Summer is rolling in, and as it arrives, millions of college students across the country will kiss their academic careers goodbye. The transition from college to real adulthood is an exciting one, but it also brings its fair share of fears and uncertainty.
As a semi-recent college graduate who has spent hours listening to the fears, hopes, regrets, and joys of fellow grads, I have a few tips for those departing college this spring. Here are ten of the most vital pieces of advice I would impart to any young adult.
1. Open an IRA account or start contributing to a 401K. This is something you don't hear much about in college, unless perhaps you're a business student. Starting to save for your retirement when you're in your twenties is an incredibly smart move, but unfortunately, the majority of people under the age of thirty are putting little to nothing away for their future. Contribute as much as you can, even if that's only $20 a month. Compound interest is a beautiful thing, and you'll thank yourself later for being so proactive. If you don't know much about saving for retirement or opening an IRA or 401K, check out NerdWallet's helpful resources.
2. Travel while you still can. This one is tricky; you're at a point in your life where your funds are low but your schedule is pretty open. As you progress further into adulthood, you'll find that traveling becomes more and more difficult due to various commitments (your job, spouse, future family, etc.). Embrace this period of freedom by road tripping or flying to as many places as you can. You'll be glad you did when you look back on your twenties later on in life. Even small trips to nearby locations are worth planning right now.
3. Network as much as possible. Pretty much anyone in the business world will tell you that opportunities come from who you know. You can apply to hundreds of jobs online or in-person, but if you don't have solid connections, landing a great gig after graduating will be difficult. Use your early twenties as a time to foster relationships and establish a place for yourself in your career field. Those connections will take you further than any amount of job hunting on Indeed will.
4. Make sure you understand your student loans (and start paying them). Even if the thought of looking at your debt makes you queasy, this is an incredibly important post-grad step. Take a long, hard look at your loans and figure out what your monthly payments will be, how long it will take you to pay off your debt, and if you can refinance any of the loans. Remember that paying your loans off isn't an option; if you decide to ignore them, they'll come back to haunt you eventually.
5. Educate yourself about "adult" things like insurance and taxes. This is no fun, I know, but it's another essential part of leaving the academic world and becoming an independent person. Ask your parents to sit down with you and explain how scary things like deductibles and tax fraud work. The more you know, the less intimidating living on your own will seem.
6. Find a side hustle you actually enjoy. Stop for a minute and think about what you're good at. Are you excellent with grammar? Think about picking up some editing jobs on a freelance website. Do you love spending time with furry pups? Start walking dogs on Saturday mornings. These might not seem like the prestigious jobs you hoped to land after graduating, but by adopting a side hustle, you'll easily reel in a few extra hundred dollars each month. That can go a long way towards chipping away at your student debt or helping you furnish your first apartment.
7. Remind yourself to keep in touch with old friends. No matter how close you were during college, graduating can cause the best of friends to grow apart. Everyone scatters to the wind to pursue different careers or schooling, which makes keeping in touch challenging. That's why you need to make weekly or monthly catch-up sessions a priority. Don't let those important relationships get dusty, no matter how busy or far apart you may be.
8. Find ways to boost your happiness and encourage your passion. In college, you were probably a member of various clubs and extracurricular organizations. You had parties to go to, friends to hang out with, and a consistently packed social schedule. That might change once you graduate. To prevent yourself from feeling bored or unmotivated, find new ways to pump yourself up. Adopt an interesting hobby or join a new club wherever you move.
9. Learn how to live on a reasonable budget. Again, this isn't fun, but it's necessary. Use an app like Mint to figure out how much you make each month, how much your living expenses are, and what kind of money you have leftover to spend after covering the basics. Long gone are the days of eating at the school cafeteria and using your extra cash to hit the movies twice a week. This is the time to save and really learn about your spending habits. Plus, you'll need to learn how to start saving for big goals, like booking future trips or buying your first house.
10. Accept that everyone you know will take different routes. Because this is a transitional period for any young adult, you and your friends will most likely wind up at very different stages in like. Some will have full-time jobs while others won't. Some will get married and start having children while others continue living like they did in college. The sooner you can accept that everyone will land on different pages, the easier maintaining various friendships will be.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young college grads? Leave suggestions in the comments below!