The last few months of your senior year in college can be stressful and extremely overwhelming. Aside from the fact that you’ll soon be entering the “real world” with a job, bills, and newfound responsibilities, you’re changing everything you’ve known for the past four years. To help navigate this tricky transitional period, we’ve put together some graduation tips and resources to guide you through this uncharted territory.
Preparing for Graduation
- Do You Have Enough Credits? While this may seem like a silly question, many students assume they have enough credits to graduate only to find out in the middle of their last semester that they’re one or two credits shy. Make sure you talk to your advisor, check out your school’s website, or visit the registrar’s office so you aren’t left watching commencement in the audience section.
- Complete the Required Paperwork. When it comes to graduation, one of the most commonly overlooked pieces is making sure you’ve turned in all of your paperwork. Most colleges require you to submit a graduation application or an “intent to graduate” form before your last semester. This usually includes the name you’d like on your diploma along with the address where you’d like it sent. You should also check on whether or not you’re required to attend an exit interview with the admissions office.
- Pay Up! Colleges don’t mess around when it comes to money. Whether it’s for tuition, room and board, or a simple parking ticket, the school will be sure to get its payment. Make certain all of your outstanding fees are paid along with any new ones associated with graduation. (Schools often require a small fee for diplomas.)
- Order Your Cap and Gown. This varies from school to school. Some schools pay for each graduating senior’s cap and gown while others do not. Check with the bookstore, as this is usually where they are ordered from.
- Who’s Coming to Commencement? Commencement ceremonies differ from university to university, depending on size and tradition. Larger schools tend to offer a general commencement ceremony for all students along with individual ceremonies for each program; smaller colleges may only have one ceremony. Seats are likely limited, and you’ll be given a certain number of tickets. Determine who will be attending graduation and how many tickets you’ll need. Need more than you are allotted? Ask around. Most people don’t use all of their tickets.
- Sending Invitations. Yes, this is one of the most tedious tasks. If attending your graduation will require travel, provide guests with contact information for nearby hotels.
- Don’t Forget About Your Friends! The last few weeks of school are extremely hectic. Finals are wrapping up, people are packing to go home, and you’re trying to enjoy the last few weeks of college life. Before all of this craziness begins, take time to grab coffee with friends who’ve stuck by you through thick and thin. Exchange contact information and put some summer plans on the calendar.
- Job or Grad School? For some people, four years of school is enough. They’re ready to go out, start working, and never crack open another accounting book for the rest of their lives. For others, grad school is the only option. You can’t very well be a doctor without attending med school, now can you? How do you decide whether grad school is for you? Obviously, there’s no easy answer, but there are questions you need to ask yourself. Where would you like your career to go? Will it require more schooling? Is more schooling just putting off the inevitable job search? Can you afford more school from a financial standpoint? Here are a few resources to help you make the best decision:
- Don’t Rush into a Career. You just attended college for four years, you’re in debt, and everyone, including you, is expecting you to be on your way to a promising career. Remember that you have your whole life to work. Take some time to travel the country, work odd jobs, and do something you love. Working in a restaurant my first year out of college was the best decision I could have made. I met new people, enjoyed life, and also matured into someone who was actually ready to start a career.
- Move Back Home? After a few years of independence, can you really bring yourself to move back in with Mom and Dad? In reality, no one actually wants to move back into a place with rules, regulations, and a watchful eye, but it may be the best option. Free food, no rent, no utilities, and free laundry don’t sound so bad when you’re making little to no money. Before you immediately start apartment hunting, think about what’s going to suit you best in the long run both personally and financially.
- Check Your Health Coverage. If you’re under 26, you’re probably still covered under your parents’ insurance. When job interviewing, make sure you take a close look at each company’s health plan coverage and employee benefits packages to see what’s best for you and what you can afford.
- Review Your Student Loans. Now that you’ve graduated, do you immediately have to start paying off the money that got you through school? Well, yes and no. The best thing to do is start making payments as soon as you can. However, the nice thing about student loans is that they are just that—for students. You typically have a six-month window before you have to start paying, and if you’re unable to start your payments then you can defer them for up to a year. Find out about interest rates, consolidating, and the best payment plan for you.
- Establish Credit but Not Debt. You just graduated, you are living in a new apartment, you haven’t gotten your first paycheck and you need furniture, groceries and new work clothes. It’s very easy to take that credit card and start charging. Don’t spend more than you can afford to pay off. Start small and pay it off monthly.
Getting a Job
- Stay or Relocate? Ignore the thought of living with Mom and Dad for a second and think about where you want to be. Can you go back to your hometown? Is there a city you’ve always dreamed of living in? Where are the best opportunities for your career? When you begin to look for jobs, it can be much easier if you’re open to moving. If there’s one place you know you want to live, focus your job search there.
- Put Your Resume Together. How many times have you heard how important your resume is? Well, guess what? Those people weren’t lying to you. Your resume represents you as person, and it’s essential to make a good first impression on recruiters and potential employers. Visit your campus career center, talk to your advisor, or check out our resume resources below.
- Expect Some Rejection. You may apply for 300 jobs in 35 different cities and only hear back from ten of them. You may think that you had the best interview of your life, but they may decide to go with someone else. There are always going to be rejections, and it will always be frustrating. Try and take it with a grain of a salt and move on to the next opportunity. Eventually, you’ll find what is right for you.
- Go on Interviews. One of the best ways to become better at talking and interviewing with companies is…to talk and interview with companies! If you’re given the opportunity to interview for a job, take it. Even if you think that you may not want the position, go in, talk to the people who work there, speak with the HR person, and practice your interviewing skills. It’ll give you an idea of the questions you’ll be asked and also provide you with a better idea of what you want in a job.
- Don’t Settle for the Wrong Fit. You may be anxious to get a job and start that next chapter, but keep in mind that this is your life. Don’t take a job just because it’s the first one offered to you. Find a job that you want and will enjoy. Remember, you have to be there five days a week.
- Start the Online Job Hunt. While Linkedln, Careerbuilder.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com are probably the most popular sites for job-hunters of all levels, CollegeGrad specializes in entry-level for college graduates.
- Get Help Writing Your Resume. There are millions of websites providing resume-writing advice and expert tips for making your credentials stand out from the rest. Here are a couple of good ones geared toward college seniors:
- Prepare for the Interview. Interviewing can be a bit nerve-wracking, but it’s much easier when you’re prepared. Learn about the business, go over common questions, and be ready to answer just about anything.
- How To Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions
- How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions
- How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions
- Enjoy the time you have! While you need to make sure you’re ready to move on, you should also savor the time you have now. Hang out with friends, enjoy only having to attend three classes a day, and make the most of your last few months of college. Just make sure to keep these tips in mind when you do start thinking about your future.