There are two sayings you will probably hear a million times in your life, and truth be told, it isn’t until after graduation that most people are able to interpret the truth behind these.
- College is the best time of your life.
- Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
With that being said, if you are a current student reading this article, I’m hoping this piece encourages you to be present, while also being prepared for your next step in education, and life.
FIRST OFF, CELEBRATE!
All of your wins – big or small. I spent so many late nights studying or finishing assignments, and just as many late nights partying when I should have been studying or finishing assignments. I spent some of my days twerking at the sight of a perfect score or dwelling on a failed assignment but in the end, I made it out of school with the letters ‘B.S’ initialed behind my name.
A big part of my celebration could have just been dedicated to my own growth and personal development. I remember laughing with my friends until it felt like my cheek bones would get stuck, and crying like an infant when I experienced my first heartbreak. I definitely lost some of my naïveté but more importantly, I gained so much in becoming more of a realist. Now that I look back, I am so proud of myself for making connections and being so social; college gave me the chance to break insecurities that I had through high school that prevented me from doing so. Even now, I believe I become a better version of myself almost daily, but college changed me drastically in such a short period of time and that is worth celebrating.
WHO ARE YOU WHEN YOU’RE NOT A STUDENT?
When I was in college and asked to introduce myself, I can guarantee you that the first line of my response included “My name is____ and I’m a student at _______’”. I’d maybe even throw in my year or my major for a little razzle dazzle. So as you can imagine, this question began to trip me up after graduation. Not only is being a student quite literally a full-time job, but aside from just college, we have been students close to our entire lives. This forces us to learn who we are outside of our education if we haven’t already. Who do I want to be labeled as? Do I want to be labeled at all? Do I introduce myself using my passions and talents, or my career occupation, or both?
Who am I?
Some of the advice I can give for the journey to self-discovery is to continue to explore. Start by writing a list of things that bring you joy or that you are passionate about. This can consist of actual activities or just things. For example, your list might include playing guitar and it may include plants and ice cream. Now you can introduce yourself as a guitarist or musician, plant lover, and ice cream connoisseur. For those of us who don’t enjoy labels, try keeping verbs when describing yourself. For the example above, I would instead say something like I play guitar, and I love ice cream.
I personally have taken this tactic to another level, and keep some wall space in my room full of sticky notes that label me currently or who I aspire to be. Separate notes that say things like “author,” “lover,” and “owner.”
THE DATING POOL ISN’T MUCH DIFFERENT
I can honestly say I was living in a fantasy world, because I was under the impression that once I graduated I’d be entering a new dating pool full of mature and sophisticated men. Can we all laugh, collectively? I can also honestly say that I’ve made some of the same dating mistakes that I made in college, and I take the blame for not boundary-setting when appropriate. Dating after college is also related to the first section of this article where I talk about figuring out who you are. So add the wrong partner to the picture, and you might have a bit of a catastrophe. Dating is healthy. And also very necessary for a lot of people. But one thing I wish I knew when dating after college is to be stern with your standards and be gentle with yourself for making some of those same mistakes.
Try your very best not to fall into bad habits, but don’t beat yourself up for not instantaneously being assertive with your wants and needs. Especially if this is something you’ve had trouble with in the past. The best advice I can give here is to work on self-love and self-understanding. The way you treat yourself will always be reflective of how you allow others to treat you. Write out your list of non-negotiables and desires, if you need to. Although I’m still only in my 20s, I think it’s safe to say the dating pool won’t magically become better, but we become better at dating through weeding out and using our intuition.
AVOID BILLS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
One thing to keep in mind is that bills are for life. Since I was sort of familiar with debt-to-income ratio and worked my entire time throughout college, I had a pretty good grasp on my money and what I was spending it on. Debt-to-income ratio is the percent of your monthly income that goes to your monthly debts. This means that the lower your DTI ratio is, the more money you have left after paying all of your bills every month. Things like rent/mortgage, credit card payments, and car payments are all bills that will make our DTI higher and take away from our monthly income. Although I did understand this tip before graduating college, I still could have avoided taking on some of the bills that I did too soon.
If you are fortunate enough to still be able to safely and sanely live with your parents or just to live with someone else rent-free after you graduate, please take advantage of that. Don’t leech, but definitely give yourself a grace period to adjust to your new lifestyle and new income if you have one. A good rule of thumb in general is to not increase your expenses every time you increase your income. Because that means you aren’t technically getting any wealthier. A lot of us come out of school with student loans to pay, but add rent and a car payment on top of it and you’re watching a lot of your money go out the door very soon. Now, I am the “treat yourself” queen. If buying your dream car as a graduation gift or simply because you feel you deserve it is your thing, please proceed! But just keep in the back of your mind that bills are for life. And there are tons of ways we can spoil ourselves without putting ourselves in financial hardship.
I know you’ve heard that adulting sucks, and a lot of that comes from these extreme expectations that we place on what adulthood looks like. I hope this article helps in alleviating some of that expectation, and also encourages you to be ready to be patient with yourself.
Asya is an accounting and finance professional who loves fiction novels, travel, writing, nature, and being a plant mom.