Tag Archives: graduating

TBT – Graduation

I was not looking forwards to my graduation from Undergrad U. At some point in February, someone made mention of there being 100 days until graduation, and it was like some switch flipped in my brain. Before then, graduation had been some distant event with little meaning. It seemed long enough away that by the time it eventually rolled around, I would have my life together. But once that countdown hit the double digits, I was panicking. I didn’t have a “grown up” job yet. I wasn’t “over” college yet. Heck, I had just started to enjoy myself! And so I spent the next 99 days dreading graduation.

I had no time to process the fact that I was a graduating senior. I literally went straight from taking an exam to listening to some CEO of some company tell me to go out there and make a difference in the world. No cushy senior send off event for me. If I thought that college went by too fast, it was nothing compared to how fast I went from enjoying mixers with my sisters and nights at the bar to packing my apartment up and moving back to my parents house. Speaking of my sisters, there were only two others that graduated when I did. TWO. We didn’t take cute-sy senior pictures or anything of the sort. Not only was I leaving with nothing exciting in my future – nobody was coming into the lonely world of adulthood with me!

As PDFM U gets ready for graduation, I can’t help but to think back on my own graduation and all those thoughts and feelings I had. I wonder how all my students feel – if they’re excited or sad or scared or all three. Are they going to look back fondly on these last few weeks of college or be like me and wish that they had “done more”?

How did I spend my last few weeks? I remember sleepovers in my sorority house’s living room. Late night Taco Bell runs. Driving all over creation with my friends as they looked for a house to rent the following year. Enjoying things at Undergrad U that I had never tried before (true story, I don’t think I used the gym at UU until my last month of college). Maybe I did do enough. Maybe I just wish that college was longer.

I’ve had a few talks with some of my students adjusting to the post-college world. At first I thought that it was just me, that I was the only person having some MAJOR transition issues to life after college. Part of the problem with having only a few sisters graduate was that I had nobody to talk to these things about. Now that all my friends have (finally) joined me in the real world, I see them going through the same struggles I went through. It turns out everything I felt was completely normal. It takes time to get used to not living twenty feet from your best friends and not having something to do every night.

The good news is, I was MUCH more excited about my graduation from Grad School State. All of my friends were graduating with me, we had plenty of adventures together in our last weeks of school, and while I still didn’t have a job, I had a Master’s degree and for some reason that made me feel much more important. It didn’t make me think I could change the world, but it did make me think that I could help somebody that someday might change the world.

I wish there were more resources for those transitioning out of college. For now, there’s a nice network of bloggers that you can count on.

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Moving Home

As a young adult, the idea of visiting home sounds wonderful. Family, friends, HBO that I’m not paying for, FREE MEALS…seriously. It’s like a vacation minus the hotel and airfare. When I was in college, I LOVED going home for weekends…maybe a little too much at first. Even now I try to make it home for big events and I still try to see as many people as possible in a short three day weekend.

However…the idea of MOVING HOME?? That had me running and screaming in the other direction. I had spent most of my life and most of college thinking that I’d finish college and move into my own apartment or at the very least an apartment with friends.

This seems like an accurate representation of what I thought my twenties would be like from the ages of…oh….ten to twenty-one.

Except…just like the “Friends” theme song…no one told me how life was going to be this way. Once I graduated college, I had a part time job lined up, but it wasn’t enough to cover rent my security deposit and I was completely SOL.

It actually started a few weeks before I graduated. My mom called. WAIT. No, no, no. This story starts MUCH further back than that.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to move home after graduation was that my family was VERY strict. I distinctly remember my first only summer home during college. The summer actually started off easier than it ended. During dinner, I told my mom I was going to hang out with one of my friends after she got out of work. “Be home by eleven,” was her response. “But mom…she doesn’t get out of work until 10:30.” “Well, I guess you two won’t be seeing each other tonight then!” “Mom, I’m supposed to pick her up from work. She had someone drop her off because those were our plans.” My mom finally agreed that I could go get her (you know because we’re nice people and all) but that I couldn’t hang out afterwards. It was too late. This seemed absolutely archaic to me after nearly an entire year of not having to follow any rules. At school, we wouldn’t even LEAVE for some parties until after eleven. By the end of summer, my 11:00 pm curfew included the computer. I might have gotten in more trouble for calling my house Guantanamo Bay at one point…oops. By the time August rolled around, I was looking for any excuse to move back to school early. After that summer, I didn’t go home for anything longer that a four day break until graduation.

