Over the course of the past few weeks, you’ve likely either graduated from college or know someone who walked across the stage. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers estimates that over 1.8 million college students will graduate in 2015. Depending on their given life situation, most are likely walking off the graduation stage into a completely new life stage.
Sadly, it has been more than a few years since I received that high-priced piece of paper. Being human, I made my fair share of mistakes when I was first out of school. Most of them seemed life altering at the time though few of them actually were. If you or someone you know recently graduated, hopefully, you can glean some wisdom from my past mistakes.
Don’t Put off the Student Loans
Student loans are the 800-pound gorilla for most graduates. With student loan numbers eclipsing $1 trillion it is quite likely going to be something on your mind for some time to come.
Take those student loans seriously. If you have a good interest rate, that’s great but please don’t put them off. Set up a plan for repaying them and try not to let yourself get comfortable with student loan debt.
Depending on your specific situation, you might be offered options like loan forbearance or deferment. Do all you can to avoid taking either of those options. The simple reason is putting off the loans, especially if they’re unsubsidized, will cause more interest to accrue, causing you to pay more over the life of the loans. Having taken the deferment route myself, I still wish I could have that extra money back.
Being a new college graduate, you have a variety of things on your side. Key among those is your age. This is the time to take risk. While seemingly flying in the face of being “responsible” you are poised now to take risk like no other time in your life. Take advantage of that opportunity.
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This isn’t to mean that all risks are equal or that every risk should be taken, but you never know where opportunity will present itself. If it turns out to be a failure after a year or so, guess what – you still have your entire life ahead of you. Not only will you learn from taking risks, you might find a passion worth pursuing for the rest of your life.
Take Money Seriously
Once you get your first job out of college, you’ll likely be making more than you ever have before. That’s a great problem to have, but make sure to take it seriously. You’ll be tempted to buy things you’ve always wanted, and it’s okay to indulge yourself a little bit (emphasis on little).
However, you want to make your money work for you. Beyond starting a budget, you’ll also want to do things like:
- Save for retirement
- Pay off consumer debt
- Start a small emergency fund
- Spend less on everyday expenses
A few of these things might take a little time to master – and that’s fine. The point is to actively find ways to keep more money in your wallet as opposed to going out so someone or something else.
Networking is a Two-Way Street
Networking is a must when you enter the professional world, probably even more so today with how prominent of a role social media plays. Business is personal on many levels thus you want to take advantage of things like informational interviews and alumni groups to find opportunity.
However, remember that networking is a two-way street. You, of course, want to find ways to advance yourself, but you also want to remember that it’s not always about us. If you find ways you can give back or help someone else out, do it – even if you get nothing out of it at the moment. After all, you never know when someone else might be able to help you in the future.
Graduating from college is a great accomplishment and one to be proud of. You will likely make mistakes as you start out and that’s fine. Just make sure to use them as learning opportunities for the future.