If you’re feeling unprepared for life after college, here are 9 steps you can take to better prepare for post-grad life.
It’s every college freshman’s dream of graduating college.
Looking back at my own college career I couldn’t wait to graduate and I had thoughts like that my first semester of college. However, by my senior year of college I did not feel prepared at all to graduate college!
If you feel the same way, let me tell you–it’s totally normal.
College has been your way of life for the past 4+ years, so it is normal to want to hang onto your routine of going to class, turning in assignments, studying, and taking exams.
However, you’re going to need to take the leap into adulthood eventually, so in this blog post I have laid out 9 steps you should consider taking to prepare for post-grad life.
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9 things college seniors should do to prepare for life after college
1. Get a credit card to start building your credit
If you haven’t already started to build credit, you need to start now rather than later.
But I also understand that getting your first credit card can be scary.
You may think, “can I really handle the responsibility of a credit card?” or “what if I go into credit card debt?”
These fears a totally normal, but you need to take the leap of faith and get a credit card so you can build credit for future big purchases like:
- Renting an apartment
- Buying a home (mortgage loan)
- Buying a car (auto loan)
- Getting a business loan
Not having credit history or a credit score can create a barrier to entry for many of the necessities you need to live a comfortable life post-college graduation.
So I’d highly recommend applying for a credit card sooner rather than later.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to actually put all your expenses on your new credit card.
Instead, try putting a relatively small, but routine purchase on your credit card, like your car’s gas.
Using this strategy, you’ll get comfortable with paying with a credit card and paying your credit card bill on-time. You’ll also keep your credit card utilization low, which is a good thing when it come to building a healthy credit score.
2. Find a post-grad apartment
If you’re currently living in a college dorm, living at home with your parents, or relocating to a new city for work post-grad, then consider apartment hunting before you graduate college.
Not only because apartment hunting is stressful, but also because apartment rates may go up as more and more soon-to-be college graduates start searching for their own apartment.
According to ApartmentList.com, apartment rent prices increase during the spring and summer, which is right when graduation is for high schoolers and most college students.
Personally, I started looking for my first apartment in March and officially signed a lease in April, which was a month before the universities near me started holding their graduation ceremonies.
So if you can, try searching for and securing your next apartment lease prior to college graduation. That way you can get your future apartment for a better price and won’t have to scramble to find a place after graduation.
3. Spruce up your resume
Most likely, if you’re graduating college you’re headed right into the workforce afterwards.
However, you gotta get a job first! But these days, to get the job, you need a stellar resume.
The resume you created in your first-year seminar class probably needs a huge overhaul to be more relevant and to truly reflect your abilities.
I’d recommend writing down in a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet a list of all of your accomplishments, achievements, and jobs you’ve held along with their respective durations or dates.
You can even list relevant bullet points next to each item, so it it will be an easy copy and paste when you are curating your resume for each job you’re applying for.
And if resume creation is not your expertise, then try out a free resume builder online, like Resume.com.
That’s what I used to create my resume for my first job out of college and my graduate school curriculum vitae. It’s such a huge time saver!
4. Apply to jobs
As you start nearing college graduation, applying to jobs will become a part-time job in and of itself.
Unless you’re super lucky and scored an amazing job offer early in your senior year of college–then hooray for you!
But, if you haven’t received your first post-college job offer yet, you need to start making things happen for yourself.
So start hitting up job listings on Indeed.com, LinkedIn, or your university’s own job listing site if they have one.
I personally found my first job after college on Indeed.com, but I seriously wish I could have started applying to jobs sooner.
I applied a month before graduation and I was crunched for time, and honestly took the first job offer I got. Which was not the smartest thing to do!
You want to consider job hunting at the beginning of your senior year of college and then get really serious about it the beginning of your last semester of college.
That should give you enough time to apply to a variety of jobs, do interviews, and start weighing your options before you walk across the stage at graduation.
