Being a college senior can be terrifying. Although we’ve had four years to accept the scary idea of leaving our hometowns and families, nothing shouts “independence” like buying your own apartment that isn’t campus property and finding a job that isn’t for course credits.
This little beer- and nap-filled limbo became our world, and now, leaving it is nerve-wracking, to say the least.
So, as we seniors brace ourselves for the dark unknown, there are some questions we need to mull over in order to prepare for what’s to come:
What am I good at doing?
This one sounds dumb, right? You could list majors and extracurriculars and even weird facts, like “I can say my name in 24 different languages,” but skills need to be more than one-liners on a résumé.
Not all math majors are pros at proofs and not all English majors are Shakespeare's reincarnate; it’s important to focus on the smaller things we often ignore.
Things like writing, critical analysis, amiability and determination are undermined on tests and job applications, but are crucial in any job.
Finding your strongest attributes and honing in on what you’re good at doing makes it a lot easier to not only know what to mention in job interviews, but also to find a suitable workplace to which you should apply in the first place.
What do I like to do?
A mentor recently told me, “Life is about doing the things that make you forget about the clock.” She suggested I evaluate which classes make me count the minutes until lunch and which ones go by too quickly.
If you’re working on something about which you’re passionate, you’ll be so absorbed in your work it won’t feel like a job. Even if you’re good at something, if it feels tedious, you’ll burn out. Prioritize the skills you love doing.
What do I value?
Alone time? Close friendships? A community focused on intellectualism? Diverse opinions? Netflix? It’s important to know what to prioritize.
Moving to new cities with new people can be daunting; finding a balanced work life and home life is hard, unless you know which to put first.
Whom do I value?
This one is a whole different beast. While it can be easy to say, “I value friendships over romantic relationships,” it’s much harder to find the perfect equation for dividing time into each specific hangout sesh.
What it comes down to is who you want to keep in your life. For whom would you drop everything? Who keeps you grounded and can help you with bigger challenges and life decisions?
Your friends won’t be down the hall anymore and most young professionals switch between multiple cities before settling down. It’ll take more of an effort to maintain friendships, so knowing which ones are there for good can help create stronger, lasting bonds and a better idea of who you should try to live near, if you have the option.
Learn to value the people who value you.
What do I need?
Do I need all of these comfy clothes if my job next year will likely have a business professional dress code? Do I need a 2,000-square-foot apartment all to myself and an extensive collection of fine wines and good books? Do I need a laptop AND an iPad AND the newest iPhone?
Identify what you can shed. Maybe your college wardrobe and room decor are too hard to let go of, or maybe, you do value expensive alcohol over three meals a day, but for the most part, we are used to living with a lot of superfluity.
While nobody likes to think about finances and the mere idea of city rent, the fact of the matter is that for the next few years, most of us won’t have the kinds of resources and funds with which we grew up.
There are many things we’re used to needing and only a few things that are true necessities.
What’s my ultimate goal?
For every era of our lives thus far, we’ve had end goals. Early childhood was about preparing for school; elementary and middle school were about getting ready for high school; high school was focused on résumé-building for college, and finally, college was meant to end in some type of job.
Once our lives stop being segmented into grades and classes and sports seasons, what will we be working toward?
We all want to make something we’re proud of and find a way to leave our marks on this world. Working 40 hours a week in an entry-level job can start to feel meaningless unless there’s a final destination.
Setting long-term goals and knowing your purpose can make everyday actions more fulfilling and promising.
Beyond these, though, the ultimate important detail to remember is Polonius’s overused, but ever-pertinent advice:
To thine own self be true.
College is supposed to be a time to find yourself, so life directly after college is about preserving that “self” and understanding what and who makes you happy.