Advice

Advice to College Seniors

Three years ago, I remember being sick to my stomach nervous about the future. I was finishing up my senior year at Georgetown University. Gearing up for final exams, wrapping up semester long group projects, and freaking out about what was going to come next.
The truth was that I was definitely ready to be done with school. It was the what came next that terrified me. But I was also excited. Even though I had no idea what I would be doing, I liked the idea that I would be in control of my future. I was not very emotionally invested in graduating; I’m pretty sure if there had been a fast forward button, I would have clicked it without hesitation to zip forward to my first day of work. This would have been partly because I was excited to get started with life and partly because I would have wanted to gloss over the stress of it all.

Here’s the advice I wish I could go back in time and give to myself. (Also I realize this seems “early” for college graduation, but trust me the next month or so is going to fly by.)

Celebrate | I am the type of person who likes to *ding* check stuff off my list. By the time I check something off, I’ve moved onto the next thing. In this case, I considered graduation a done deal and I was ready to get a job and move on with my life. It’s terrible, but at the time, I truly didn’t believe graduation was that big of a deal. I wish I had taken the time to be proud of the accomplishment instead of wishing it to be over.

Say better goodbyes | I did a terrible job saying goodbye to people. I think I was in denial or didn’t really get it, but it’s the last time you’ll be in the same place as your classmates at one time. Yes, you’ll bump into people post-graduation (five Hoyas live within a block of me in NYC!), but it’s not the same. Say goodbye. Don’t burn bridges. Make sure you thank professors who really influenced your time at school. And don’t just say goodbye to people, tour campus… soak it all in.

It all works out | This was the root of all my stress. And, look, everyone told me it was all going to work out and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, it was that I couldn’t. Getting a job seemed impossible. Finding an apartment in a new city seemed daunting. Figuring out “who I was” felt important yet unfeasible. Even if you don’t believe me… it does all work out.

(The real trick to believing this is asking yourself, “What’s the alternative?” Your life isn’t going to magically unfold, but if you take control and you’re smart about your decisions and actions, it does work out.)

Take it one step at a time | Going off that last thought, the best way to get things done is to take it one step at a time. It’s like my favorite phrase: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Literally break everything down. Start by listing all the things you have to do. Update resume, reach out to this person, pack up your dorm, apply for this job, look for an apartment, interview for this job, inquire about that internship, etc. In my opinion, just writing everything down seems to take a weight off my shoulder. Tasks seem massive in my head and then, when written down, don’t seem quite as daunting. Break down those tasks into even smaller chunks and tangible items. For example, if moving out of your dorm seems stressful (always was for me), your list might say: buy boxes, schedule pick up time, pack desk, pack shoes, pack clothes, etc. It will also give you some momentum when you feel like you’re getting stuff accomplished and working towards completing a task.

Don’t rush | While you’re off accomplishing everything you need to accomplish as you graduate, don’t rush. Again, I was ready to peace out of college and as a result everything slipped by me. It’s going to be a blur whether you rush or take your time, so take your time and enjoy the process. I know graduating seems like an incredibly scary time, but when you look back three years later (like I’m doing now) you’ll want to have some good memories of your last month or so on campus.

Take a nap every day and a vacation of some sort | This is sort of like a subset of not rushing. After I had graduated and returned home and turned down job offers and let the panic of not finding a job I was passionate about set in… I should have relaxed and remembered it would all work out. I tortured myself. In reality, I got a job offer within 30 days of being home. Looking back, those 30 days could have been better spent other than freaking myself out. They’re sort of your last stab at childhood/freedom. I wish I had napped more. And I wish I had taken a vacation, traveled somewhere.

Follow your instinct | I read all kinds of tips, I listened too all sorts of people… but at the end of the day, the best person to listen to and trust is yourself.

It’s funny because as I wrote this, I realized that I could still use this advice today. It’s not only applicable during graduation season.


xoxo

PS The one thing I did do that I can look back happily on is my last group project. I hated group projects in college, but the last one of my final semester was amazing. No one else in the class took it very seriously, but my group did. We pulled a few all-nighters, conducted serious research (including Skyping with families in the UK), and created a legit commercial– complete with voice overs. I felt like I went out with a bang academically.

PPS If you’re not in college yet, here’s an older post with the things I wish I had known back in high school.

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23 Comments

Michaela Fisch

Thank you thank you thank you for this post Carly. It's been so hard to sum up how I'm feeling about graduation but you did it perfectly. I seriously teared up reading this.

Ps – I showed my photographer your grad shoot because I want to do one just like it!

Michaela || The Monogrammed Midwesterner

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The Life You Love

I'm not very emotionally invested in graduation, either. And I wish I was, but I just wasn't. I am, however, taking full advantage of all of the naps that I can take since I start full time before I even officially graduate.

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Alyssa

This is exactly what I needed to hear! I was in the hospital yesterday for a severe panic attack. What was I panicking over? Lots of things, graduation being one of them. Your post is everything I've been feeling, so thank you for this. You rock.

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Alina

Love this advice! I'm not graduating yet, but I totally see myself in all these things, so I'm bookmarking it for 3 years from now, haha.

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Ellen Borza

Thank you so much for these tips, Carly! I'm graduating from college this weekend, and I recently made a major decision in which I had to follow my heart and instinct. I'm also guilty of sobbing while out with my friends last night. Not ready for goodbyes!

Ellen | A Pop of Pink

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Michele Hart

I will definitely revisit this post next year when I graduate!! Such a great post. I feel the exact way you did… I am rushing for college to be over. Your advice really hit home for me.

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Allison

This is just what I needed today. I'm graduating in three weeks and freaking out, but also trying to take it all in.

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Diana Karavida

This is such great advice, and I agree it does apply after graduation still! Lists are everything. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to get done, I write it all down, as well. When I look at the paper it doesn't seem that bad and I always crank through it so much faster and with more attention!

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Katelyn Palombo

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm about to graduate in a month, and the amount of stress I've put myself under to find a job has been unreal. This post came at the perfect time in my life as a reminder enjoy the process and let things work out the way they're supposed to.

Kate | http://www.thediscountprepster.com

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Caroline

Going through this right now! My mindset comes in waves … at times, I'm completely overwhelmed, am terrified of the 'what comes next,' and am watching the sand in the hourglass slip by so quickly, feeling completely out of control and bewildered. But other times, I'm so so so excited and hopeful and ready for what's to come. Thanks for these tips!

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Mrs. Mason Dixon

These are such great tips especially not taking time to yourself in the limbo stage between graduation and beginning a job. So important to do something fun since you are burnt out from school and will burn out from a job!

xo
Alex | Mrs. Mason Dixon

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Ashlee

Things are flying by so incredibly fast. I'm not ready to be done with school, but I am. I'm not ready to let go, but I am ready to start a new chapter. It's an overwhelming amount of feelings and pressure. Plus, there's the "how will I ever find a job I love?!" anxiety.

Thanks for this one!

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Nicole Keener

I am graduating with my AA on Friday (May1st) and I am slightly terrified, I know I will continue on to USF for my BA but the whole thing of the unknown scares me. When will I walk, will I find my family, do I take a purse etc. Just terrified.

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Lindsay Ava

This is such a great post, while I don't graduate for a few years yet, I definitely have started thinking about it and how I need a 'plan' and freaking out about whether or not I will have a job offer before I graduate or if I will be home waiting for answers! 🙂

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Peyton K

I stumbled upon this post when I was exploring your updated site, and it was exactly what I needed to read! I’m about to start my senior year of college and I have been so anxious about what the next year will hold for me. I may have to bookmark this post and read it weekly… Thank you for your incredible advice!

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