So…back to where I was. It was a few weeks before graduation. My mom called. “When are you moving home?” I laughed. Out loud. While on the phone. “Mom, I’m not moving home, I have a job here. I have an apartment I can stay at. By the way, can I have $1200?” It’s really hard to convince a parent that you are a grown up in the same sentence that you’re asking for money. And that is the story of how I wound up moving home. I was not happy about it. I was dreading the rules and the boredom. Back then there weren’t blogs or advice articles on how to handle this because my graduating class was the start of the wave of students moving home due the recession. My solution was to spend as much time as I could AWAY from home which didn’t exactly please my rule-loving mother. But, as you probably know from reading other posts here, I eventually found my way to grad school, moved out, and got a big girl job.

What can you do if you’re moving home?

Whether you are moving home for the summer or heading back after graduating, there are a few things you can do to make your life (and your parents’ lives) easier.

Have a nice, sit-down discussion about rules. What is a reasonable time that you should be home? Who might be allowed or NOT allowed to spend the night in your room? Do you need to call home with your plans? Certain families are much more relaxed than others. Also, your life situation might be MUCH different than when you last lived at home. Asking a parent if a significant other can stay over in your room while you’re in high school is laughable in most homes. (Granted, it’s still laughable in mine, but that’s another story) In college, your boyfriend or girlfriend might have spent the night with you loads of times. Your parents might tell you that he or she can’t stay in your room. Yes, it sucks, but you know what? I’m not even going to fight that one any more because I know they aren’t budging. I did eventually break my mom down on the curfew…after I graduated I had to come home “when the bars close”. Good thing I live on the border…2 am closing time on one side, 4 am on the other. Sorry not sorry.

Know what’s expected of you. Do you have to help with any chores around the house or baby sit for your younger siblings? Do your parents need help with the rent or paying any bills? Even if your parents tell you that they don’t want your money or your help, offer from time to time! Make dinner for the family one night or help out with raking the leaves. I bought my parents something they had wanted for awhile but didn’t really have the extra money for. Another time, I surprised them by paying their bill at a restaurant.

Find something to do. I had lost touch with my home friends so while I was home, I really had nothing to do. I wound up joining a gym and eventually creating a new friend group consisting of old and new friends. If you’ve been gone for awhile, it’s really like moving to a new city.

Lastly, come up with some sort of timeline. If you’re just moving home for the summer, that’s pretty simple. You’re going back to school. If you’re moving home with no end date in sight…that’s a different story. Once you have a job, set a goal for yourself! You will save $X per month so you can get your own place in Y months. Tell your parents this goal so they can help in any way they can, whether it’s looking for apartments, finding furniture, or even helping you move!

What advice do you have for those moving home?

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So You’re In Grad School – May

May is always a month that’s pretty easy to remember…LAST DAY OF SCHOOL, WOOOOO!!! But seriously. I know last month I dropped the ball on my “So You’re In Grad School” post because I couldn’t remember what I did in April during my first year of my program. Guess what? I’ve been thinking about it all month and I STILL don’t remember what I did in April. But, because May was the end of the year, I definitely remember what I did in May.

If you’re a first year student…

Hopefully you have your summer plans all set because now it’s time to plan for them! You might be staying right where you are, you might be traveling to the other side of the country! Orrr you might be in the unlucky position of “we’re closing your building, MOVE!”. Trust me, that’s no fun. Also, I’m over moving. Like seriously over moving. Anywho.

If you do have to travel a long distance for your summer internship, make sure you have a reliable way of getting there. What’s that mean? Well, if you plan on driving to your internship, whether it’s a daily commute or driving ten hours twice the entire summer, take your car for a tune up. You don’t want to have to tell your supervisor that you are going to be late because your car broke down. If you are flying to get where you’re going, make sure you have a ride from the airport to campus and make sure you know how you’re going to get around during the summer. Does the city you’re going to be living in have a good public transportation system? Check it out ahead of time! Do you plan on renting a car for weekend trips? Look into the car rental service closest to where you’ll be living and see if there are any special restrictions. I rented a car the WEEK before I turned twenty five and had to pay an extra ten dollars a day. Other places might have a higher fee or might not rent to you, depending on your age.

Try to find out as much as you can before you leave for your internship. What are the details of where you’ll be living? Will you be housed in an apartment? Will you have roommates? One of my classmates got housed in a dorm room for his summer internship! It was a NICE dorm room…but he never thought he’d be back in one of those! Are there any special summer trips or retreats that you are expected to go on? What is the weather like in the summer where you are going? What are you supposed to wear in the office?

If you do your homework from the above two paragraphs, you will have a better grasp on what to pack and what not to pack for your summer internship. If you are flying, you might want to look into shipping a box or two ahead of time so you’re not paying a fee to check extra suitcases. At the end of the day (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) every town in America has a laundromat, so always pack less clothes. Always.

