Be Safe, Plan Early: 3 Ways to Prepare For Post-Grad Life
College seniors, it’s 2017, and if you’re graduating in the class of 2017, the new year signifies that you’re ridiculously close to being out of college. Do you have a plan for what’s next?
Even if you’re two whole terms away from actually graduating (quarter system students have two terms left, but semester system students have only one), those terms will move more quickly than you can believe. Excitement over senior projects and enrollment in final major classes might distort your perception of time, and you don’t want to be sitting in the bleachers of your commencement ceremony wondering what you’re going to do next week or next month — especially when student loan payments show up, demanding to be paid.
Here are three ways to prepare now for post-graduate life and to save yourself the anxiety of lacking an action plan after college:
1. Start looking for jobs now.
Yes, six months in advance. Lots of employers post open positions months before they know they’re going to need the person to start working, and you want to be one of the people to apply sooner rather than later. Wouldn’t it be great to land a post-college job months before graduation and not need to worry about it in your last few months of college? You could spend those months getting a 4.0, enjoying time with your community and simply enjoying the parts of college that have been meaningful for you.
Once the stress of landing a job is gone, you can truly make the most of your time. It won’t be fun when your friends plan a weekend beach adventure the last week before commencement but you’re stuck in your room sending resumes to eight different employers in hopes of landing something last minute.
Another advantage of starting to look for post-graduation jobs early? You often get more options for positions. In starting the job search early, you will be able to spot postings a day or two after the employer posts them, which means you are more likely to find a position that is more enjoyable and suitable for your skill set than you would be if you were applying for jobs later in the spring when many of the best ones have been filled. This applies to both students moving straight into full-time employment after graduation as well as students looking only for summer jobs to bridge the gap between graduation and graduate school.
2. Figure out how to make money and budget it well.
This is especially important if you’ve relied heavily on financial aid “refunds” to pay rent, utilities and other expenses such as groceries. Since money is one of those essential factors for survival, make sure you know how to transition into making your own money without the safety of financial aid or other financial supports associated with being an undergraduate.
Along these lines, you’ll need to figure out what type of income you need to make with a summer job or career-type job to sustain the living conditions you prefer (how much you need to make to pay a certain amount for rent, buy the kinds of groceries you want or need, etc). Even if you’re not particularly savvy with economics or finances, do your best to make a spreadsheet or some other record that can track, calculate and organize your spending so that you don’t overdraw your account after graduation for lack of funds.
There are probably folks on your college campus who can help you tackle your spending and budgeting for your post-grad lifestyle (try a financial aid office adviser or a career center specialist — or, post on Facebook to see if any friends have discovered user-friendly budgeting programs or applications). Ask for help if you need it!
3. Come up with a timeline for graduate school admissions acceptances (if you’re grad school-bound) and plan how you’ll choose a school.
If you’ve applied to multiple schools (which you should — grad school is competitive much more so than undergraduate school), find out which months you’ll receive an admissions decision and plan out how you’ll make your decision. Maybe you’ve got one or two dream schools that you’ll accept no matter what, or maybe your decision is based on location or financial cost. The more effort you put into a plan for making your grad school decision, the happier you’ll probably be with your choice after the fact. You wouldn’t want to accept an offer without considering the different factors that contribute to your happiness at a given school.
Think about the process you went through to choose your undergraduate school, and adjust that process for your graduate school options. Maybe your values have shifted, or maybe they’re exactly the same. Maybe you don’t want to attend a university that doesn’t have a top-ranked program for your field, or maybe location is your top deal-breaker (some folks can’t imagine going to school somewhere in the middle of the country where they can’t access a beach for some de-stressing!)
Creating a timeline and planning ahead for your acceptance process is key to making a solid choice for grad school.
You’ve got time, seniors, but you’ve also got competing interests in these last few months of college. Six months is not a long time. Make sure to set yourself up for security by being prepared in as many ways as possible.