Tips to Help College Graduates Transition from School to the Real World
August 14, 2015

Time spent in college often acts as a useful buffer between the carefree days of childhood to the responsibility laden days of adulthood. In the former, focusing on getting good grades in school takes up a lot of time. In the latter, trying to manage (or juggle) all your personal and professional responsibilities can leave you feeling that there’s just too much to do in too little time.

Many college students don’t realize that many of the decisions they make during their college years (and just after) could have a significant impact on their lives. For instance, the decision to select a major requires immense thought and consideration. After all, it could well lead to the job or career that will occupy a major part of the student’s professional life.

Life as a Professional – What Awaits the Class of 2015 in the Real World?

The Class of 2015 is the current holder of the most indebted class ever. But the good news that will serve to encourage them no end is the fact that starting salaries are climbing. A recent survey of 2,175 hiring managers reveals that:

  • A third of all employers expected to offer higher salaries to college grads this year
  • Around 26 percent of hiring managers planned to offer salaries under $30,000 and,
  • Another 26 percent of hiring managers planned to offer at least $50,000

Kelli B Grant writes that higher salaries are a good indicator for college graduates having student loan debt. Estimates suggest that the average college graduate with a student loan has a debt amounting to approximately $35,000. In this scenario, finding a job that offers a starting salary that’s higher than your outstanding loan balance could be perfect. Among other things, it could well help you to manage your debt payments.

A survey of 316 employer members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (in January) estimated that the class of 2015 could expert an average starting salary of $62,998. In comparison, a survey of 45,370 Class of 2014 graduates placed their average starting salary at $48,127.

It is worth noting that these figures merely represent averages. There will be a lot of variation based on disciplines and majors. For instance, starting salary projections for petroleum engineering majors could be approximately $80,600. Similarly, college students graduating in liberal arts or general studies could have a starting salary of $43,852.

The Competitive Market Could Make it Tough for College Graduates to Land Those First Jobs

An Accenture survey recently highlighted that the class of 2015 was better prepared for the rigors of the job market than its preceding cohort was. This is because many of these individuals grew up in the middle of the financial crisis and entered college just as the economic recovery began to take place. The prevailing environment enabled them to assess the ground realities well. This is why:

  • Nearly 82 percent of the graduates from the class of 2015 decided on a major after considering the availability of jobs and,
  • Approximately 72 percent of the graduates from the class of 2015 held internships while in school

Despite their better state of preparedness, college graduates might still find it tough to land their first jobs. Job marketplace states that only five percent of all job openings across the country target college students, a decrease by one percent since last year. But mentions that permanent full-time employment opportunities for new graduates have increased by more than 20 percent since last year as well. In other words, as long as you’re willing to persevere and not expect to get a job automatically once you graduate, you will find a job.

How New College Graduates Could Manage the Transition to the Real World Seamlessly

The difficulties that many college students typically experience in the real world is the lack of a script. In school, they can get by with meeting expectations or even, exceeding them. This is possible because they know what they need to do or what people expect them to do. In the real world, they need to figure things out on the go. For individuals used to depending on external sources for guidance, this can take some getting used to.

Teresa Mears writes that in the past, many college graduates did not stay with their parents. For a variety of reasons, this trend has been witnessing a change. At present, many college graduates continue to live with their parents. This can be quite a smart move, as students can avoid having to pay rent when they live with their parents. In addition, they can end up saving a lot of money for buying a car, making a down payment for a house or building up some savings. As such, graduation time presents an opportunity for college graduates to begin their financial life on the right note.

New college graduates would do well to consider the following tips.

  • Hang Out with Friends who Share Your Financial Values: Staying in the right company is important to avoid squandering your money foolishly. Earning money is harder than spending it is. So, avoid people who spend their money wastefully. Don’t let such attitudes rub off on you. In particular, avoid dating someone who doesn’t share your financial values.
  • Learn the Basics of Personal Finance: It is ironical that college students begin building their credit history while they are in school. Yet, they don’t understand the basics of managing their finances responsibly. As such, they will either spend their money wastefully, or end up wrecking their credit history. The internet has become the best place for understanding the basics of managing your finances well. Utilize this resource and gain awareness of good financial habits such as saving, investing and multiplying your money.
  • Live Within Your Means: The goal must be to earn more than you spend. Avoid splurging and unnecessary expenses. Set aside some money for your living expenses and consider increasing payments to your student loans.
  • Save Instead of Spending: Paying yourself first is among the foremost tips shared by many financial experts. Always set aside some portion of your income toward your saving and place it in an account where it will earn interest. Also, consider using automatic withdrawals from your bank account or payroll deductions to boost your saving habit.
  • Pay Your Bills on Time: Being remiss in paying your bills can be a source of unnecessary problems. On the one hand, you could risk encountering inconveniences in terms of availing utilities, should the service provider disconnect them. On the other, you could end up paying unnecessary fines and late fees, when you could be enhancing your savings. Pay your bills on time to build up a good credit history.
  • Build Your Creditworthiness: Whenever you need credit for purchasing a house or a car, the lenders will examine your credit history. The better your credit history, the greater the likelihood that they will approve your loan. With a good credit history, you could even avail of favorable terms such as lower interest rates on the loan. All you need to do for this is to ensure that you pay all your bills on time consistently.
  • Explore All Avenues for Getting Your First Job: Filling out online applications should not be your only objective when you’re looking for your first job. Instead, explore all avenues available for landing that first job. Speak to your college professors, parents, friends of your parents, parents of your friends etc. until you’ve succeeded in landing your first job.
  • Spruce Up Your Social Media Profile: In a world that is increasingly working online, you could find many job opportunities on job websites. However, the internet is a double-edged sword. If you can locate your prospective employers online, remember that they can find you as well. Social media networks are one of the most common ways that employers reach out to prospective employees. Therefore, create the best first impression by presenting a professional image of yourself on Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Highlight your skills and experiences gained via your education and past jobs.
  • Learn How to Cook and Clean: Eating healthy food is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Similarly, by learning how to cook, you could ensure that you avoid unnecessary medical expenses by staying healthier. In much the same way, if you learn how to wash clothes, you can save yourself some money too. For instance, if you’re staying on rent, you could swap your cooking and cleaning skills and skip paying rent altogether.