Updated: Aug 30, 2023

5 Ways to Prepare for Life After College (Before You Graduate)

Figuring out what to do after college can be a scary thought, but it's something you must consider. These suggestions can help you succeed upon graduation.
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Graduation season is upon us, and although many grads are excited about what the future holds for them, it's also a time to start preparing for the real world.

Getting ready for life beyond the classroom can help reduce your stress this summer when you're start your job search -- or perhaps you are considering graduate school.

Here is how to make the most of your days leading up to graduation.

1. Ask for letters of recommendation now

Before you return home after graduation, pay a visit to instructors while you’re still in town and ask them for a letter of recommendation. For those still contemplating grad school, this can prove valuable. Build that connection now so your professors know who you are and they are not surprised if you ask them for a letter six months down the line.

2. Use your college resources while they’re still available

Visit job fairs on campus to find recruiters who may be able to help you land your first professional job. Job fairs provide an insight on the types of jobs that will be available for you with your degree. Work may even be a possibility somewhere you didn't previously consider possible.

Meet with your major advisor to learn more about the options you have with your degree. Your advisor may even be able to connect you to a successful alumni who can further guide you in the right direction.

3. Build your network now

Networking is an essential part of the world we live in. Did you know that candidates for an open job position were twice as likely to get an interview and had a 40 percent higher chance at landing a job when referred from someone in their network? Build connections with your classmates, instructors, and anyone you feel could help you find work or provide you assistance with your life after college.

Does your school have a less-than-stellar way for alumni to remain connected? Take matters into your own hands and create a Facebook, LinkedIn or even Meetup group for alumni and/or majors in your field.

After I graduated, I created a Facebook group designed specifically for English majors at my alma mater. The result: regular posts from instructors asking alumni for advice on how to tailor their upcoming semester’s classes, advice from graduates on options after college, links to job postings, and a resource for everyone in the group to use.

4. Determine how much you owe, then devise a plan to pay back your debt

The average debt of graduates from public universities is $29,400, according to research conducted by the Institute for College Access & Success for its Project on Student Debt. Schedule a meeting with a financial aid advisor to review your overall college debt. With this information, create a plan and a budget for how long you think it will take you to pay off your total college debt.

The good news is that the majority of lenders grant you a six-month grace period before you must start paying back your student loans. Use the six months you are given to find work, or, if you are inclined, to continue your studies at graduate school. Remember, as long as you are enrolled in school half time, your repayment can be postponed. For more on enrollment status questions and your loan, visit MyFedLoan.org, or read over your loan paperwork.

5. Utilize resources to find a job

Enjoy yourself for a couple of weeks after graduation, you’ve earned it! Afterwards, you should be ready to dedicate a great deal of time towards finding work. Utilize all of your resources possible until you land a position somewhere that will help you pay the bills.

Consider moving to an area where there is a demand for people with your degree or work experience. Moving away for a few years to gain experience can help you establish a solid foundation for your career.