From 2008 to 2012, I experienced life in college. My first year, I attended the University of New England, a great school with a beautiful campus, but, with soaring tuition rates. My second year, I transferred to the University of Maine in Orono (not only to save money, but also because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do).
College was an exciting time. Finally, I was able to experience life on my own terms. I lived with some of my closest friends, and together, we experienced the excitement of apartment hunting, decorating our space, and making memories. But, four years came to an end quickly enough. In 2012, my friends were taking different directions, and I had to go in my own direction, too. Life was changing, fast. It was time to move on.
Life After College
Immediately after graduating, I moved into a new apartment with one of my good friends from home. She had just landed a job with Eastern Maine Medical Center, while I struggled to find my first job. Before graduating, I had applied to jobs in my field, a lot of jobs in my field. All were dead ends. I grew desperate, and began applying to any jobs. Finally, I landed my first post-college position with a Maine credit union.
In college, you're undoubtedly faced with responsibility, like going to class, balancing your schedule, completing assignments, and maintaining a good GPA. However, after college I felt that the responsibilities I was facing were real. Like deciding my long-term life goals, establishing a financial plan, tackling my tremendous student loan debt, and managing life's other demands. After the safety net of college is gone, you must ask yourself, "what next?" and decide where you want the upcoming steps of your life to lead. Despite four years of education, I didn't have much preparation for the real world.
Post-College Advice For Graduates
It's been about three years since my college graduation, and I have learned a few lessons that might be helpful for graduates now on the journey of tackling life.
- After graduation, you have a six-month grace period before you must start repaying your student loans. (1) Don't miss the first payment, put a reminder on ALL of your calendars, and (2) Start paying early if you can. The average debt load for students is $29,400, so it is wise to stay on top of your repayments, and to get out of debt quickly.
- Live within your means and continue sharing living expenses. Get a roommate(s), so that you don't have to afford living all on your own. If you're not sure what your plan is, live at home for free until you get things figured out. The extra money you save can go toward the security deposit on a new place.
- You may have landed your first good-paying job. As difficult as it might be, try not to go on a spending spree. After four years of being broke, it's hard to resist the extra cash sitting in your checking account. Instead, come up with a good financial plan and a budget to help with spending. Remember, there is still a good amount of debt that needs to be paid off.
- Now that you're out of college, you have a whole world of possibilities ahead. Take some time to think of your short- and long-term financial goals. Do you want to travel, buy a home, take a vacation? Write down your goals, and then come up with a savings plan to help you achieve them. How much do you need to save per month to achieve your plans?
- Always pay your bills on time. You can schedule automatic transfer payments right from your checking account to ensure you pay the bills each month. Getting behind can hurt your credit score, and your finances, in the long run.
- Even if it's not your dream job, start working! Continue to pursue possibilities and opportunities.
- Start saving for retirement (not something that I thought of at 22 years old). Because of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you will be in the future. Ask your employer if they offer a retirement plan, and take advantage! If you start in your twenties rather than in your thirties, that can equal thousands of dollars in difference.