If you've gone through college, you've probably been told, by at least one person older than you, that college is going to be the best four years of your life. However, this kind of rhetoric — that as soon as you enter the real world, it all goes downhill — is pretty harmful to young people, and the belief that college will be the best time of your life doesn't make much sense or have to hold much truth at all.
Yes, college is the transitionary time between your K-12 schooling and your exit from an academic setting for the first time in your life. You have more freedom than you've ever had before, and more responsibility, without (many of the) bills and work schedules and other consequences of being a full-time adult. College is only a small fraction of your life, though (think about how small the "College" portion of the board is in The Game of Life — barely memorable.) It's one of many experiences you'll probably have, and shouldn't be assumed to be the greatest of them.
That being said, if you've recently graduated college, it might feel like your best years are behind you, even if they weren't that great. It might even feel a little bit like the world is ending. You're entering the first era of your life you didn't spend either in school or in diapers — it's an unprecedented change, and it's rarely easy. It's a time of adjustment. Things won't always be better; sometimes they'll be worse. It can be hard to realize, but there are good things ahead.
Even as I write this, I don't know how to promise that life gets unequivocally better after college. I've seen plenty of ups and downs, pros and cons — as can be expected from all of life. Sometimes, it feels like things are definitely worse; other times, not so much. Regardless of the rollercoaster that is post-grad life, though, here are some things to look forward to.
It's up to you what your path will be now. You may want to go straight into a full-time job, or you may choose to fill your days differently, in any number of ways. In terms of employment, you can choose to freelance or work part-time. You can choose any number of activities, clubs or volunteer opportunities to get involved with. You don't have to work around a class schedule or meet major requirements or service hours. For the first time in your life, maybe, your schedule is completely up to you.
You may have had part-time jobs before, but you've probably never earned a salary before. Having graduated college, you're now eligible for full-time jobs that — if you choose to take them — may pay a larger amount of money and even come with benefits. You may find you have more money than you have ever gotten the chance to earn before.
The friends, connections and experiences you've had over the last four or so years aren't going to go away. It likely feels like you're still very close to them even if you're not close physically, and that doesn't have to change. Now, though, you have the chance to make new friends, have new experiences and build this next part of your life, which will continue to enhance you and impact you in meaningful ways. Look to this opportunity not as having to start over, but as a chance to build something new and equally as exciting.
Being more in charge of your own life means having more independence than ever. You get to choose what you do, where you live and who you hang out with. You might have done that in college, to a certain extent, but you'll get to exercise a new level of control over your life now that you've officially entered the "real world."
College — check. What's next? Your next steps are totally up to you. College isn't going to be your only adventure. Maybe you'll go to grad school, or travel to another country, or take a volunteer opportunity overseas, or do anything you want to do. The choice, and the time, are yours!
Dating in college can be difficult, or at least a very specific experience. Your social circle is relatively small, which means you may have to encounter exes in uncomfortable ways around campus or otherwise. Graduation is looming in the distance, so the stakes are slightly higher when considering the future of a relationship and the time you're putting into it. Dating after college is free from those things. You'll find the pool of eligible people your age gets a lot bigger (depending on where you live), and you have more control over the future and what you want out of your relationships to come.
If you have a clear idea of where you want your career to go — and even if you don't — this is your time to start making it happen. Free from the obligations and in-progress status of school, you can hit the ground running in pursuing the career of your choice.
You've been with the same people for several years, which is a great bonding experience but also a pretty insular community. Now, your social circle isn't limited to campus and the surrounding area. You have the chance to make friends in different circles and from different places — people you wouldn't have had the chance to meet while you were in school.
You don't have to rely on the dining hall or the limited campus options for food anymore. That can be a plus, depending on your school. You might have gained some cooking skills over the years, or maybe you have a great job and have money now for takeout. Either way, chances are your food standards have risen.
There's a chance you'll definitely pull an all-nighter again. No matter your job, you'll probably have deadlines, and beating procrastination habits is a lifelong battle few manage to tame before the grave. But your days of staying up to finish a paper or locking yourself in the library to study for an exam are behind you, which is something to relish — until grad school, if you choose to go.
For the first time since you were a freshman in college — and a freshman in high school before that — you're at the bottom of the totem pole in a new school, that of the rest of the world. This, like being an underclassman in school, is both terrifying and exciting. It means you're brand new to all kinds of experiences and obstacles that other people have had years of experience with, and it means you still have a lot of learning to do. But it also means you have a ton of time to get your bearings and give this new chapter your all. As with anything, there's a learning curve, and no one expects you to have it figured out right away. You've only just begun, after all.
Our employer partners are actively recruiting women! Update your profile today.