5. Start an emergency fund
One of the best ways you can prepare for life after college is to start an emergency fund for yourself.
An emergency fund can shield you from any unexpected events that may come your way post-college graduation like:
- Sudden job loss
- Medical emergency
- Car accident
- Apartment flooding
For example, within the first two years of graduating college I experienced a sudden, but temporary job loss due to COVID, I got into a car accident, and my boyfriend and I’s apartment flooded. Without that emergency fund, I would have ended up in some serious financial debt!
So do yourself and your wallet a favor and start setting aside money into an emergency fund.
You can easily, and usually for free, open up a saving account at your current bank for your emergency fund.
Then start putting away a certain amount of money every paycheck, every week, or even every month to start building up your emergency fund.
I personally put away 20% of each paycheck from my part-time job in college as a student assistant to the greek life department.
And even though I wasn’t putting aside a lot of money at first, it was a good habit to get into. Once I started my first job out of college and made more money that I was the able to put more money into my ever-growing emergency fund.
6. Make a plan for paying off your student loans
If you had to take out loans to pay for your college education, you need to start creating a strategy to pay off your student loans.
Luckily, if you took out federal loans, you have until 6-months after graduation to start paying them on a regular-basis, so that gives you a good amount of time to strategize and get your finances in order.
Personally, I have not had to endure loan repayment yet, but here are some resources to help you plan and tackle those pesky student loans:
- Federal Student Loan Repayment Plans from StudentAid.Gov
- Student Loan Repayment Options from NerdWallet.com
- 8 Tips For Paying Off Student Loans Fast from BankRate.com
7. Get into a proper sleep routine
A college student’s sleep schedule is never consistent.
Some nights you may go to bed at 10 PM and others 2 AM.
However, once you’ve graduated college, a proper sleep schedule is a must if you want to feel rejuvenated for your 9-5 job every weekday morning.
If possible, try getting into a proper sleep routine about a month before college graduation.
Set yourself a reasonable bedtime, like 10 PM or 11 PM, and wake-up time, like 6 AM or 7 AM. And “pretend” that you are getting ready for your 9-5 job even if you have a class that’s at 11 AM that day.
This will get your body adjusted to this schedule and will make waking up early in the morning for work easier for you if you’re a habitual night owl.
8. Buy business professional clothes
Whether you’re going to job interviews, career fairs at your university, or preparing for your first job out of college you’ll need a small collection of work appropriate clothes because leggings and a t-shirt just won’t fly anymore.
I’d recommend getting the following pieces for your business professional wardrobe:
- A nice blazer
- A handful of work-appropriate blouses
- 2 work-appropriate dresses
- 2 work-appropriate skirts
- 3 work-appropriate pants
- 2 pairs of appropriate work shoes
- Neutral colored tote bag or purse for work
Some great places to find work clothes are:
9. Make time for friends and family
One of the unfortunate parts of graduating college is saying goodbye to your friends or having to moving away from family for a new job opportunity.
During your senior year of college, you should try to spend time with all of your friends and family you won’t see after college graduation.
And even if you do plan to stay in your college town after graduation, I’d still spend time with friends and family because you may find it difficult to adjust to your new work life.
Related: How To Make Friends In Your 20s
I honestly found it hard to spend time even with my closest college friends because our schedules just didn’t mesh well once I had graduated from college.
Also, after graduation, try to check in with your college friends and family every once and awhile. Even if it is just a simple, “hi, how are you doing,” text.
I’m sure it will brighten their day and it’s always good spending a few minutes via text catching up with one another.
Concluding thoughts on how to prepare for life after college
Transitioning from college to post-grad life can be quite the shocker. I know when I graduated college, I was relieved, but I also felt so lost because I came to the realization that the rest of my life was in my hands and was no longer defined by going to classes, studying, and getting grades.
Hopefully, though, by taking these 9 steps to prepare for life after college, you can feel more secure and confident taking on post-grad life.