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Now What? Tips for College Students on Next Steps

As college graduates step into the unknown, these are some tips to help them find and get what they want

Audrey Campbell
Audrey Campbell

In just a few months, many of you college and university students will be celebrating graduation and setting out for new and unknown adventures. As you ponder these final months, you may be thinking: Now what? What comes next? While there is no secret handbook of success given to college grads, nor is there a "right" or "wrong" path to take post-graduation, it is important to set aside time to think about the direction you might be headed and what you might need to prepare. Who knows? You could be five months away from starting the most memorable journey of your life. Either way, here are six helpful tips to get you thinking about life beyond undergrad.

Determine What Matters

They say that the more reflective you are, the more effective you are. Before you commit to a job, a move cross-country, or a spot in graduate school, deeply reflect on what you want to accomplish and where you see yourself in one, two, or five years. Connect with family, friends, or mentors who have stories or advice and in turn, share your goals with them. If possible, visit a school, a job site, or a city before signing on the dotted line. If you take time in these next five months to really determine where you'd like to land, you'll be in the right mindset when May arrives.

Dolla Bills, Y'all

The most sound decision a college student or a new graduate can make is to start saving money. Now. According to Student Loan Hero, around 44 million American borrowers owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. As you prepare to enter the working world, it's never too early (or too late!) to open a savings account and start putting away extra pennies. After graduation, it will be important to thoughtfully make a plan on how you can start to pay off your student loans. Educate yourself by reading blogs and books on personal finance and how to make informed choices when it comes to the Benjamins.

Get Going by Giving Back

Are you hankering to travel abroad? To pack your bag and say "Adios" or "Sayonara"? While several months of exploration and travel can be exciting and invigorating, why not extend or adjust the adventure and seek to work or volunteer abroad? Farming abroad with WWOOF connects organic farmers with eager volunteers from around the world. The Peace Corps is an incredible way to work in and develop an intimate and meaningful relationship with a new community, in addition to teaching abroad. You can also pack your bags and see new landscapes within the United States with AmeriCorps, a national organization that provides grads opportunities to create positive change right here at home.

Movin' on Up, to the Eastside

Finding a job post-graduation is multi-faceted and can feel marveously complicated. How do you write a compelling resume? What are the best strategies for preparing for an interview? There are so many elements to consider. While it might feel intimidating or overwhelming to imagine yourself jumping right into the workforce after college, it can also be incredibly rewarding and transformational. Forbes magazine offers 12 Tips for College Grads Entering the Workforce with suggestions from business leaders all over the country. Their advice comes from years of experience in the working world and might help you in taking the first, small steps toward locating a position that is a good fit.

Savor The Now

Preparation is important and your work leading up to graduation will be essential in many ways. That said, you are still five months away from what's next, so take this time to slow down and savor where you are now. According to David Foster Wallace, in his famous Kenyon College commencement speech in 2005 entitled "This is Water," the most important aspect of graduating into the real world is maintaining the ability to think and to pay attention to the things around us that really matter. So what really matters to you? The people in your life and the relationships you have built; the knowledge you have gained about the world around you; the sense of confidence, spirit, and adventure that will carry you into the future.

No matter what these next five months bring or where you end up after graduation, trust yourself and celebrate all that you have accomplished throughout your college career. You got this.

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