How to Prepare For Life Post-Graduation

Life after college graduation can be… a lot.

You don’t really appreciate the bubble of campus living until you step out into the great unknown. One day you’re worried about studying for exams and writing papers, and the next you’re figuring out how to make rent and put bread on the table.

It gets easier, but the transition is usually a little bumpy. That’s why it helps to do a little prep work before you graduate – make it happen with these simple strategies.

Fix your social media profiles

Having an inappropriate social media profile can ruin your chances of getting a job. After you graduate, verify that your profiles are private. Change your profile picture to something inoffensive, like a picture of you in a cap and gown.

Double-check that there are no embarrassing public tweets or posts that could land you in hot water.

Start a LinkedIn profile if you don’t already have one, and list your academic and professional accomplishments and special skills. Connect with other students, former professors and past supervisors. Ask for recommendations and endorsements. Follow companies you’re interested in to be notified when they post a new job.

Check your credit report

Your credit report shows all your past and current loans, credit cards, and other credit products.  There are three different credit bureaus that produce credit reports: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Lenders, landlords, and even employers will check your credit report to see how responsible you are as a borrower.

Viewing your credit report regularly will highlight any mistakes or potential issues, like a credit card that doesn’t belong to you or a late payment from a long-forgotten loan.

Check your official credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, which shows official credit reports from all three bureaus. You can check your credit report for free once a week until April 2022.

Monitor your credit more frequently for free by creating a Mint account. Mint will show your credit score and notify you when something has changed on your report. Your credit report is like a financial report card, while a credit score is like a GPA. Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and anything above 670 is considered good. An excellent credit score, which you’ll need to secure the lowest interest rates, is 750 or more.

Find and organize your student loans

If you’re like thousands of students, you graduated college with a degree – and a hefty student loan balance. Tackling your student loans will be one of your first post-grad challenges, and there’s no better time to start than now. Check out our free loan repayment calculator to help you determine your monthly payment.

First, find your federal student loans by logging onto the Federal Student Aid website. This will show all your federal student loans, the minimum payment, interest rate, and total amount owed. If your parents took out federal loans that you’re expected to repay, they can use this same website to log in.

If you have private student loans, visit each servicer’s website and create an account if you don’t have one already. Your private loans should be listed on your credit report if you need a refresher.

After you log in, the site should list your next due date. In most cases, you can set up automatic payments from your bank account. This will ensure you never miss a payment, which would decrease your credit score.

If you’re struggling to find work, request a deferment from your private lender or switch to an income-driven repayment plan from your federal lender. Federal loans under an IDR plan have a $0 monthly payment if you’re not employed.

Avoid using federal deferment or forbearance unless you really need it. Borrowers are limited to three years for these programs, so it’s best to save them for a true emergency. Private lenders also usually limit the number of times you can defer a loan. Before deferring any loans, contact the lender and ask if other options are available.

Start networking

Graduates without a job lined up should start networking as soon as they graduate. Remember that applying to jobs online isn’t the only way to get hired. Making connections is a better way to learn about new positions.

Even if many networking events are still postponed due to the pandemic, you can reach out to people through LinkedIn. Send a brief note explaining who you are and any mutual connections you have. People are more likely to respond if you have something in common, like the same alma mater or sorority.

Ask former professors or bosses if they have any suggestions for job hunting. Sometimes their advice will lead to a useful tip you can implement to improve the job hunt.

If someone agrees to meet you for lunch or coffee, always offer to pay and send a thank-you note afterward. Some professionals get hit up for advice constantly, so it pays to be respectful of their time.

Being shy doesn’t pay off when it comes to landing a job, especially in a competitive field. Don’t be afraid to ask about job openings or internships, even if you might not be qualified.

Pursue your interests

Even if you can’t find a full-time job, you can still work on your career. Get an unpaid internship, start a freelancing operation, or shadow a professional in the industry. This will also put you in contact with more people who can help you find a full-time gig. Plus, it gives you something to put on your resume that may be more relevant to your industry than working part-time at a fast food place or driving for Uber.

Freelancing on sites like Upwork and Fiverr can also help you build a portfolio you can then share with potential employers. Start your own website that you can link in your resume or cover letter.

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