After graduation from college, you may be full speed ahead in terms of finding a job and launching your career. However, many recent grads may have other ideas and not head directly into the work world.
Several alternatives are possible — including internships, volunteering, grad school, or spending time abroad. Of course, the options available will differ depending on each person’s situation and interests. If you’re considering a path other than diving into an entry-level job, read on. Here are seven things to do after college besides work.
1. Pursue Internships
One popular alternative to working right after college is finding an internship. Generally, internships are temporary work opportunities, which are sometimes, but not always, paid. Unpaid internships can be valuable nonetheless.
Internships for recent grads can offer a chance to build up hands-on experience in a field or industry they believe they’re interested in working in full time. For some people, it could help determine whether the reality of working in a given sector meets their expectations.
Whatever grads learn during an internship, having on-the-job experience (even for those who opt to pursue a different career path) could make a job seeker stand out afterwards. Internships can help beef up a resume, especially for recent grads who don’t have much formal job experience.
A potential perk of internships is the chance to further grow your professional network, building relationships with more experienced workers in a particular department or job. Some interns may even be able to turn their short-term internship roles into a full-time position at the same company.
Starting out in an internship can be a great way for graduates to enter the workforce, road-testing a specific job role or company. You may find the opportunity is a great fit or decide it’s actually not right for you.
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2. Serve with AmeriCorps
Some graduates want to spend their time after college contributing to the greater good of American society. One possible option here is the Americorps program, which is supported by the US Federal Government.
So, what exactly is Americorps? Americorps is a national service program dedicated to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. There are three main programs that graduates can join in AmeriCorps:
• AmeriCorps NCCC
• AmeriCorps State and National
• AmeriCorps Vista.
There’s a wide variety of options in AmeriCorps, when it comes to how you can serve. Graduates can dive into emergency management, help fight poverty, or work in a classroom.
However graduates decide to serve through AmeriCorps, it may provide them with a rewarding professional experience and insights into a potential career.
Practically, Americorps members may also qualify for benefits such as student loan deferment, a living allowance, education awards (upon finishing their service), and skills training.
It may sound a bit dramatic, but AmeriCorps’ slogan is “Be the greater good.” Giving back to society could be a powerful way to spend some time after graduating. You can support organizations in need, while also establishing new professional connections.
3. Attend Grad School
Some jobs require just a bachelor’s degree, while others require a master’s degree. Think, for instance, of being a lawyer or medical doctor. Or you might want a certain postgrad degree, like earning an MBA, to boost your career and earning trajectory.
The number of jobs that expect graduate degrees is increasing in the US. Graduates might want to research their desired career fields and see if it’s common for people in these roles to need a master’s or terminal (PhD) degree.
Some students may wish to take a break in between undergrad and grad school, while others find it easier to go straight through. This choice will vary from student to student, depending on the energy they have to continue school as well as their ability to afford graduate school.
Graduate school will be a commitment of time, energy, and money. So, it’s wise to feel confident that a graduate degree is necessary for the line of work you’d like to pursue before forging ahead.
4. Volunteer for a Cause
Volunteering could be a great way for graduates to gain some extra skills before applying for a full-time job. Here’s why:
• Doing volunteer work may help graduates polish some essential soft skills, like interpersonal communication, interacting with clients or service recipients, and time management.
• This, in turn, can help you tweak your resume and make yourself more marketable.
• Volunteering can help you network and forge new connections outside of college. The people-to-people connections made while volunteering could lead to mentorship and job offers.
• New grads may want to volunteer at an institution or organization that syncs with their values or, perhaps, pursue opportunities in sectors of the economy where they’d like to work later on (i.e., at a hospital).
• Volunteering just feels good. After all of the stress that accompanies finishing up college, volunteering afterward could be the perfect way to recharge.
Recommended: What Is the Average Student Loan Debt After College?
5. Serve Abroad
Similar to the last option, volunteering abroad can be attractive to some graduates. It may help grads gain similar skills they’d learn volunteering here at home. It can also give them the opportunity to learn how to interact with people from different cultures, learn a new language, and see new perspectives on solving problems.
Though it can be beneficial to the volunteers, volunteering abroad isn’t always as ethical as it seems. And, not all volunteering opportunities always benefit the local community.
It could take research to find organizations that are doing ethically responsible work abroad. One key thing to look for is organizations that put the locals first and have them directly involved in the work.
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6. Take a Gap Year
A gap year is a semester or a year of experiential learning. While it’s often taken after high school, it can be a path after college as well. (You may have to budget for a gap year, though, especially if you won’t be earning much income.)
Not only might a gap year help grads build insights into what they’d like to do with their later careers, it may also help them home in on a greater purpose in life or build connections that could lead to future job opportunities.
Graduates might want to spend a gap year doing a variety of activities including:
• Trying out seasonal jobs
• Volunteering or caring for family members or others in need
• Teaching or tutoring
A gap year can be whatever the graduate thinks will be most beneficial for them. There are a variety of ways to finance a gap year that can be worth researching.
7. Travel Before Working
Going on a trip after graduation is a popular choice for graduates who can afford to travel after college. Traveling can be expensive, so graduates may want to budget in advance (if they want to have this experience post-graduation.
On top of just being really fun, travel can have beneficial impacts for an individual’s stress levels and mental health. Traveling after graduation is a convenient time to start ticking locations off that bucket list, because graduates won’t be held back by a limited vacation time. Going abroad before working can give students more time and flexibility to travel as much as they’d like (and can afford to travel).
There are ways to economize, such as using a multi-country rail pass, etc. It doesn’t have to be all luxury all the time. Budget travel is possible especially when making conscious decisions, like staying in affordable hotels and using public transportation.
If graduates are determined to travel before working, they can accomplish this by saving money and budgeting well.
Navigating Postgrad Financial Decisions
Whether a recent grad opts to start their careers off right away or to pursue one of the above-mentioned paths post-college other than work, student loans may be part of the picture.
After graduating (or if you’ve dropped below half-time enrollment or left school), the reality of paying back student loans sets in. The exact moment that grads will have to begin paying off their student loans will vary by the type of loan.
For federal loans, there are a couple of different times that repayment begins. Students who took out a Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, or Federal Family Education Loan, will all have a six-month grace period before they’re required to make payments. Students who took out a Perkins loan will have a nine-month grace period.
When it comes to the PLUS loan, it depends on the type of student that’s taken the loan out. Undergraduates will be required to start repayment as soon as the loan is paid out. Graduate and professional students with PLUS loans will be on automatic deferment while they’re in school and up to six months after graduating.
Some graduates opt to refinance their student loans. What does that mean? Refinancing student loans is when a lender pays off the existing loan with another loan that has a new interest rate. Refinancing can potentially lower monthly loan repayments or reduce the amount spent on interest over the life of the loan.
However, there are a couple of important notes about this process:
• Both US federal and private student loans can be refinanced, but when federal student loans are refinanced by a private lender, the borrower forfeits federal benefits — including loan forgiveness, deferment and forbearance, and income-driven repayment options.
• For those who refinance for an extended term may pay more interest over the life of the loan.
For these reasons, each person with student loans should carefully consider their situation and options to decide the best way to manage their debt.
Your Student Loan Debt
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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