There is no generation in history as highly educated as millennials 1. College seniors have a lot on their plate these days and financial advice for college, post college, is more necessary now than ever. There is a lot of expectations on what life will be like after the schooling ends. Few years ago, I had no real concept of what life after university would be like. I just imagined myself with a career right off the bat. All I envisioned was a nice office space downtown, next to Panera Bread, making at least $70K a year.
After all, I had done everything right.
My grades were stellar, all my professors liked me, and I even volunteered during my summers off at local non-profits. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way, not without quite a bit of struggling at first.
This is a list of free financial advice for college seniors that I wish I could go back in time to tell myself.
1) The Job Hunt Starts Now. NOW!
Competition for new graduates is insane around the spring & summer months. Separate yourself from the pack and get your feet wet when the rest of your peers are choosing graduation gowns. I graduated earlier than most of my peers so I technically gave myself a 6 month head start which helped me land a temp position that helped transition my resume from ‘student media assistant‘ to ‘company media assistant.’ Give yourself the benefit of time and start job hunting early.
2) Take Advantage of Your University’s Career Center.
Most universities have career placement departments and it is strongly advised that you make it your first stop. I hesitated to use the career center except to proofread my resume and cover letter when in reality, it was a one stop shop. They had internships, career workshops, contact information of local businesses. I really wish I had taken advantage of the career center more than I did. My advice is to stalk the career center webpage and keep in good contact with them after graduation as well.
3) Know The Balance Of All Your Loans.
Foolishly, I had taken ill advice from a studio art major who dismissively said “ugh, why worry about it now. I’ll know after graduation and deal with it then.” Good Golly Miss Molly, that is horrendous advice. Not only do most college students not know the total amount of their student debt but they also lacks a clear game plan besides ‘getting a job and hoping it works out.’ I did not know how much I owed as an undergrad. Thinking back, I wish someone told me what I am telling you guys now – get serious and find out so you can face your obligations.
4) Have A Game Plan On Repayment / Consult With Your Parents Living Options
Majority of college students do not have a budget. I wish I told myself to make even a quick spreadsheet budget of my expenses, credit card usage, and of course – my student loan debt so when I graduate I can track my financial health. How much rent should I be able to afford? Should I just move back with my parents? Keep all lines of communication open and your eyes open too. After all, your life just started…
5) Life On Easy Street Is Just A Graduation Away.
No more papers and no more 3 hour labs on Tuesdays! Good riddance to school, I am a free woman! Wrong. I made just enough to feed myself. Not to mention, 6 months after graduating I received a delightful letter from my servicers addressing the $20,000 debt I acquired at a 5% interest rate.
6) Putting Off Letters Of Reference & Other Responsibilities.
Putting off responsibilities is so easy to do when the finish line is in sight. In no time at all, you will be out of the ivory tower. Keep in contact with your professors, take advantage of job fairs, study for the GREs. Make sure your grades do not drop far enough because you still need those credits honey. It’s not over until it’s over.
7) Splurging For A Trip Or A Car.
If you have a great job lined up after graduation and finances in order – awesome! Go for broke and splurge a bit with your new-found freedom. But the truth is, most graduates do not the financial backing for a vacation. The concept of celebrating “end of college” should be replaced with “focus on not screwing up your adulthood.” It is difficult to start your independence on a negative balance sheet so reframe from splurging.
8) No Major Changes Should Be Made Regarding Your Hair, Appearance, etc.
This might be a personal one but a cautious tale worth repeating. I had just wrapped up a disastrous relationship and wanted to change my hair (per tradition, after a break up I like to cut my hair.) I was pushed to do something even crazier with my hair because I was going to graduate soon! Time to celebrate! So…Y.O.L.O right?
Awful idea. I tried to bleach & dye my hair “Tumblr Pink” (you know what I’m talking about.) Anyways, I had dyed my hair with permanent black dye the year earlier and you cannot lift permanent hair dye. This resulted in fried orange hair and several expensive trips to the salon to correct my mistake. In the end I had my pink hair and it was c-u-t-e…but then came maintenance…and the brokeness of adulthood.
I was back to black by the end of the year 🙂
Want to expand on this list? What do you wish you could tell yourself before graduating?