For many students, their final year of school or university can seem like a farewell party to their youth, a celebration of how far they have come and a time to look forward to their future. While there are plenty of people who work or have other responsibilities while attending school or university, graduation marks the point where one must fully move on from the student mentality and take their first real steps into the wider adult world. However, this isn’t always an easy transition to make, and while it can be tempting to keep “adult life” out of sight until you leave campus for the final time, it is important to be proactive so that you can hit the ground running once you’re gone.
Obviously, you should enjoy your final year to its fullest, but by taking some time out to prepare for the next phase of your life, you can ensure that you’re ready for life after school.
Preparing Your Resume
Arguably the first step in preparing for a post-graduation is to write or update your resume. Even if you’ve already written a resume before, you should go over it and make sure that it’s ready to show employers, and if you haven’t written one yet, there is no better time than now. Even with some businesses being especially eager to fill positions right now due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, most will still expect you to have a resume ready when you apply.
Your resume should include any jobs that you’ve had, along with your education and any other experience that would make you a good candidate for the type of jobs that you want. When writing about your experiences, you should not only describe what your regular workday included, but what you accomplished for those you worked for. Whether you mention awards and commendations you received or anecdotes showing how you saved your employer’s money, the takeaway should be that you showcased relevant skills and provided significant value to your employer.
Additionally, be aware that different types of jobs might require different skills. It is generally a good idea to have a “master” resume that is more general in its focus than use that as a base to make slightly more specialized resumes that place more emphasis on the skills that are most relevant to the position you are in applying for. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, consider going to your campus career center, as they can often provide support for improving your resume.
Get a Head Start on Networking
In the professional world, who you know is often just as important as what you know, so you should use your time left on campus by building connections with the people around you and utilizing the resources available to you as a student. A professor can be a vital professional resource, but it’s a lot easier to connect with them while you’re still on campus than after you graduate. Talk to them about your plans for the future, ask for recommendations, and get as much advice as possible.
Another valuable tool for professional networking creating a LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is a social media networking site designed with working professionals in mind. Recruiters and hiring managers use it to assess applicants. A LinkedIn profile essentially serves as both an online resume and an opportunity to reach out to other professionals, so it is a good idea to make one if you don’t already have one.
When making your LinkedIn profile, be as thorough as possible, including all the experience that you included in your resume. You should also include a professional photo of yourself and links to relevant work that you’ve completed. Once your profile is in place, following people or groups who are relevant to your field of study, connect with people you know, and ask for recommendations from those who have worked with you.
Get Your Finances & Expenses In Order
Whether you are going out on your own or living with family, there are a lot of financial considerations that need to be made when you graduate, especially if you don’t already have a job waiting for you. Along with starting the job hunt BEFORE graduation, you should be sure to have a clear sense of where you are financially before you get your diploma. For one, you should start budgeting yourself, determining your average monthly income, and mapping it out against your expenses. This allows you to determine what is necessary versus what is an option, which will be vital if you’re strapped for cash during life after post-graduation.
Also, if you’ve gone to college, you’ll likely have to deal with student loan payments (unless you’re lucky enough that you aren’t saddled with any student loan debt). Depending on whether you can afford to start paying your loans right out of college, you might need to differ payments until a later date, though this will cost you more in the long run. If you are ready to pay, you should set up a payment plan that is suited to your current income and overall economic situation.
Most importantly, once you start making payments, always pay them on time. This goes for any other payments you must make, such as credit cards or car insurance. Making payments on time is important for establishing a good credit score, which plays a part in many social and financial milestones, so don’t do anything that might hurt your score.
Prepare Six Essential Documents
Once you are a part of the “adult” world, there are several important legal considerations to worry about, which includes preparing various legal documents. Generally speaking, there are five legal documents that everyone should have after they graduate.
- Advance Healthcare Directive: (often just called an advance directive) is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself.1 Since there are several injuries, illnesses, and psychiatric conditions that may leave you unable to make medical decisions, an advance direct allows you to fill out exact instructions on how to handle your health care in the event you are unable to do so.
- Power of Attorney / Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives one person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to act for another person (the principal). From there, the agent is given legal authority to make decisions on the behalf of the principal. This typically includes legal or financial affairs, but it can also include medical matters (as seen below). While a standard POA document ends when the principle is unable to make decisions for themselves, a POA can also be designated as a durable power of attorney (DPOA), meaning that the document remains in effect even if the principal is physically or mentally incapacitated.
- Medical Power of Attorney: A medical POA is an advanced healthcare directive that explains how you want medical decisions to be made on your behalf, assigning an agent to make decisions based on your wishes. Since it often covers scenarios where you are physically or mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself, a medical POA is usually also considered a DPOA. Alongside a medical POA, you can also fill out a living will, which sets more specific instructions regarding medical procures and post-care routines.
- HIPAA Authorization Form: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA) is a federal law that led to the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without their consent or knowledge. Due to these standards, your parents lose access to much of your medical information when you reach adulthood. As such, if you want them to have such access, you will need to fill out an authorization form that permits it.
- FERPA Release Form: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (or FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. This means that unless the student fills out a release form and grants permission to view their records, parents are no longer given free access to them.
- Will: A will is a legal document that spells out your wishes regarding who does (and does not) receive your various assets after your death. If you do not provide a will, this typically leaves any decisions about your estate in the hands of judges or state officials. The most common form of will is a testamentary will (also called a last will and testament), which is signed in the presence of relevant witnesses to better ensure its legal validity.
Thinking About the Future
For impending graduates, it scary to think about adulthood while you’re still dealing with life as a student. Post-graduation life is full of uncertain times, but the sooner you start making these types of considerations, the easier to deal with potential hardships and the better prepared you’ll be for the future!