YM Blog-a-thon: Post-College Anxieties

April 23, 2008

(Editor's note: Youth Outlook and WireTap are kicking off the third Youth Media Blog-a-thon. This month's topic is money. Check back frequently for updates and feel free to join the discussion.)

Few things annoy me more than unsolicited advice.

So it's not surprising that during my senior year of college, I turned a deaf ear to anyone who tried to give their two cents about life post-college. I already knew the horror stories. Me? I was going to be fine. The universe would align itself, I'd fine myself a nice job that didn't assault my soul, great apartment, and my friends and I would visit each other every other month.

Things didn't exactly turn out that way.

While I'm probably the last person who needs to give advice, I'm going to offer my ill-advised, unprofessional opinion based on my not-so-cute encounters with brokeassedness over the past year.

First, a little background:

Recently, a friend and I were talking about how unexpectedly hard knock this post-college existence has been. To put it lightly: it's rough. And not just for spacey cats like myself who majored in impractical things like English. My friend got her degree in Biology, which meant she really studied -- like numbers and shit. Interview after interview, we're learning the truth behind the age-old adage, 'It's not what you know, but whom you know.' Sadly, it rings true both in the corporate and non-profit world's which, for better or worse, are both pretty exclusive. When you don't know the right people, it sucks.

We're not adverse to work in any way. We both had steady full- and part-time jobs while we went to school. But having a degree can sometimes give you a sense of entitlement that's flat out unwarranted.

[Note: These tips come from a very particular kind of college experience. I went to a small liberal arts college in the middle of the Southern California desert. It was like being at Camp -- with a few token people of color thrown in the mix to grace the front of the school catalogue.]

  1. Jobs are hard to find
    The day before my college graduation, I was excited -- and ambivalent. I was a soon-to-be college graduate anxious to be freed from the monotony of my undergraduate experience. Twenty-four hours later, I was a broke alumni, in debt and without any serious full-time job prospects that I was excited about. While a college degree sounds nice, and is filled with memorable experiences of clenched fists, red cups and late-night ciphers, it certainly doesn't automatically lead to a job. We're also in a recession. Unless you're part of the 0.12378800 % of folks who find their dream job after college, you'll probably end up doing something you don't expect. It's not always bad, but it's definitely not always expected.
  2. Be mindful of your debts
    Loan repayment can sneak up real quick, especially if you're not playing your cards right. One helpful way to prepare yourself would be to carefully read all of the information you're given about grace periods, consolidation options and deferments. Plan your job search and allocate your savings accordingly.
  3. It's lonely
    Especially for folks who were blessed with a group of amazing friends during college. The days of creeping over to your friends' rooms at 4am to watch Boondocks are out of the question. Expect your friends to be scattered all over the place. A good option would be to make sure you and all of your friends are on the same wireless network so you have someone to vent to -- free of charge.
  4. Patience
    Sounds simple enough, but it's easy to get discouraged when your plans either don't pan out, or they turn out to be a lot less glamorous than you imagined. If you don't already, start to keep a journal. I've found it to be really helpful in tracing how I've changed over the past year. It's crazy how your gut instincts are almost always right. Anyway, journaling is also good to just relieve stress, and it's a lot cheaper than therapy -- especially when you don't have any health insurance.
  5. Embrace home
    Home can be an actual place or simply a group of people you feel supported by. Whether it's moving back home or finding comfort in the folks who know you best, trust that the people you love will always have your back. If you're fortunate enough to be able to move back into a physical home and live rent-free, embrace it. It's not the end of the world. It might be tense in the begining, especially when you're trying to re-adjust to rules, but it's worth it. Look at it as an opportunity to re-connect with the fam and take jobs and internships you otherwise wouldn't be able to.

If moving home isn't an option, again, rely on that phone plan. Throw in some text messaging, even if you usually hate on it. You get to know who your real friends are when you're struggling, and it can give you plenty of material to laugh at in ten years.

Over the past year or so, I've learned that school -- academic institutions and the mentality that comes with it -- is safe. Safer than I ever imagined. What makes the transition from college to the real world so difficult is the fact that no one really prepares you. You go from a me-centered world that, at least in theory, is supposed to nurture and support you to be a 'productive worker' to one where you actually are a worker who's supposed to work toward the collective purpose of another entity. Sadly, the academy is sometimes all we know. It's not an easy transition.

Jamilah King is WireTap's associate editor. She is also a founder of Grits and Eggs collective blog.





Right now I&;m trying to finish up the remaining few years of my senior status of college. I don&;t have any loans to pay back at the end but I know people who do. And I have family members who are paying loans for college and are a little scared about how much money they&;ll be throwing down later on once everything is all said and done. I guess it takes graduation for reality to really sink in -- and thats scary. We don&;t think about that very much until we&;re the fetal position curled up under the table and don&;t want to come out and face the world. You touched on a lot of good points that I think that people (like myself) can use later on in life so graduating college isn&;t like falling into a cold bucket of water after stepping out of a hot shower.