No, not MTV’s sleazy reality TV show, but that “real” world of jobs, landlords, bills, taxes and all of the responsibilities that you never thought you’d have to deal with as a kid. As much as you’d like to freeze time and stay in college forever, the “real” world always seems to be steadily inching toward you and soon enough you’ll be starting your “real” life without long, luxurious winter breaks, swipe-it-home university cards or big fraternity parties to look forward to. But have no fear, no matter how far along you are in your college career, here are 10 tips for getting ready for the days after you turn your tassel.
1. Clean up your act. Get rid of any potentially incriminating photos or posts on all mediums of social media that your future employers might see. Sorry Toby Keith, but that means getting rid of all pictures with red solo cups. Your Facebook should be rated-G. Some employers require you to log on to your Facebook as part of the application process, so make sure that even your private photos are as classy and professional as you want the world to think that you are. There have been studies that have shown that success in the office is associated with high conscientiousness in online profiles, so the golden rule is: less is more.
2. Network and make face-to-face connections. In this tough economy, having connections can make all the difference in landing your dream job or getting accepted into your dream graduate school. Aside from getting on LinkedIn, during the summer, try to attend school/sorority alumni association events, make an effort to chat with your friend’s parents, get to know everyone at your internship, chat up recent graduates in your major about their new jobs and be friendly with everyone–you never know if one of these connections could turn into a job. During the school year, meet alumni and don’t be shy about practicing your networking skills that could potentially help you prepare for business lunches, interviews and interacting with professionals in the future. Join a professional fraternity if your school has one.
3. Find three people that inspire you. Whether these people are professors, internship mentors or even peers, try to find people with lives that you could see having. This way, you’ll always have people to go to when you need advice. These people also may serve as important connections for you in the future. You will also have three people who know you enough on a personal level that can write stellar recommendations for you for jobs or for graduate school.
4. Remember what you’re here for. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in you social life. While your social life is a very important part of your college experience, and arguably social skills are invaluable to being successful in the “real” world, most college drama isn’t worth your time. You have more important things to do.
5. Follow your passion. The most successful people are passionate about what they do. Don’t waste your time on majoring in something that you find completely boring. Whether your field of study is highest on the starting income list, or at the bottom, you’ll be most successful at something you’re passionate about. Support your passions by engaging in related activities–if you want to go to graduate school, ask a professor if you can become involved with their research. If you want a career in business, become a leader in a campus organization. If you aren’t a Dormify Style Advisor already, apply!
6. Keep track of your finances. In the “real” world, you can’t go to your mom and dad for everything. So, start logging how much money you are spending each month so you’re prepared when you have to start paying your own credit card bills. You might be surprised by how much you spend on Starbucks lattes every month.
7. Make educated purchases. Start thinking of your purchases as investments. Do you really need this season’s latest highlighter yellow colored denim. While the latest trends are fun for now, can you see yourself wearing them when you’re out of college? There’s nothing wrong with expressing yourself with a youthful wardrobe, but making useful investments in clothing now (such as a purchasing a nice blazer) may make your life easier and cheaper later. Same goes for buying dorm decor. Could you see yourself utilizing your dorm decor in your first apartment?
8. Establish credit. If you don’t have a credit card now, get one! Start establishing good credit now so you can apply for loans later. Just remember to pay all your bills.
9. Read the newspaper. While you’re in the college bubble it may feel like you lose touch with reality, but it’s important to keep up with your current events no matter what your major is. You may or may not be graded on knowing about the current Syrian conflicts, but your knowledge will be noticed. Subscribe to the Economist or the Wall Street Journal, so that you’ll know what to do with your Roth IRA and 401K.
10. Have fun. They say college is the best time of your life, so do it right. It’s important to think about the future, but it’s also important to make those unforgettable memories that you’ll look back on one day and wish you could go back to.