3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Graduated College

3 minutes

College was fun! I got good grades, did a few internships and had a social life outside of studying. You probably heard that your experience is what you make of it and let me tell you – it’s true. I wasn’t the “come to class then go home” kind of student, so learned a lot beyond the classroom. I attended career workshops, networking events and pretty much did my best to make the most out of it.

Still, college didn’t prepare me for the real world. My introduction to the real world was brutal. I was scrambling to land a job after the company I thought I’d work for withdrew their offer. And I had to figure out ways to make money while waiting to hear from employers. I vividly remember this stage. It was a rough rite of passage.

Eventually, I realized what made this transition so stressful. There are things I know now that would have made it easier, had I known that then. I wish someone would have pulled me aside and told me everything I needed to know before graduating. Since that’s not how life works, I can only reflect on these lessons and share them with you.

There’s no better time to start something

Especially at the beginning, when things aren’t too intense yet. Most people spend their freshman and sophomore years figuring out what they want and taking general ed classes. It’s the best time to pursue a passion alongside doing schoolwork!

Some students have to juggle homework, internships and odd jobs throughout their undergrad years, which gives them less time to pursue other interests. If you happen to not NEED to work when you’re in college, you’re in the best position to start something – anything. A business, a side hustle; any outlet to express your curiosity. Chances are, you don’t have a lot of responsibilities (mortgage, children, student loans) to worry about then, so you can take risks and not face dire consequences. It’s a unique opportunity to test some ideas and see how that pans out. If it’s successful, it will also create a job for you when you graduate.

I wish I started my freelance writing business in college. I regret not launching my blog sooner or offering to do pro bono work until I built a portfolio. So if you have time (actually, make time), invest in the pursuit of a passion and you’d be surprised where it can take you.

Grades aren’t everything

I used to stress every exam because I didn’t want anything less than an A. I put so much pressure on myself to achieve the very best that I became very familiar with sleepless nights and coffee-fueled cramming sessions. It’s not a bad attitude, but it can take a toll on your health if you don’t watch out for that. I’m not saying you should get by with minimal effort and procrastinate until the last minute, but remember not to kill yourself over an imperfect GPA. You should always strive for excellence, but only when it doesn’t come to the expense of your health (physical, mental and emotional).

In reality, grades only matter if you plan on going to grad school and have to live up to your target university’s standard. Otherwise, you just need to do your best! Had I known this, I wouldn’t have stressed so much like I did over a B in organic chem and even a C+ in microeconomics (yeah, not my forte). Your GPA doesn’t in any way indicate the levels of success you’ll achieve. There’s a growing trend of not including it in resumes because employers don’t care so much about it anymore. So just remember that next time you feel like the world is falling apart because of an exam.

You don’t need to have it all figured out

A lot of us dread the, “What’s next?” question that comes with the prospect of graduation. It’s probably because we feel like we need to have an answer. If you have a plan and things are going your way, more power to ya! But if like most recent grads you don’t have a clear idea, don’t you worry. I can tell you for a fact that you’ll learn the most from not over-planning and being open to detours. I didn’t know what I would do after the company withdrew their offer. I figured I’d just find another job and work. Had that not happened, I wouldn’t have learned how to brand myself professionally and hustle. These are skills that will serve me throughout the rest of my life.

Post-grad life can be intimidating. You have all this free time and you might feel overwhelmed at times. But you will figure it out. Embrace the changes and welcome the lessons! It won’t be easy, but you will look back and want to do it all over again. It’s a worthy part of the growth process.

Your turn! What do you wish you knew before graduating college? Share them with me in the comments!

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12 Comments

  1. This is really good advice. I totally agree with you about not stressing about each individual grade- it’ll all be okay and work out in the end! I’m in that post-grad ‘what next?’ stage now and looking forward to the time in my life where I have a few more answers and hopefully a wee bit more stability!
    Lisa | http://www.whatlisadidnext.com

  2. I think your insight on grades not being everything is awesome to hear. Right now I am trying to get into my school’s business school and I need to get a certain GPA to do so, but at the same time I know I can’t make grades my identity. Thanks for your awesome input!

    Much love,
    Ashley | dearash.com

  3. This is the truth. I’m so glad I returned to my freelance photography during my undergraduate career. It has allowed me to expand my portfolio, build up clientele, and utilise the resources my uni has to offer. I’ll be sharing this with my little mentee.

    besos,
    Aitza B | petitelypackaged.com

  4. I wish someone had told me to explore more in the beginning of college. Everyone I knew was so focused on their major, even in the beginning. But we had so much time to explore! Great advice overall. There’s a lot kids need to hear on their way into college and on their way out. You hit the nail on the head.

    http://fromunderapalmtree.com/

  5. I agree, grades are not everything. I usually compensate my ‘bad grades’ with other activities I do, that kind of show that I handle other things well and that I gathered much more skills that way 🙂

  6. This is a great list of “college life lessons” – I’m only a sophomore so I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole “grades aren’t everything” thing, but I think I’ll get there eventually. Congrats on graduating!

    – katrina

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