More than 1.5 million students will graduate college this year, entering a world of uncertainty and excitement.
To the class of 2014, you’ve probably been given tons of advice from much older people, but those of use who most recently graduated before you know that some of that advice may not be very helpful in the short-term future.
So I’ve asked 13 college graduates from the class of 2013 to share a few words of wisdom that they think will be helpful during your first year of post-grad life.
1. Do what you want to do
“Graduation is a scary thing because you’re removing a system that’s been in place since before you could read and write. First, real life is nebulous. It’s easy to get sucked into a daily non-committal routine of sleeping until noon, going on the computer, watching television and going to bed. And maybe you’ll want to do that for awhile, but it will get old. And eventually you’ll get depressed, feeling like you’re going nowhere.
The biggest thing you should do is hold yourself to a schedule that is both demanding and rewarding mentally, physically and spiritually. Do some yoga in the morning. Take up ballet. If you’re an artist, make your work–audition–network–basically, in order to feel like those years in college were good for something, do the thing you WANT TO DO. And don’t just think about doing it. DO it. That will ultimately lead you to working towards a goal and give your life some sense of structure again.”
– Mike, 2013 graduate of New York University with a bachelor’s in acting and dramatic literature. Currently an actor pursuing a MFA in acting from Columbia University.
2. Take risks
“Consider opportunities for yourself that are a little outside of your comfort zone. It’s risks that make life worthwhile and fun. If it doesn’t work out for you it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You have plenty of time to reinvent yourself again. I’ve found that it isn’t until you stretch your capabilities that you truly find out what you’re made of. Nothing is ever permanent, so shake things up while you can and take a chance with your future.”
-Ellen, 2013 graduate of the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s in history. Currently a kindergarten teacher with Teach for America.
3. Keep your own happiness in check
“Always have something constant in your life that keeps you happy and grounded. When you’re moving back home and doing job searches, your life is going to feel like complete chaos and you will hit some lows. It’s important to have something constructive to do to keep you away from that negativity.
For me, writing always helps. Whether it’s journaling, fan fiction or my own prose, I always have something in the works. Find out what your own post-grad sanity saver is.”
-Stephanie, 2013 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. Currently an administrative assistant at an education company.
4. Don’t just take any internship or job
“When I graduated, I had 10 internships under my belt. If you haven’t already, do as many paid or unpaid internships as you possibly can because classroom experience is not enough. Also, be strategic in the type of internships you are applying for. You don’t want to waste your time not gaining skills and experience. Don’t be too eager and accept anything. Be smart and don’t get taken advantage of.”
-Brittany, 2013 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s in mass communications. Currently a communications associate at the ACLU of Maryland.
5. Your first job is not your last job
“Whatever job you get after college (if you’re lucky to get one) just remember that it will not be your job forever. Sometimes I look at my life and I ask myself, “What the hell am I doing selling cell phones and accessories?” But then I remind myself that I won’t be doing it for the rest of my life.
When things start to look down remind yourself that you’re strong and intelligent and you can handle whatever life throws at you. Also, God created alcohol for a reason, trust me when I say that five shots of anything will make life seem better.”
-Monet, 2013 graduate of George Mason University with a bachelor’s in communications. Currently a board operator for ESPN Radio and a Verizon Wireless sales representative.
6. You can sleep when you are dead
“If you are like me, you always wanted to strike that perfect balance between classes, partying and work, and that is very hard when you’re in school and even harder after graduation! It is important to figure out how to get yourself out of the mindset that you are tired on a Friday night when your friends ask to go out.
If it’s a quick power-nap after work, or a really great playlist, you have to ensure that the sweatpants don’t go on every night after work in order to still have some of the fun you had in college! Plus, you have a disposable income that lends itself to a new going-out wardrobe, so take advantage of it!”
-Rachel, 2013 graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University—Madison with a bachelor’s in secondary history education. Currently a seventh grade teacher.
7. Don’t underestimate the power of brevity
“Never stop trying to improve your skills; you can always be better.”
-Dan, 2013 graduate of the University of Maryland. Currently a graduate student.
8. Actually plan your future
“Begin with the end in mind. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? After you envision this, go full steam ahead into your destiny. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because they will happen, but ultimately there is no better teacher than life, and experiences !
-Karen, 2013 graduate of Hampton University with a bachelor’s in psychology. Currently a graduate student at Towson University studying counseling psychology.
9. Step outside your comfort zone
“Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when applying to jobs. Positions that may seem intimidating or daunting at first, tend to be great experience. I worked for a while in Baltimore City with underserved women, that experience taught me valuable lessons about life and confirmed my passion for the field of clinical psychology.”
-Jillian, 2013 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s in psychology. Currently a graduate student studying psychology.
10. Don’t take life for granted
“It’s easy to get caught up in the motions of life and school, but whatever you do, savor it. Savor every memory and live in the moment.”
-Brandy, 2013 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s in communications. Currently a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
11. Just show up
“Both the job market and graduate school are definitely foreboding prospects, but there is a fairly simple piece of advice that I can offer. Just show up. Whether meeting a potential employer or talking to a financial aid officer, just assigning a face to a name will always put you ahead of someone who merely sends an email with a resume attached.
As an example, I was definitely surprised with how successful I was when I went to go meet with a financial aid officer face to face, and was able to substantially improve my award for law school.”
-Ben, 2013 graduate of The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s in international relations. Currently a law student at the Syracuse University College of Law.
12. Don’t feel insecure about your living situation
“Don’t be embarrassed to move back home. I am saving so much money and it’s unsettling to see how many of my coworkers are struggling to make ends meet.”
-Rachel, 2013 graduate of the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s in English. Currently a middle school teacher.
13. Take charge of your life
“Things change and it that is perfectly alright. Many of you may not know what you want to do after undergrad, and despite pressure from family and friends, you must do what is best for you, because it is your life and not theirs.
Doubt may set in; you may lose friends and love may come and go, but know that you are here for a purpose and never lose sight of that — even when all things seem lost. You have conquered your undergrad and now it is time for you to conquer the world. Never give up hope! Much love to you and your future endeavors.”
-Jaimee, 2013 graduate of Temple University with a bachelor’s in communications. Currently a graduate student at Howard University.
BONUS from a 2012 graduate:
Be patience, yet persistent
“So the moment is finally here. The long nights, and early mornings have finally paid off…yes! Graduation day has arrived! First and foremost Congratulations. I know the road has not been easy, but you made it and you should be damn proud of yourself! Take heed in this moment and truly embrace it. That moment when you walk across that stage, receive your diploma and move your college tassel from your right to left…you are officially done.
Please know that the road after college will not be easy, but you will be just fine. Filling out job applications will be tiring, repetitive, and unfortunately you will probably get a hundred no’s before you get a yes. So the best advice I can give you is to be patient, be ready for some disappointments, and know your worth. You didn’t go to school for four plus years for nothing. Congratulations again!”
-Ashley, 2012 graduate of Towson University with a bachelor’s in mass communications. Currently a news assistant at CNN.