It’s that time of year . . . only a few more weeks until graduation for this year’s seniors. Here’s my take on some tips for students to prepare for their upcoming graduation, as well as for life after college. And, for younger students—it’s never too soon to start preparing!
Keep in close contact with the registrar’s office
When it comes to graduation, all you have to do is complete your coursework, right? Wrong! There is more involved, including a review to make sure that you have completed all requirements, as well as filling out a graduation form and paying a graduation fee. It’s important not to let this fall to the wayside, as it’s the only way you’ll graduate.
Amanda Steele-Middleton, Registrar at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, stresses the importance of meeting form and application deadlines. “We need to have enough time to update student records, communicate with students and advisors where there are real graduation issues, as well as prepare diplomas for printing,” says Steele-Middleton. “We communicate with students who may look like they are on track but have not applied, or who have applied but do not look like they’re on track. We continually monitor each student until their program evaluation is clear with a final check when grades are assigned to make sure all the requirements are completed.”
With so many steps involved, there is bound to be something you’ve missed along the way—start early to ensure you’ll have enough time to get everything done.
The dreaded student loans
Many students have college loans to look forward to after college. Erin Wolfe, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, says it’s important for students to come up with a game plan before graduating and facing repayment.
“During the six-month grace period before repayment is required to begin, it is important for a borrower to create a budget and savings plan,” says Wolfe. “If they can afford to make repayments on loans prior to the end of the grace period, even better. This will enable them to work on building a successful repayment strategy from the start.”
Of course, there are different factors to consider when creating a budget. For example, do you know where you’ll be working and how much money you’ll be earning annually? Will you be living at home or will you be paying rent? Really think about what sum of money you’ll be able to commit to every month.
Money, money, money
Speak of the devil. . . . Money seems to be a necessary evil in this world, and it’s important for students to have a handle on it as soon as they enter the “real world."
David Rudd, chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, says, “You need to build a budget based around your take-home pay instead of your annual salary. Taxes, health care costs, and retirement contributions can quickly eat up a third of your salary that you’ll never touch.”
Rick Scott, assistant professor of finance at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida, offers his advice: “Students should move quickly to begin saving 20% of their earning once they get their first job. They should always contribute to their 401(k) retirement plan at least as much as their company will match. It’s an instant return on investment and it’s impossible to beat. I also tell my students that every time they get a raise, half of that raise should go towards improving their lifestyle and half of it should go toward a retirement plan.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your new life—whether it’s living in a new city or having a new job—remember to be practical about your future too.
Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will feature three more tips for the real world!
Special thanks to Dick Jones Communications for these tips!