If you’re a second year student…

Congratulations. You’ve survived grad school. You better celebrate now because you’re about to start working full time and you will continue to do so for the next fifty years or so. I just sucked the fun right out of it, didn’t I?

Hopefully you have a job offer. Heck, maybe you’ve even accepted a job and have a start date and all that jazz! If so, that’s exciting and you might want to actually read some of what I wrote to the first year students as you plan to pack and move to wherever it is life takes you. Especially that part about bringing your car in for a tune up. You do not want to be stuck on the side of the road with your fully packed car. It’s no fun.

You might have multiple job offers at once. Whatever you do, DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS TO OTHER PEOPLE. There are plenty of people out there that are currently employed and you will not earn their sympathy. If you have a few select friends that have their job situation figured out, talk to them about it or chat with a professor. But seriously, do not just complain to the whole class. Every program has that one kid that does it and nobody likes them.

So. Yes. You might have multiple job offers. And you might have a hard time choosing between them. There will be pros and cons about all of the schools, the positions, the locations. One job will pay more than the other. It’s not an easy decision to make. You need to think long and hard about it and honestly, you need to go with your gut feeling. I know most people fresh out of grad school will want to go with the highest salary (you’ve gotta pay those loans somehow!) but that might not be the best job to take. In a perfect world, the job with the best description and best location would also be the highest paying, but it NEVER works out that way. I wish you the best of luck with your decision. (Also, if you do need someone to complain to, I have a job, you can whine to me. Or wine to me. Whichever.)

You might not have a job offer yet. That’s okay. As people are accepting (or declining) job offers, more positions are opening up. Some schools don’t have their budgets set for next year yet and once they figure those details out, they will know if they can add that position or not. If you don’t have a job offer yet, put your stuff in storage, keep looking for jobs, but more importantly, ENJOY YOUR TIME OFF. Once your friends with jobs get settled in, go visit them. See new parts of the country. Go to the beach. Once you get a job offer (which you will), you will not have time to do any of those things.

 

Whether you’ve finished your first year, your whole program, or just finished college and are about to start your Student Affairs adventure, congratulations on finishing another year!

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Gap Year

Well hello there new followers! I’m not sure how you all found me, but I’m glad you did! One of my new followers is a recent grad who’s life story sounds very similar to mine. She always thought she’d graduate and go somewhere and get a job and do all those grown up things we all dream of. Except. She didn’t. She’s still in her college town. Why that sounds oddly familiar… So, my fellow blogger (and all you out there with similar situations) this one’s for you.

In our culture, a “gap year” is when someone purposefully takes a year off, usually after high school or college graduation, to travel, see the world, or do something else, like volunteer work. While some people see it as something only the rich do, I’ve had friends with similar socioeconomic backgrounds save and save and save just so they could backpack across Europe. I’ve also had friends be willing to teach English to small children in third world countries. My version of a gap year wasn’t so kindhearted or glamorous. I graduated. I didn’t get a “real” job. I was what the news calls “underemployed”.

(Side note that’s going to be so long it deserves its own paragraph: The jobs I had were most certainly real as I spent many many hours at them for very little money. However, I had some friends, adults, and even my then-boyfriend criticize them as not being “real” jobs. That’s why it’s in quotes. If I were speaking to you in person, I doing the whole air quotes with my fingers thing.)

So what did my freshly graduated unemployed self do? Well, I promptly threw myself a graduation party and invited all my relatives. And that, my friends, is how I survived the first two months out of school. I was constantly going to my local mall and applying to every single store that was hiring. One hired me pretty early on but wanted to wait until they hired more associates so I could be trained in a group, so that was six more weeks of sitting on my butt. I wound up working two mall jobs, being an “independent consultant” doing those home party type shows, and working at a bar. When I wasn’t at work, I was hanging out at my college doing college things with my college friends. I guess everybody else got the warning about the crappy job outlook and decided to take what I like to call a victory lap.

I was actually really glad to have only part time jobs. I knew I wanted to go to grad school and I was able to request time off to visit the campuses, chat with professors, take my GREs, and work on applications. My mom kept pushing for me to get a full time job as an administrative assistant somewhere, but if I did that, I would not have had the same amount of time to search for grad schools. Was I constantly worried about money? Yes. Was it worth it in the end? Yes, I went to my top choice school and eventually landed a job I love. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a recent grad in a similar situation. He could either be a substitute teacher or take a full time position. We worked out that subbing was probably the best option for him so he could have time to go research grad schools. Is it impossible to work full time and figure out grad school? No, but it really depends on how much you already have done and how hard you are willing to work. If you have already researched schools while in undergrad or only plan on applying to one school or have already taken the GRE, working full time might be more feasible.

