When it comes to college graduation, it’s a bittersweet experience.
I know mine was.
I was a jumble of nerves, a barely contained ball of energy. And I was talking a lot. Sort of fast, like I’d had too many cups of coffee the day of – or too many of the cinnamon rolls my sweet roommate had made for us graduating gals.
I was talking too much because I was anxious. Anxious about the weather that day – I had hoped it wouldn’t rain. It didn’t.
I was anxious about not tripping and falling on the president of my college when he handed me my diploma. I didn’t trip. (Hint: flat sandals are your friends!)
I was even anxious about the interaction among my friends from back home and my new family I’d made while at university.
But I was mostly anxious about my future. Not my immediate future that contained well-wishes from faculty and family, but that sort of distant-but-drawing-closer-every-minute-future where real life begins again – the real life that was put on hold for freshman orientation, sophomore mixers, junior banquets, and senior trips.
I was anxious because I was one of the several graduates that day who would be moving back home after college, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Here are the lessons I have learned after moving back home post-college graduation.
I made the decision to move back home based on several things:
- I didn’t have a job lined up post-grad. In the months leading up to graduation, I had secured an unpaid internship that would last until about a month after I had graduated, but after that…I wasn’t sure what would happen.
- I didn’t have anywhere else to live. Most of my friends were returning home for the summer and not planning on moving out, so the option of moving in with someone else to split the cost of an apartment someplace new was out of the question.
- I wasn’t drowning in cash. Even though my student loans would be deferred for six months, I couldn’t waste any time or worry about other expenses – like not starving as a college grad.
Even though I knew all of this, I still felt…guilty. Why? Why should I have felt guilty for moving back home at the age of 21, diploma in hand? I wasn’t the first college grad to move home and I would definitely not be the last.
There is no reason to feel guilty for moving back home after graduation
If you decide to live with your parents again based on reasons such as a lack of funds or housing somewhere else, I view it as a mature decision. Maybe you’ve searched and searched for a job, but you haven’t found one by the time graduation rolls around. That’s okay. Sometimes the job hunt is a fast process, and you’re blessed to find work you love easily. Other times, it can be an excruciatingly slow process. Or maybe you just have some loose ends to tie up back home that can’t be deferred for another four years. There is no reason to feel guilty for circumstances beyond your control.
You could take out another loan or ask for even more money from mom and dad to help pay for an apartment away from home and then struggle to make ends meet as you try to set up a steady form of income, or you could move back home for a period of time until you have saved up enough money to be adequately independent. It’s your decision, but whatever you choose, guilt should not be part of the equation.
Moving home is not a crutch but a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Time moves quickly
I remember when I was little and it seemed like summer stretched on forever, and the days would go by so slowly. I felt like I had an unlimited number of hours to play outside and read as much as I wanted.
But the older we get, the faster time goes – except when you’re waiting on your Keurig to brew that first cup of liquid happiness in the morning!
I feel like post-grad life moves even faster, if that’s possible. I can’t believe it’s already been over a year since I graduated from college. Even though you may have settled back into your old childhood bedroom back home, things are different now. You can’t just sit back and let life happen to you – you have to make things work.
Which brings me to my next and final lesson learned…
You need a plan
In some ways, university life is like a safe haven. Just hear me out. I know you’re pushed to learn a wealth of information on a variety of topics, and you’re forced to up your caffeine levels to dangerous proportions. You learn to function on minimal hours of sleep and subsist on questionable dining hall fare.
But as long as you’re a student, you don’t have much more to worry about other than your studies and which party you’ll be attending during the weekend. Fast-forward to after graduation, and it’s a totally different story. It’s incredibly important that you form a sort of “game plan” to go by so that post-grad life doesn’t knock you on your booty.
Create a list of both long- and short-term goals
What do you want to accomplish as a recent grad? What is the most pressing challenge you face? Do you need to find a job first? Are you going back to school for your master’s? Will you tackle both at the same time?
Where do you see yourself in the next year? In the next five years? What individual steps will you need to take to accomplish certain goals? Talk over your future plans with family or a mentor and write them down. Writing down your goals and dreams makes them seem tangible and achievable. Review them daily or weekly to keep track of your progress.
Work toward your future daily
Like I mentioned before, you have to work every day to build the future you want. Your goals won’t be met without a little hustle and heart. Look over that list you made. What can you do today that will help you accomplish your goals tomorrow? This will look different for each person.
Maybe you want to take a short course that would make you more valuable to a future employer. That’s a goal that’s easily attainable. Or maybe maintaining mind and body wellness after college is now your top priority, so you enroll in a yoga class at your local gym. Personally, I love getting together with my close friends over coffee and hashing out our Oprah-sized dreams to (hopefully) turn them into a reality. It keeps me accountable while also leaving me feeling inspired and like I can take on the world.
Whatever it is that keeps you moving forward, stay with it, and don’t give up.
After the crazy whirlwind that is a college community life, post-grad life can seem…a little empty and often lonely. If you’ve neglected older relationships while away at school – no judgment, it happens! Find time to reconnect with your close friends while also making room for opportunities to meet new ones.
Keeping an active social life after college, especially if you’ve moved back to your old stomping grounds, will help you keep your sanity during this weird transition phase of life. Trust me.
Even though post-grad life is filled up with paying off student loans and relentlessly chasing that dream career, please take moments to pause. Go out for dinner with your best girlfriends. Participate in family game night. Sing your heart out at your favorite band’s concert. Whatever it takes, make an effort to not only build a future but also to make memories, too.
If you’re a recent college graduate, your life is about to get even more exciting. If you thought college was insane, post-grad life is an even wilder ride. There are a lot more ups and downs, and just when you think you’re starting to get your footing, everything gets thrown up in the air again.
And there’s nothing better, so hold on tight.
I hope the lessons I learned and tips I’ve given here will help make your transition to real-life-adult-wow a little bit easier.
You’ve got this post-grads. Now go be amazing.