For four years you dreamt of the day you’d walk across that graduation stage. During late night study sessions and early morning classes, you couldn’t help but romanticize the moment you’d finally be homework free. But once you do graduate, a weird feeling may hit you.
What is your next step? Possibly for the first time in your life, there is no mandated path for you to take. No, “If you meet x requirements, y will happen.” It can be an overwhelming feeling to say the least. While you work on building your own path, consider these tips for navigating life after college. Hopefully you can make the transition smoother and a lot more fun.
Getting to Work
Hopefully you enjoyed a few weeks off post-grad to travel or kickback and relax after four years of hard work. When you’re ready to begin your job search, it can be a lot to process. Chances are you won’t be landing your dream job anytime soon, but now might be the time to focus on taking the baby steps towards building your career. If you haven’t graduated yet, then you’re ahead of the game and have extra time to think about what to do after graduating college.
First off, don’t let job searching stress you out. New grads are in luck. According to the 48th annual “Recruiting Trends” study conducted by Michigan State University & Collegiate Employment Research Institute at MSU in 2018, recent bachelor degree graduates can expect to see growth in the job market.
The study found that the college labor market continues to grow for the ninth consecutive year.
Over 3,000 employers participated in the study and amongst those employers there are plans to hire almost 63,500 new employees. Approximately 80% of those new hires will have received bachelor’s degrees.
With the unemployment rate at 3.7%, it is among the lowest it has been in nearly 50 years (the lowest being 3.4% for several months in 1969). This should give recent college grads job searching confidence.
But despite these very low unemployment numbers, six in 10 Americans aged 18 to 24 reported feeling financial pressure to accept the first job they receive, according to another 2018 survey, this time by ZipRecruiter .
It was also found that 64% of job seekers accepted the first salary offer they received at their current position. Not negotiating or comparing multiple offers can cause young workers to miss out on higher incomes.
Not sure what you should be earning? Research, research, research. One super helpful tool for learning what workers similar to you are making is Glassdoor’s Salary Calculator . You provide some basic info like your location and experience, and their tool tells you what the average salary for your desired role is. While this tool can only provide an estimate, it may help give you determine if you should be fighting for a higher salary.
Taking Your Health into Your Own Hands
Now that Mom and Dad aren’t in charge of scheduling your biannual dental appointments, it’s time to start navigating your healthcare on your own. Whether you’re still on your parent’s policy or you have your own policy, getting more familiar with the resources your healthcare plan provides is never a bad idea. It can help you stay on top of scheduling check ups, dental cleanings, and eye exams.
And you might want to start saving for any emergencies that may arise. According to a report by the Federal Reserve Board, 44% of people cannot cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense using cash alone, or would rely on borrowing or selling something to do so. Having an emergency fund at the ready can be an important step to financial wellness in this new chapter of your life.
Speaking of wellness—you may feel swamped by post-grad life, but it’s such an important time to prioritize your well-being. It might be helpful to make time to go the gym each week, cook healthy meals, and get a good night’s sleep!
Continuing Your Learning
It’s normal after college to need a little break from learning. For the first time in your life, there is no one telling you what to read or what classes you have to take. But once the dust has settled and you’ve had a rest from hitting the books, you might try to prioritize learning—because it can be a positive boon for your career.
For example, you could consider obtaining a professional license related to your career or industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 23% of workers have some sort of professional license. Having one may give you a competitive boost at work or while job searching. You can go the extra mile to develop more skills needed in your career through an online class or professional conference.
Not all of your learning efforts have to go towards career advancement, of course. Take that cool history of film class at your local community college. Join a book club or just load up your bookshelf with books you’re dying to read. Exploring your passions can help you feel motivated, fulfilled, and inspired. Now is the time in your life to open doors, not close them.
Getting Your Finances Organized
Once you graduate from college and join the working world, you may find you have a lot more cash at your disposal. Sounds fun right? But chances are, your living expenses just skyrocketed. One expense that may really be bringing you down is your student loan debt payments.
According to a 2018 report by the Institute for College Access & Success , about two in three American college students who graduated from college in 2017 had student loan debt. How much did they owe? On average, $28,650.
Student loan debt weighing you down? There are a few strategies you can use to help pay off your student loan debt quicker. You might start your journey to a student loan-free life by creating a monthly budget that can help you get out of debt.
To create a budget that can assist with paying off debt, it may behoove you to sit down and spend a few hours getting organized.
You could start by gathering all of your bills and recent receipts. Review exactly what you need to spend on necessary living expenses (rent, food, health insurance) then note any areas of your spending you can cut back on (travel, entertainment, clothing).
Compare the cost of your living expenses to your paystubs to see how much you can afford to pay towards debt each month. Creating a budget can help you not only pay off your debt, but avoid accumulating more debt in the future.
You may find that it makes sense to look into income-driven repayment plans for your student loans (if you have federal loans). Or, once you have your monthly budget under control, you might be considering refinancing your student loans. You may be able to lower your interest rate, lower your monthly payments by extending your repayment term, or release a co-signer from a previous loan.
Do note that lengthening your repayment term will usually lower your monthly payments, but can increase the interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan. If you shorten your repayment term or lower your interest rate, you may save money on interest and be able to get out of debt sooner—but your monthly payments would likely go up.
Refinancing comes with many benefits, but it’s not for everyone—you lose federal benefits and protections (like the income-driven repayment plans mentioned above) when you refinance the loan with a private lender.
But if you are not planning on taking advantage of these benefits, refinancing might be for you. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans, you may want to review SoFi’s student loan refinancing options.
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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