“Go to college,” they said. “It will be fun!” they said. I am not sure, however, that any of us are fully prepared for the difficulty of transitioning from life in college to life after college.
Being a full-time undergraduate student has its challenges, there’s no denying that – late nights studying and rushing through homework, working a full- or part-time job, maintaining relationships... the list goes on, and I did almost all of it.
My four years attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (go Titans!) helped prepare me for the professional working world. The knowledge and skills I developed helped me land my position here at Medi-Share, which I couldn’t feel more blessed to have. However, there are so many other parts of adulting that “they” left out, that flew around the corner at me and are experiences that many early- to mid-20-year-olds don’t know how to navigate.
Where in the world to start the next chapter?
When my then-fiancé (now wife) and I were preparing to graduate, we knew we wanted to start our own life away from Oshkosh, away from Wisconsin, and away from the horrible winters with 10+ feet of snow. Orlando, Florida was our dream destination, so we did what was necessary to make it happen. Our families and friends said we were crazy to think we could pick up and move across the country, which gave us the motivation we needed.
Moral of the story: don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t/shouldn’t do. Let God guide you as you prayerfully make your plans. Listen to the advice of your friends and family, but ultimately, own your decision.
I applied for hundreds of jobs in the Orlando area that I was 100% sure I was qualified for but had no interviews. The biggest obstacle I faced was trying to find a job from 2,000 miles away. Finding someone to take a chance on you is hard enough locally. Finding someone to take a chance on you a plane ride away? That felt almost impossible.
However, I kept my head down, finally went through the grueling process with the ONLY company that gave me an interview, and couldn’t believe it when I finally got a job offer TWO WEEKS before graduation (also while preparing for finals, packing for a cross-country move, and planning a wedding). Nothing prepares you for that kind of stress, but the key is to keep calm, prioritize, and not overwork yourself. The opportunities will come if the Lord wills it.
Marriage and starting a family
One of the biggest steps of adulting is what I call “the most beautifully stressful experience of my life.” Whether you choose “singleness” (or it chooses you), or you decide to get married later in life, or you marry young like I did, it’s a big deal and in some sense, it forces you into making adult decisions with lifelong impact.
Planning the wedding is when I really started to feel like a real adult, especially when you consider the sheer number of important decisions that need to be made for you and your future spouse, and when you see all of those dollar signs. This is my third point: Embrace Responsibility
I see the biggest separation between college and adult life when I compare my date nights with my wife with the weekend activities of my college friends. While we post pictures of having a nice dinner, I still see many I went to school with having parties in someone’s basement. When we were recently in the process of buying our first house, most others I knew were still living in college housing with no plans of moving out any time soon. Creating that separation from the things you like to do and leaving the college life is hard to do, and too many struggle to find their way out of it. While many fear increased responsibility, I find that it makes me a better husband, son, friend, and professional.
A chance to chase what you love
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they try to make the transition from college to adult life is taking the comfortable route. Too often I see young adults find the job that fits their degree the best, the one that seems to have the easiest responsibilities, or the one that is completely different from their true passion because people told them they would be crazy to chase their dream.
I almost walked that road, too. My dad always told me when I asked what I should do after college, “I don’t care what you do as long as it’s something you love.” I love art and I love social media, and now I have a great job where I can do both! My wife, Caitlyn, and I love Disney and Universal Studios, and now we live 20 minutes away from their two largest resorts in the world. Independence after college is scary, but it should also be liberating. Use it as an opportunity to pursue the things you love, both professionally and for pleasure.
Budget, budget, budget
Lucky for me, I’m married to someone who is a numbers whiz and a great budgeter, which makes my life a bit easier when it comes to money. Even if you’re not good at math, that doesn’t mean you can’t be responsible with your finances. I’ve learned that the earlier you start budgeting the better.
There are countless resources out there that will tell you what portions of your income you should spend on certain things. They’ll throw percentages at you, use income levels that probably aren’t close to yours as examples, and that is definitely intimidating. Simply, here’s a rough look at how we construct our budget:
(My income + Caitlyn’s income) – all monthly expenses (including tithing) = leftover money
Then, we split our leftover money roughly in half. One half is fun money for fun date time (at the theme parks, obviously) and the other half goes to savings.
I know we will face more “adulting” decisions in the years to come, but these essentials helped us grow from two dependent college kids to a unified, independent family, supporting each other and facing the challenges that come our way together, with God’s help.
We’ve found what works for us. What works for you? Share your experience in the comments!