I started preschool at only 18 months old and have been in school ever since. Now at 22 years of age, I am graduating college with my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida. While graduation is supposed to be a happy time where you look towards all the amazing things you have ahead, it is also a time full of apprehension and fear of the unknown. You are leaving college after 4 great years and you have to decide what comes next.
“What are you doing after graduating college?”
In my last two months of undergrad, I heard this question AT LEAST once a day and the worst part was that for the most part, I didn’t have a concrete answer to give. When I started college 4 years ago, I had planned to pursue engineering, but also be pre-med and then go to Medical school. Well at the end of my first year, I realized I hated engineering so I switched to Biology and Anthropology. Then, about halfway through my junior year, I started to realize that there were other things that interested me more than medical school. This realization upended all the carefully laid out plans I had in the works since 12 year old me decided she would make an amazing neurosurgeon.
In turn, this led to a ton of confusion, self-doubt and eventually the realization that I knew what I wanted from life and just had to be willing to go after it. Unfortunately, I did not figure all this out until after I had started my senior year of college, so I didn’t have much time to figure everything out and get the requisite applications submitted for all 26 of my A through Z life plans(a real list that I made while stressed). Due to my procrastination, I did not even begin to hear back from the various jobs, programs and schools I had applied to until the end of March, so I spent many hours trying to explain to my friends, family, acquaintances, and other random people who asked about my plans, why I didn’t know what my plans were just yet.
This experience, while very stressful for me, made me realize all the things I would have done differently if I had a re-do and all the things I wouldn’t have changed for the world. So here are what I believe to be the 5 most important pieces of advice I have for all those who still have time:
1. Don’t be afraid of not knowing what you are doing.
SPOILER: no one really knows what they are doing; some people are just better at faking it than the rest of us. If you aren’t sure what you are doing right after graduating college, it’s better to take the time to figure out what is right for you than it is to rush into a career you have no real interest in. In many cases, you may have a gap between graduating and starting your career and that is perfectly normal!
2. Learn to accept help.
While it may be hard to admit you need other people, it is important to recognize your friends and family are going to be your biggest cheerleaders and if they are trying to help you, LET THEM or at least learn how to turn down their help with out being rude. Graduating college is terrifying and your friends and family are there for you! Let them help you through this time!
3. Explore options you never considered.
Whether its teaching abroad, joining an organization like Americorps, or going to a grad school you have NEVER considered, be open to whatever options may come your way. You never know when the universe is going to throw something your way or when a random google search will bring an amazing grad school to the forefront of your search. If you know you want to travel a bit, consider jobs that let you travel! Or if you want to take a break before grad school, look into options like Americorps!
4. Don’t let rejection scare you off
Rejection happens and it happens far more often than anyone of us would like. Whether its a job telling you they selected someone else, a grad school saying no, or any other kind of rejection, take it in, learn from it, and move past it. If you let the no’s get to you, you may be too afraid to keep trying. Fear will get you nowhere! Take the rejections in stride and remind yourself that something great will come along!
5. Cherish every moment you have with your friends.
In college, your friends are everything. They are there with you through every dumb decision, late night study session, and all the good and bad moments. DON’T TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED. They will put up with a lot, but make sure you treat your friends right. Cherish the time you have with them before it’s gone! Some friendships will last past graduation and some won’t. Either way, the time you spend together in college is unlike any other time in your lives, so don’t waste it.
From one misguided millennial to world, here’s my advice, take it or leave it.
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