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Life After College: 12 Giant Changes

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

Graduating from high school. Getting married. Buying your first home. Starting a family.

Transitions can be stressful as well as exciting. Even though some people try their hardest to resist change out of fear, in some cases it’s inevitable—staying in college forever just because you’re a bit scared of what’s to come isn’t a realistic option!

Although it’s improving, the current job market is still less than ideal. Stories and reports about college graduates forced to become servers or bartenders due to a lack of jobs are plentiful, but in reality statistics have found that the unemployment rate among people with bachelor’s degrees is considerably lower than it is for high school graduates.

Whether or not you land your dream job shortly after earning your college degree, there are plenty of changes in store. Getting out of the crowded, smelly dorms and never needing to set foot inside a lecture hall again—for now, anyway—might seem like the best news you’ve heard all day, but it’s a good idea to realize that some of the adjustments you’ll have to make in the upcoming months might be tougher to deal with than others:

1. Moving out on your own can wipe out your graduation cash.

If you’re able to get an apartment or rental home, congratulations! Moving out on your own can be exhilarating, even if your first place is cramped and crowded. Moving out can also put a serious dent in your savings account. You will most likely have to pay a security deposit along with your first month’s rent, and lease preparation fees are fairly common, too. Getting the water, electricity and gas turned on involves more than calling up the utility companies and asking nicely. You may be required to submit a deposit along with your request, which can be several hundred dollars—each.

2. Moving back in with your parents can be a blow to your self-esteem.

If you decide to live with your parents after graduation—even temporarily—you’ll most likely save a considerable amount of money. You may also need to take your own ego down a peg or two, because eating Mom’s cooking and sleeping in your old bedroom every night might make you feel like a little kid. If you and your parents set some boundaries from the beginning, the experience might go a bit smoother.

3. The “real world” is expensive!

Rent and utilities aside, life itself isn’t cheap. Buying and maintaining a reliable automobile, paying for car insurance, filling the car with gas to get to and from work…the list goes on and on. Those campus shuttle busses might not seem so bad anymore!

4. Your first job might be completely different than you imagined it.

After spending four or more years studying and preparing for your future career, you probably had a good idea of what the profession would be like—especially if you did an internship or two during college. The truth is, things may not be as rosy and you had hoped. Textbooks don’t let you experience the wrath of an angry boss firsthand, nor do they compare to dealing with jealous or lazy colleagues.

5. Spending 15 hours a week in class will seem like nothing compared to working 40.

“I’m too busy!” is a common excuse among college students, but studies have found that most students don’t do a lot of reading, writing and studying—at least not as much as they’d like you to believe. Once you secure full-time employment, you’ll be expected to work 40 or more hours per week, and it will be tough to unwind after work or on the weekends because you’re still thinking about projects and assignments that you’re working on in the office.

6. Your social circle will no longer be comprised of people your own age.

It’s fairly easy to make friends during college. After all, campuses are full of young adults who share common goals and interests. When you get a job, you’ll be interacting with people of all ages. Going to lunch with co-workers in their forties or fifties might not sound like your idea of fun, but you’ll be able to learn from their experiences. A mentor is a valuable resource, whatever your profession.

7. Wearing yoga pants and flip flops every single day is no longer acceptable.

The joke is that college students show up for class in their pajamas. While it may happen every now and then, most students don’t dress up even when they do wear “real” clothes. Unless your new place of employment has a required uniform or an incredibly lax dress code, you will have to dress professionally. (And back to the real world being pricy—if you didn’t already own a work-worthy wardrobe, you’ll have to spend a bit on clothes.

8. There’s a good chance you’ll be too tired to go out drinking.

College nights and weekend parties were fun, but just imagine how much fun you’ll be able to have when you never have to study for tests or wake up for class … right? Maybe … if you weren’t so darned tired from working all week long.

9. Missing work is a much bigger deal than missing class.

When you’re accustomed to spring break, summer vacation, Thanksgiving break and a month off a Christmastime … a “regular” schedule will be a bit of a shocker. And if you feel like calling in sick on those days that you just don’t feel like going, you’ll have to remind yourself that new hires often receive just one or two weeks of paid time off each year.

10. Your performance will no longer be evaluated by grades.

Even if yours weren’t the greatest or you didn’t believe that they were a true indicator of your knowledge, you could always count on getting grades in school. Performance reviews do happen once in a while in most workplaces, but you will no longer receive a piece of paper every few weeks to let you know how you’re doing.

11. Reputation matters.

Drinking so much that you forgot what you did that night, only to wind up tagged in your friends’ somewhat risque Facebook photos the next morning might have been embarrassing, but it could do a lot more harm now that you’re a working professional. If you wind up becoming known as “the one who always shows up late” or “the one who always kisses up to the boss” or something even worse around the office, you might not be very popular with your coworkers.

12. Small goals are just as important as big ones.

During college, the light at the end of the tunnel was graduation—finally earning that degree and getting out of school! Your goals will undoubtedly change once you’re finished with school, but it’s important to realize that the small ones are just as important as the big ones. Signing a big client or acing a company presentation can lead to bigger and better things like promotions and pay increases. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Graduating from college can be nearly as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. Your mind may be swirling with dozens of questions. Where will you live? Where will you work? How will you afford everything that you need? If you realize now that there are plenty of changes in store and some are better than others, you’re already a step ahead.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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