are graduating from college with a degree in the fine arts or a degree in computer science, you can bet that you’ve become a more well-rounded person because of it.