After 4 years of endless exams, reading lists that make you want to hibernate for the rest of your life and far too much caffeine in your system, college graduation is the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite all those times you wanted to run home to your mom and dad, you’ve pulled through and made it to the finish line. Honestly—and I can vouch for this because I graduated college nearly 1 year ago today—there’s no better feeling in the life of a twenty-something. Of all the magnificent moments you’ll experience in life, this is a special one that you need to reward yourself for.
Of course, while college graduation is a celebration, it is also the defining moment where you must part ways with your life as a carefree student and say hello to adulthood. It’s important to note that our professors certainly didn’t prepare us for this one (adulting 101, anyone?), but truthfully, that’s actually kind of wonderful.
For those of you who are convinced you need to have your life together 100% the second you receive that diploma, I’d like for you to take a second look. Although college graduation signals a great period of change, as a seasoned college grad, I can tell you confidently that things almost never turn out the way we planned, and truth be told, that’s a blessing in disguise.
In the spirit of grad season, here are the top 5 things I wish I had known when I graduated college:
1. Ease up on the pressure
If you’re an overachiever like I am, you are pressuring yourself to land a big time job with a 401K immediately. While there’s nothing wrong with having goals, it’s important to narrow down which path is right for you and move methodically in that direction. Some say college is a time of self-discovery, but in my experience it’s just the beginning! For that reason, if you can, give yourself time to rediscover what life is like outside of exams and essays. You might be surprised at what you find.
2. The pathway to your dream job isn’t what you expect
In college, it’s so easy to say things like, “I want to work in a publishing firm in New York after I graduate.” While having such aspirations is amazing, as graduation passes you by, such dreams might begin to feel a little out of reach. The reason for that is because big dreams require a lot of work, time and patience. In order to land the job of your wildest dreams, you’re going to need experience that extends far beyond your role at the student newspaper. So if it’s a big city like New York that’s your goal, work towards it and start small. Don’t view accepting a similar position in a tiny town as settling. You need experience to get your dream job. And you need experience to find out what that ideal dream job is. All experience is good experience.
3. Feeling lost is perfectly okay
Whether you have set goals or not, I can promise you, you’re going to feel lost a lot of the time. And you know what? That is actually an amazing thing. At such a young age, you’re not necessarily supposed to have everything figured out. In my opinion, some of the best things happen when we’re least expecting them to. So, seek out opportunities and go whichever way the wind takes you; life is full of surprises and you should take them as they come.
4. Passions change
No matter what you studied in college, there’s a high possibility you might find something else piquing your interest along the way. For some of us, this means changing our career path drastically, but that’s actually a remarkable thing. If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that that degree you’re about to get framed doesn’t define who you are. Don’t let your studies limit you, but use them to grow instead. Really, the sky is the limit.
5. Be thankful for rejection
When I remember the radio silence I heard after applying to about 37 fashion jobs in NYC straight out of college, believe it or not, I actually don’t feel bad. Rather, I think of my current position and all the little things I’ve learned about myself in the past year. It’s crucial not to take rejection personally, but to use it as fuel for personal and professional growth. Little do all those NYC companies know, but their dismissal of me has only made me more driven and more prepared for the future.
As there’s no roadmap to navigating life after college, the best advice I can give you is to stay true to yourself and try not to overthink things. While these 5 tips are really only the beginning, here’s to hoping that they save you a few existential crises and help you realize the beauty that comes with truly growing up.