You’re so close to finishing your college/university experience, the finish line is in sight- Congratulations! If you’re in your final semester or term of your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you’ve done it- be proud of all you have accomplished, you deserve it. As you look towards the future and the start of your professional career, consider this handy, all-in-one pre-graduation checklist to help start your journey after school off right.
STEP 1: Slow Down To Enjoy The Last Semester
It can be way too easy to start making plans for life after college before you have actually completed college! Don’t let this precious time in your last semester slip by. Enjoy not having somewhere to be 40 hours a week and take the opportunities to hang out with friends at your university activities or athletic events. There will come a time in your life where the demands of your career and family life will challenge your ability to get back to campus or connect with people, so take advantage of those chances now. Lastly, consider revisiting some of your memorable spots on campus- perhaps your first-year residence hall, your study spot in the library or the classroom you had the class in that finally helped you decide on a major. Whatever the reason, now is the time to slow down, take a walk down memory lane and recognize and appreciate what an amazing experience college was for you.
STEP 2: Settle Up Old School Debts or Student Fees
As a university professor, I can tell you first-hand how awful it is to see a student complete all the aspects of their degree program only to be denied graduation because they either didn’t register to graduate or they had outstanding fees on their student account. So that late fee from the parking office you’ve been avoiding since sophomore year? Now is the time to settle that up, get it paid (even if you firmly believe you were in the right) because you don’t want to let a $25 parking ticket or $4 library fine on your account prevent you from graduating.
STEP 3: Clear Out Your Bookshelf
If you’re coming up a little short on cash to complete step 2 above, or just want to free up some space in your life, aka not transport 4 years’ worth of books to your next apartment, consider clearing out your bookshelves by either selling or giving your old textbooks away. While the bookstore on campus is typically the most convenient, they tend not to pay that much for buying back books. I’d recommend checking with younger students in your major and asking if they want to buy your books. Let’s say you paid $100 for a book and the bookstore is offering to buy it back for $20, but you offer to sell it to you a younger student for $50. You are making twice what the bookstore was offering you and the young student is saving 50%- so it is a win, win for both of you! A great way to find younger students in your major is in student groups or LinkedIn searches.
STEP 4: Ask For LinkedIn Recommendations
Before you complete your program and leave university for good, be sure to ask old professors, staff, other students, internship employers etc. for LinkedIn recommendations. As a university professor, I am asked to write recommendations all the time by students. Sometimes I haven’t taught a student in over 4 years when they ask me to write a recommendation to graduate school for example. I’ll be honest with you, even the best, most engaged and active students are easy in becoming distant memories in professor’s minds when teaching loads of students year in and out. So ask Professors for recommendations now and save them to LinkedIn so you have them documented forever!
STEP 5: Give Thanks and Show Gratitude Towards Those Who Helped You
As a follow up to step 4, your last semester is a fantastic time to give thanks and show gratitude to all the amazing folks that helped you in your college or university journey. As you ask for recommendations, consider giving recommendations in return. You may post a public thank you letter on your LinkedIn feed recognizing your inner circle. Posting frequently on LinkedIn is also a great way to increase your professional brand too. You could also just organize a coffee date with your favorite advisor at the campus coffeeshop and say thank you. Anything to show gratitude and appreciation will be well received, so don’t be shy, people love getting recognized, brag on them!
STEP 6: Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile
A few months out from graduation is the perfect time to update your resume and LinkedIn profile. If you have a job lined up after school, wonderful!, now is the time to formally announce it on LinkedIn to your professional network and start connecting with folks from your new employer. If you are still seeking a role, consider how to make use of your network to let people know how they can best support you in your job search. Lastly, update your resume with your final GPA and your completed degree information so you are ready to rock and roll in your job search.
STEP 7: Proactively Join Your Alumni Association
At most universities and colleges, admission to your alumni association is automatic upon graduation but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and update your contact information in the alumni association’s database before graduating. This could also be a great time to ask about volunteer opportunities with the alumni association, so you have a way to stay involved in the community. Joining and participating in alumni events are a great way to professionally develop, meet new people, network and of course, have fun celebrating and representing your university or college.
STEP 8: Take A Break Between School and Work
If you have a full-time role lined up post-graduation, consider taking some length of time to simply relax and recharge before starting your new job. You have spent the last few months sprinting towards the finish line of college, take a day, a week or even a month to rest or do something fun for yourself before jumping into work. Especially if you’re relocating cities or countries for your next job, giving yourself a few weeks to move, learn the area a bit, and get settled into your new home will make such a difference in your mindset as you start work.
STEP 9: Finances
I saved the most boring, and often most avoided step, till the end but it’s arguably the most important- finances. I know for many of you, the dreaded terms finances, budgeting, and savings are things you’ve escaped from in your college years but that’s about to change. Now is the time to book an appointment with your student loan provider so you fully understand the terms, agreements, and expectations of your student loan repayment plan. As you start your new professional career, you’ll also need a ballpark estimate on your monthly expenses, i.e., a budget, so you can determine what pay salary you need to consider when choosing jobs, moving into a new apartment, or buying a new car. I’d also recommend finding a good financial planner who can advise you on retirement savings and investments as you start your new professional role. Some of the best benefits to investing are based off how early you start investing so even if you can only commit $50-100 a month to a 401k, start now!
STEP 10: Say Your Goodbyes
Lastly, as you close at your college years, start saying your goodbyes, to both people and places. While you can always come back to campus, speak in classrooms as an industry expert, chat with old professors or attend the rivalry football game each Fall, you can’t recreate the people and places that made your college experience special and unique to you right now, in this moment. As with step 1, take this chance to slow down, appreciate your time as a student is coming to an end and then start getting really excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for you!
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Hi! My name is Nadia Ibrahim-Taney and I help people design happy and fulfilling careers through authentic career coaching. My expertise includes career exploration guidance, resume writing, interview prep and LinkedIn profile optimization. My pronouns are She/ Her/ Hers and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I focus on how diverse identities impact and influence folks holistically and professionally. Please connect with me on LinkedIn through my website.