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Chapter 10: Transitioning Into Post-Collegiate Life


Your college graduation day may be an event that you have eagerly anticipated for years. This is the culmination of all of your hard work, and it is a celebration that you share with family, friends and classmates. More than that, it marks your transition from life as a college student to life as a working adult. Making this monumental transition is not always easy. It can be helpful to know what to expect from the process.

What to Expect on Graduation Day

You may take numerous steps to prepare for your graduation day, such as sending out invitations and ordering your cap and gown. Regardless of how well-prepared you think that you are for this day, you will nonetheless find that it is action-packed and even slightly chaotic. This is a day that you hopefully will look back on with fond memories, and you can more easily accomplish this goal when you set reasonable expectations.

  • The Campus Will Be Crowded. With many graduates inviting at least a few family members to the event, you can reasonably anticipate growing numbers of people walking in and around campus in the days and hours leading up to the event.
  • The School Administration Will Be Busy. Just as you are busy on graduation day, your school’s administrative team is also swamped. The time to get questions answered is well before the big day arrives.
  • You Should Expect Delays. When hundreds or thousands of people are graduating at the same time, it is unreasonable to expect the entire event to go off without an issue. Be patient.
  • You Will Probably Have to Show Your Family Around. Even though your parents may have toured the campus with you initially, they may be interested in seeing the sights one last time. You may even have cousins, grandparents and others present this time as well.
  • You Should Plan for Family Time. While graduation day is a time to spend with family, understand that you will spend ample time away from them before, during and after the ceremony. Make special plans for dinner or something else to celebrate more intimately.
  • You Should Celebrate With Friends Later. Your graduation day is a day to spend with family. Your classmates will likewise be spending this day with their own families. You can celebrate with a post-graduation outing or party later.
  • You Will Be Emotional. As happy as you are to finally be graduating, it is understandable that you may feel anxious, fearful and even sad as well.

Graduation Gifts

Your special day may also be the graduation day for many of your close friends. Just as others are celebrating your accomplishments, you should show your friends how proud you are of them. With a limited college budget to work with, you may be wondering what some excellent yet affordable gift ideas are. These are wonderful gift ideas for most college graduates.

  • A Diploma Frame. College graduates may frame and display their diploma for decades of their professional lives. A diploma frame is a gift that is thoughtful and practical.
  • A Digital Frame. A digital frame may rotate selected images every few minutes or seconds. You can load photos that you and your friends took during college into the frame.
  • College Memorabilia. After graduation, alumni love to wear t-shirts, hats and other items that continue to show their school pride.
  • Jewelry. Your sorority sister will feel loved and appreciated when presented with a custom Greek necklace or a bracelet that signifies your lasting bond.
  • Home Décor. If friends have been living in a dorm, they may need many items to set up and to decorate their adult home.
  • Professional Items. From a nice briefcase or laptop bag to an engraved pen and other items, there are many professional items that can be used by your friends as they begin a new career.

Finding the Job You Want

One of the most significant factors that may weigh on your mind in the weeks and days leading up to graduation as well as after the big day involves finding a job in your field. You may have heard numerous stories in recent years about college graduates being unable to find a job and having to go back to live at home with their parents. While this is always a possibility, there are steps that you can take to position yourself for success in your job hunting efforts.

Whipping Your Resume Into Shape

Some recent college graduates think that they may not have any significant accomplishes that are worthy of putting on a resume. Because of this, they may create a relatively bare resume that does little to sell them to a potential employer. While paid employment should be on a resume, you can also highlight research assignments, extracurricular activities, volunteerism and more.

Before you sit down to write or revise your resume, brainstorm the many accomplishments and experiences that you have had recently. Also, pinpoint any awards or recognitions that you have received in each of these areas. Leadership and group work should also be highlighted. Your resume should also have the ideal format, including these sections:

  • Identification. The identification section may be easy to leave off of a resume, but it is critical. It includes your name, address, phone number and email. This is how a hiring manager will know how to reach you.
  • Objective. Your objective should clearly identify your short-term and mid-range goals.
  • Education. Your college-level degrees should be listed in reverse chronological order. Include academic awards, honors and other relevant information.
  • Experience. Work experience should also be listed in reverse chronological order. Internships and volunteer work may also be listed here. Include relevant duties, dates of employment, accomplishments and more.
  • Optional Sections. You may find that some highlights that you want to include on your resume are not well-suited for placing in the above sections. You can always add a section for skills, volunteering, hobbies and more.

Establishing a Search Network

While some hiring managers expect you to submit your resume in response to a specific job listing, others may search for applicable resumes online. Create an account with as many major recruiting or job search sites as possible. These include LinkedIn, Career Builder, LinkUp, Indeed, and others.