What did I do in my free time? Well, once I had been accepted into grad school, I went through a period of a few months with probably the least responsibilities I’ll ever have in my life. No homework, no grad school apps, I didn’t live in my own apartment or home, so no housework. I didn’t have a dog yet and I still don’t have kids, so no looking after anybody. It was glorious. I spent as much time as I could visiting friends that lived in different areas. I made sure to reconnect with friends from high school that I had lost touch with during the college years. I explored different areas of the city I was living in. I hope that some day I can save up enough money to have a few months with no responsibilities again, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen until I retire. (Although I do make time to visit Undergrad U every so often and shrug off a few responsibilities for a weekend.)

So, to all you underemployed recent grads, to my fellow blogger, enjoy this time while you can. Yes, you may be broke and sleeping on a couch and surviving on leftovers and mac and cheese, but in five, ten, twenty years, you will look back and not remember how much your back hurt after sleeping on your best friend’s floor, but how much fun you had with him or her. Work hard, play hard, and remember what The Ataris say…”Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up, these are the best days of our lives.”

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Upgrading Your Wardrobe

I’m giving a fair warning now that this post might be a leaning a bit towards the girly side. It’s only fair. Men have the standard button-down-and-pants business casual outfits from childhood through old age. Women have to wear completely different things that different ages.

“Going to work” during grad school meant either going to a staff meeting, event, or holding office hours, all of which took place relatively late at night and in the comfort of the building I lived in. If I knew I was having an “important” meeting (aka parents were coming in), I usually threw on something nicer, but most of my time in grad school was spent in leggings and sweaters. For my internship, I did have to dress nice and I also had a pre-grad school job that required me to dress nice too, but I was only at those a few days a week, meaning I had some appropriate-for-work clothes when I graduated, but certainly not enough to survive a five day work week. And since I’m poor financially challenged, I had to get creative!

Before Graduation

For the job search, and for the job search only, you are going to need a suit. My mom and I decided to go suit shopping during the winter. I had never bought a suit before and honestly, I didn’t know where to get one. My dad kept joking that Gap Kids doesn’t sell suits. Thanks. So my mom brought me around to her favorite stores and showed me all the suits that were on sale. But you know what? NOTHING fit right. That could be partially because I barely fit into adult sizes, but also I was at my MOM’S favorite stores trying on the suits that she normally buys and she is a number of years older than me that I am not allowed to disclose. The suits were made for older women. Eventually I went to J. Crew and even though it cost more, it fit me perfectly AND they will do alterations for FREE if you have their credit card (and you get 15% off when you sign up for their credit card and you get a student discount). I know that was kind of ramble-y, but the point is even though you aren’t wearing this suit a ton, you’re wearing it during one of life’s least comfortable moments – an interview. So at least make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your suit.

Assess What You Have

Go through your current closet. You probably have a lot of items that can do “double duty” – be worn for a more casual purpose or for work. Plain t-shirts are great. Accessorize with a scarf, cardigan, or statement necklace (but not all three) and you can wear it to work! If you are in a more casual office environment, go through your jeans looking for ones with darker washes and no holes. For shoes, Old Navy flip flops might not work anymore, but a dressier sandal hiding in the back of your closet might be perfect for summer.

Go Shopping

Once you know what you already have, make a list of what you need and get out there! If you live near outlets, GO THERE! Look online for coupons for both outlets and “regular” stores. Don’t forget your student ID – a lot of places offer student discounts. You also don’t need to go to the expensive stores. A lot of basics can be found at Target!

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

This rule applies to everything. I’m not saying you need to create an entirely all-black wardrobe, but make sure the things you buy match with things you already own or each other. Buy things that won’t go out of style in three months. If you really want a trendy piece, make sure you don’t spend too much money on it!

Accessorize! 

Once you have your nice, basic, simple wardrobe, dress it up with accessories! This is an area you can have fun with. Plenty of stores have cheap, fun accessories. I’m a fan of usually everything near H&M’s registers. Accessories are a great way to showcase your personality in your outfit choice. It might not be the best idea to go all out and wear…say…a hat similar to the one worn by Aretha Franklin at the inauguration, but funky necklaces or bracelets are great. One of my favorite things to add to an outfit is this long necklace with a patterned heart pendant.

Anybody out there have any fashion tips for newbies like myself? I’m trying to not spend as much on clothes right now, but I do have a birthday coming up…

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