Post-College Life Prep: What You Need to Know After Graduation

College is a life-changing experience. So with graduation out of the way, you probably feel a combination of pride and anxiety. What will life be like now? Who will you be now that college is over?

There are some things no campus or classroom can prepare you for — not to mention a few things that you can only learn about your college experience once that degree is hanging on the wall. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in the years since my college experience has faded in the rearview.

It’s Only the Best Time of Your Life If You Say It Is

After graduation, it’s easy to romanticize college as a golden age that no other time in your life will be able to top. I certainly used to feel that way. But over the years, I came to realize that this attitude was a reflection of how much I enjoyed life while I was in college, not a predetermined fate I couldn’t control.

That may seem like a small distinction on paper, but it’s a huge one in practice. Every stretch of our lives carries its own unique challenges and blessings, but treating any one period as the best is a surefire way to give the stuff that follows less credit than it deserves. If you say college was the best time of your life, of course your post-grad years won’t measure up. But if you’re determined to enjoy life no matter what, the best can always be ahead.

It’s Not Enough to Build Connections

Creating personal and professional connections during your college career is crucial. In some fields, who you know may be more important than what you know, and that will only grow more true as the job market becomes more competitive.

But building connections is only half the battle: You have to keep them, and that takes work. A decade-plus removed from campus, some of my best friends come straight from my college days, and some of my longest-standing jobs have come from connections I made while I was an undergrad. That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t made the effort to keep up those relationships despite the time constraints of working life.

Who You Are Isn’t Who You Have to Be

Just like your relationships, you need to build and maintain the skills and traits you’ve developed in college. This requires some effort, but it also means you can change the things you don’t like about yourself over time. Who you are isn’t a closed book.

In some ways, I’m the same guy I was on campus; in others, I couldn’t be more different. The changes happened partly through organic growth and partly through hard, conscious work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With graduation in your recent past, take stock of your goals, your plans, and your priorities. If you keep them in mind, you’ll be able to take stock and adjust as you grow and change.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid. Post-college life will be full of new challenges, but it will also offer new opportunities and sources of happiness. If you take time to enjoy the transition at the same time as you plan for the future, you’ll be on the right track — no matter where you’re moving to or what you’re moving from.

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