Getting ready to graduate? Congratulations! Leaving for some other reason? Keep reading: this blog post is for you, too.
It’s easy to get swept up in the madcap pace of everything that goes on as you get ready to leave college, but these six tips will make your time after college easier and more productive, and help you avoid some common mistakes that will cause you grief. Get started on these tips at least four weeks before you leave.
1. Record what you did in college
Your accomplishments are so much more than what is on your transcript (though you will of course need your transcript, so make sure you get a hard copy or two to be able to refer to later on). Make a note of every job you held; every organization (fun or serious or both) that you joined, every role you held there, and every project you completed for them. You will probably be surprised how much you did. Recall and write down what and who was important to you. Bonus: You can show it to your parents when they ask, rhetorically, what they and you paid for.
In the workplace, the combination of learning and doing and successfully completing things is what will get you hired. Employers find sentences like this one persuasive: “As a junior, I assisted in organizing my sorority’s rush process; as a senior, I led that effort, and put on two more events at 5 percent lower total cost.”
2. Settle your bills
Before you leave, you should make sure you are not leaving any debt behind that you don’t know about: unpaid parking tickets, library fines, or outstanding tuition and fee balances that you haven’t covered with loans. Your credit rating is going to matter to you a lot after college, and these kinds of unpaid bills will hurt it. Even if you can’t cover the costs now, you are much better off knowing what they are and making sure you understand your repayment obligations.
About those obligations: before you leave, make sure you know your terms and schedule for paying off student loans, if you have them, including repayment terms, start date, and circumstances under which you may postpone repayment. Make sure you know how to get in touch with your lender and that the contact information the lender has on file will be correct after you leave (not, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org).
3. Gather your references
You are going to need references to get a job, to get into other academic or training programs, and in some cases even to rent an apartment. Make a list of those references, and ask them ahead of time if they are willing to provide a reference for you. If they are, ask for their preferred contact method (email? cell or office phone?) and record it. You should have references from your most important instructor or two, and your two or three most recent employers, including on-campus employers.
4. Ask this question
Make an appointment with your campus’s career services office and ask the staff member, “What can I do before I leave that is easier to do while I am still here?” If you have time while you are there – remember how busy they are at this time of year – ask them, “What do people tend to forget to do before they leave?”
5. Get ready to move, even if it’s back home
It’s more and more common for recent grads to move back home after graduation (over 25 percent of Gen Yers recently told PayScale they had had to move home after graduating college). If you’re in this situation, remember that you have changed and they have changed while you were at college. Make sure you understand your parents’ expectations are and they understand yours: how long do they (and you) think you will want or have to stay? Do they expect you to be looking for a job the day after you get home, while you feel entitled to a few days or weeks off? Do they (and you) expect to pay rent? Do they expect you to adhere to high-school-age rules about going out, while you expect there to be no rules any longer? What about overnight romantic guests? You need to have a conversation about this, probably more than one, to understand each other. Ideally this will be a discussion, not a one-way statement of policy. Two weeks after you’re home, ask them how it is going, and be prepared to tell them the same.
6. Say “thank you”
Before you leave, take time to say thank you as well as goodbye, especially to people who have influenced you, who have helped you, and who have worked for you on campus. If your parents supported you during your education, thank them. Remember the deep truth articulated by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It is both courteous for the world you are leaving and a core skill for whatever workplace you enter.
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