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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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TBT – Part Timing

Thanks to one of the blogs I follow, I found this article from The New York Times about how terrible part time work is. And after relying on working three part time jobs to get by for a year and a half, I fully understand how these employees are feeling. While the news reports that the unemployment rate is going down, that doesn’t count people who are “underemployed” like the woman in this article who worked as an interior designer for years and years, only to be working part time as a cashier in her fifties.

For part of my undergrad career, I decided to be a part time student. In my mind, I would spend more time working and would be able to pay for school easier. That wasn’t the case. At Undergrad U, part time students cannot receive ANY financial aid, including scholarships and grants that a student might normally qualify for. This meant that whatever tuition I couldn’t pay out of pocket, I was taking private loans for. This made it all to easy to forget about that expense until after graduation. Also, as a part time student, I couldn’t live on campus. While I lucked out and found super cheap (and super disgusting) subleases, that’s not always the case. In my area, off campus housing was usually more expensive than on campus housing. Another thing was that I wasn’t allowed to be an active member of a lot of the clubs I had been a part of. I also couldn’t work at one of my campus jobs because it was for full time undergrad students only. Once I returned to full time status, I kept working at my previous job and was working almost the same amount of hours that I had been while I was a a part time student! That was definitely not easy and I had to get creative with scheduling…both for work AND classes. As much as that sucked, I was much happier being a full time student!

Working part time jobs was also not a very pleasant experience. Yes, I had worked part time jobs before attempting to juggle three at once. But I had worked those while I was a student, so my job wasn’t my priority at that time. The reason I took on three at once was because I had just graduated from Undergrad U, hadn’t received any “real” job offers (even though I had applied to over 50 jobs!), and was on the verge of being homeless (a big thank you to all my friends with couches). The article made some valid points with the downfalls of part time work – less pay, less hours (obviously), and inconsistent scheduling. One of the jobs paid minimum wage and the other two were commission-based. That, along with the inconsistent scheduling, meant I had a VERY inconsistent pay check. The scheduling was honestly the worst part. Some weeks I’d have tons of hours, other weeks I’d be sitting at home and remember why I hated daytime TV. Also, I didn’t get my schedules until the Friday before the week of the schedule…that meant I had to wait to the last minute to plan EVERYTHING…hair appointments, doctor’s appointments, hanging out with friends, AND the hours I was supposed to work my other jobs. What’s worse, if I requested off one DAY or even part of a day (“Hey boss, I have a doctor’s appointment Tuesday afternoon, could you schedule me for morning only?”) my boss would definitely NOT schedule me for Tuesday (okay, fine, whatever) but also would schedule me LESS for the whole week because “I had less hours to give”. UMMM…WHAT?

While working part time is often necessary, being a part time student at a traditional four year college is something that can be avoided. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be part time students ever…there are definitely ways that it can work! However, you need to make sure you’re aware of the differences between part time and full time student status! In the end, going part time cost me a lot more than being a full time student would have.

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