A few pieces of graduation advice for those navigating life after college.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated May 20, 2020
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After listening to all the graduation songs, unwrapping your college graduation gifts, and finally graduating college, you’ll hear a few pieces of advice: “The world is your oyster!” “Seize the day!” “These are the best years of your life!” Whether or not those sentiments are true, there are also a lot of things your parents, mentors, and advisors at career services won’t tell you about life after college and your first few years off campus.

The COVID-19 crisis and resulting necessity of the virtual graduation may have changed your last months of college and darkened your outlook on the next few months of life after college, but some pieces of graduation advice remain true. Even if you’re living at home until lockdowns lift and job opportunities reopen, you’ll find yourself on your own, at last, all too soon, and some solid graduation advice can help you find your way in those first few years of life after college.

For accurate, really helpful graduation advice, Real Simple editors turned to friends, family members, and other recent college graduates to talk about what they really wish they knew after graduation and what they would have done differently. Below, some of their advice for graduates, though even people who have been out of school for years could benefit from some of these words of wisdom.

6 pieces of graduation advice anyone can use

1. Everyone will be on different pages. Gone are the days when everyone has a similar curriculum requirement or has class during the same afternoon time slots. Now you and your friends will have conflicting work schedules, different budgets, and different social circles, and you’ll find it a little more difficult to coordinate your lives.

2. Decisions—both big and small—will be overwhelming. Now (almost) everything is up to you. And while some of the choices will be major—like where you should live—you might find yourself a little overwhelmed when faced with what to eat for dinner. And no, you don’t have an advisor to guide you through your options.

3. It will be important to find permanence. When asked for the moment that they felt like an “adult,” people's answers had a similar theme—it was when they made a permanent, committed move to their new life. For one woman, it was when she bought a subway card for a full seven-day period. For others, it was when they bought their first bed and mattress for their apartments (which was a welcome change from the couches they’d been surfing, or strangers’ rooms they’d been subletting).

4. There’s more to a job than how it looks on your resume. When looking for a job, look past its title and responsibilities. There are so many things that will make a job the right fit, including the culture and having a good manager. Don’t be afraid to turn down a great job (if you can) when it doesn’t seem like the right company vibe.

5. Just because your friends live nearby doesn’t mean your relationships will stay the same. Having friends in the same city can seem like an easy way to stay in touch, but you might find that your work schedules, life schedules, and other priorities prevent you from seeing each other as regularly as you thought. When people graduate college, they can change, and you’ll find that you have to make a serious, concerted effort to see the friend who lives only a few blocks away.

6. Say yes to as much as you can. When getting to know a new city or getting to know a new group of people, like coworkers, the best advice is to say yes. Say yes to happy hour, a weekend adventure, an impromptu movie night—anything that helps you explore your new location and new life, and lets you step out of your comfort zone.