Another idea is to search for a job in the government. Some placement firms specialize in government jobs, healthcare jobs and other niches. If you upload a resume to these industry-specific websites, consider revising your resume so that it is refined specifically to related job listings. You also need to update your social media accounts so that they highlight your attributes and present you in a positive, professional way.

Rounding Up References

Most hiring managers will ask for a list of references and contact information for each individual. You can pull together at least three or four names while updating your resume. Ask these individuals if they are willing to be a reference, and avoid making assumptions. You may even ask a professor, a business colleague from an internship or someone else to draft a letter of recommendation on your behalf

Preparing for Interviews

You may be called in for an interview with very short notice. Therefore, you should take steps to prepare for interviews as soon as possible. Use mock interview scenarios with friends. It is also helpful to research a specific company before you go in for an interview. Understand common interview questions that you may be asked and how to answer them. These questions include:

  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • How have you prepared for a career with our company?
  • What is the biggest challenge that you have faced?
  • What are your stengths and weaknesses?

Dressing for Success

 In an ideal world, people would not form an opinion about you based on your appearance. However, in the real world, first impressions are critical, and you need to do your best to come off as a serious, professional individual. You want to dress in a manner that aligns with how you want people to see you.

  • Ensure that you are well-groomed and have followed all common hygiene steps.
  • Iron or press your clothes, and ensure that they are clean.
  • Invest in at least one professional outfit that is suitable for a resume. Ideally, this will be a high-quality ensemble with neutral or darker tones. Avoid excessive uses of color.
  • Accessorize in a sophisticated way. A smart idea may be to wear a sorority bracelet or necklace that reminds you of your Greek roots and gives you confidence.

Getting Your Finances in Order

Before you find a new job, you may have many expenses to contend with and little or no income coming in the door. You need to be able to manage your budget properly until you find a job.

  • Figuring Our Your Budget. If you have not yet prepared a budget for your adult life, now is the time to do so. This budget should be realistic rather than hopeful.
  • Controlling Your Credit. Some hiring managers review credit scores as part of the hiring process, so you should always take steps to protect your credit rating when managing your finances.
  • Paying Off Student Loans. After you leave college, you will be required to start repaying your student loans. If you are not yet able to do so, you may request a deferment. Another strategy is to refinance your student loans so that the payments are easier to manage.
  • Establishing an Emergency Fund. Before you graduate, it makes sense to save money in an emergency fund. This could help you to make ends meet while you are searching for a job after graduation.
  • Saving Money. As soon as you find a full-time job in your field, begin saving and investing. When you save earlier in life, you can set yourself up for financial security and more independence later.

Learning New Skills

Some graduates are so focused on finding a new job that they lose sight of the importance of living and becoming a well-rounded person. Hiring managers do not generally want to hire a drone. They want to hire interesting people with a robust range of skills and interests. Consider exploring an interest in some of these areas.

  • Cooking. While you are trying to find a job, consider taking a cooking class. This can give you something to take about in interviews. Also, eating at home is often more affordable than dining out.
  • Traveling. If funds allow, travel to a place on your bucket list. If you have a limited budget, consider camping out with friends to de-stress and find pleasure in life on a dime.
  • Learning a New Language. A new language is a marketable skill that you can and should add to your resume. Consider languages that are most relevant to your field, and explore educational opportunities.
  • Joining a Fitness Class or Sports Team. These are great places to network and meet people. They can also keep you fit so that you look your best.
  • Get a Certification. Learning does not have to stop when you graduate. While you are hunting for a job, study for a new certification in your free time. This can help you position yourself above the competition in the hiring process.
  • Do a Passion Project. Not everything you do needs to be about your career. If you feel passionately about something, find a way to get involved.
  • Volunteering. Volunteering looks great on a resume, and it helps to keep you grounded. You may even develop great contacts that can be used for networking and referrals.

Your college experience may last for several years, and it will be what you make of it. This may be a formative period in your life that sets the stage for great success later. While you need to focus on positioning yourself for success in your career, remember that your decisions in college can affect your life in many other ways after graduation.

Final Word

Regardless of where you enroll in college or what your housing preferences are, the transition from high school into college can be a major upheaval. Most aspects of your life may change, and this includes your school experience, your environment, your housing, your financial situation, your job, your friends, other relationships and more.

Tips and strategies explored in this guide are there to help you make this transition with confidence and prepare you not just for college life, but for adult life as well. Remember, college and post-college life are not that different. The knowledge and skills you obtain during your years in college will help you cope with challenges you encounter later in life.