2007 College Student Guide » Living

Into the Great Wide Open

Be prepared for the post-graduation reality check

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It's true. If it's not the most fun you'll ever have, your college years will at least rank right up there. After you graduate, unless your parents are extremely generous and beg you to move back home and live off their refrigerator (Loser!), it's time to be your own breadwinner.

That doesn't have to be so scary. You've got a degree from a quality American university, placing you among the most educated (at least on paper) people in the world. It's exciting! You can do whatever you want. You're in your early 20s, and there's no rush to take over the world.

Start by deciding what your priorities are during your senior year. Do you want to have a positive impact on your community? Check out nonprofit jobs, or think about that volunteer work with immigrant children last summer that made you feel really good. Do you want to make money fast? Go ahead and beef up your resume with an internship, so you can land that banking job at BB&T next summer. Want to go to graduate school? You've probably already chosen a career track, but if you haven't decided, maybe it's better to take a year to work a job you'll enjoy and figure that out.

There are plenty of fun jobs out there for college graduates who aren't ready to align themselves with the office job of their choosing. Teaching environmental education will let you move throughout the country to places you've always wanted to visit, for two and three month jobs at a time. Maybe you've always wanted to visit Asia? Sign up for a program teaching English in Japan or South Korea, and bank 30 Gs a year while they cover your room and board. Have you always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, or ride your bike across the country? Save up a couple thousand dollars this year and do it. It'll never be easier to take off and explore than immediately following graduation.

The worst thing you can do is graduate with no plan of action other than loafing around in your hometown and partying until the congratulatory check from Grandma runs out. Think of what you've always wanted to do, and do it. You won't regret having that experience. Later on, when the law school you're applying to sees that you just sailed from Charleston to India to raise money for third world orphans, that 2.2 GPA won't look nearly as bad.

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