9 Women In Their 20s Reflect On The Advice They Wish They Had At Graduation

by Brittney Morgan

Graduating college can feel seriously scary. You've spent your entire life in school, working and preparing for the moment you enter the real world, but what happens when you get there? What if things don't go totally according to plan? You may have passed all your classes, but there are some lessons you don't necessarily learn in school — and who better to teach you than the people who have already lived it? So, I reached out to several 20-somethings who have already finished school to find the advice women wish they had at graduation.

The thing about life after college is, everyone has a different experience, and you may have expectations about what your life will be like that don't exactly come true the moment you move out of your dorm. You might land your dream job right away and things might not feel all that different for you. On the other hand, your career might go in a direction you didn't expect, your friendships might change (especially as people move to new places and get busy with their jobs), and you might find that everything you thought you wanted isn't exactly the right fit for you anymore. In any case, here's what other women in their 20s wish they knew when they were graduating, and what you can learn from their experiences.

Don't Stress If Your Friendships Change
Your perfect dream world or timeline doesn’t necessarily exist and different experiences will help point you in the direction you should go in. You’re not just going to graduate with the perfect job.
You may not keep in constant contact with all your college friends but you know most of them will always be there, and the good ones will be easy to pick up with whenever, as though no time has passed, so don’t stress if you’re not constantly texting all your sorority sisters or besties from college.

— Kayla, 23

Take Time To Try Things & Figure Out What You Want
I think a lot of people should know that it's exceptionally rare and should not be expected that everything's just going to, like, fall into place with your life within the first few years after college. So, it's OK to wander a little bit and figure out where you actually want to be and what you want to be doing, and try on a few different hats in career and love and friend arenas.

— Alanna, 27

Don't Be Afraid Of The Unknown
No anxiety struck me harder than graduation. No final, no presentation, no paper ever had me as on edge as receiving that diploma. I felt this tremendous pressure to have it all figured out. Looking back, it’d have been great if someone would have told me that the road ahead is windy but that all of that unknown is the part of the journey that’s most worth it and that will be most memorable.

— Katerina, 27

Don't Forget How Strong You Are
Your fight has just begun. Entering a male-dominated field is not easy and you will constantly have to prove yourself and stand your ground. Believe in yourself and your skills and know you are stronger than you think you are.

— Erin, 27

Don't Rush Into Things Without Thinking Them Through
Although I hear it all the time, I wish someone had ingrained it more into my head to not rush into things without thinking them through entirely. I also wish someone had forced me to think even harder about where I want to be five years from now. Finally, I wish someone would have told me that there will be days where I will be my own worst enemy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t turn that around to love myself and be happy, because no one is perfect.

— Vanessa, 25

The Way You Prioritize Things Will (& Should) Change
I would've loved for someone to let me know that it's OK not to have everything planned out or together. It can feel really scary to suddenly not have the routine of classes or on campus events, and like your life is lacking structure. But it's totally fine to take your time and figure out how to schedule things in a way that works for you. Not every day or week has to include work and friends and the gym and activities like you might have had your schedule stacked in college. It's alright to figure it out as you go along and figure out what balance you need, and how to arrange your schedule and life in a way that feels good.
It took me a while to get used to the idea that it's OK to not be doing a million things at once, and not having a full schedule doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your life. It can be just as rewarding to take a day off, or have some weeks where you focus on yourself more than work or friends or anything else. College made me feel sometimes like everything was a race to the finish line, whether it was because of essay due dates or finals or graduation. Once you get out of that system and mindset, it's really important to unlearn that as much as possible and figure out how to manage time in a way that's healthy, where you can prioritize things based on what you need and not always what other people want or need from you!

— E.B., 23

It's OK For Your Life To Be Different Than Everyone Else's
That life right after looks different for everyone, and that's OK. That's the main thing, really. That just because graduating college meant different things for my parents or friends or roommates... If my life didn't look exactly like everyone else's, if I didn't have a job right away or couldn't move to a dream city right away, that didn't make me any less. In fact, that's the much more common scenario.

— Anonymous, 26

Your Dream Job Might Not Come Right Away, & That's OK
When I graduated, I had my heart set on one specific position at one specific company. I had worked really hard throughout college to make my post-grad career prospects as viable as possible (I'd interned at the company I wanted to work at and kept in touch with my contacts there frequently), but ultimately, I didn't get the job. I was upset, and it took me a long time to realize that the job offer I got later on was actually pretty cool. I wish I had been more open-minded and more flexible. You don't know what a job is like until you're in it, so don't rule out any possibilities. Right after college, you just need a job, ANY job... not necessarily your dream job. That can come later!

— Hannah, 25

You Have Plenty Of Time To Figure Everything Out
I see a lot of post-grads often freak out after a year or two and feel as though they’re not in the place they should be, wondering what are they’re doing with their lives, why they don’t have a better job, why they don’t make more money, etc. I think things become more routine and aren’t as exciting as they think they’re going to be, which is obviously not true for everyone, but I think we need to remind ourselves that we’re young and we have plenty of time to find another job that’s a better fit, to save or to travel. And I find myself reminding myself of my age as well, when I feel like I’m not doing anything with my life and that I’m not utilizing my full potential. I have to remind myself that I’m only 24, that I have to calm the f*ck down, because I have time to explore, figure out what I like, take a few chances, and change those things that I don’t like.

—Anamaria, 24

No matter what your life looks like post-graduation, remember that you're totally normal. You have time to figure out your life, your career, and your relationships, and it's perfectly OK to be confused or to change things when they're not working for you anymore. Everything will come together eventually, as long as you keep trying.

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