How to Transition From College to a Full-Time Job

Every student has to deal with the college-to-career transition. Here are a few tips to make settling into your new adult life as smooth as possible.

Whether you choose to do a gap year, travel, or immediately start work after graduation, everyone experiences the transition from college to a full-time job at some point. For me, I knew I wanted to start work right away and was lucky enough to find a job before I graduated college. My place of work wanted me to complete some training before I even graduated, so I had a good idea of what the company and my future position would be like before I started full time. However, I still had to transition from living comfortably in my dorm with full access to deliciously cooked meals, a 24-hour free gym, and being walking distance from all my friends to living completely on my own and working a job with hours different than a traditional nine-to-five. The transition wasn’t the easiest, but it definitely will be one of the most valuable experiences of my early 20s that I can look back on in the future. Here are some things I learned that might help ease your own transition.


I personally found the most stressful part about my transition was finding housing. If you are fortunate enough to be able to live with your parents rent-free during the first few years after graduation, I would recommend taking advantage of it! Because I was moving far from my hometown, I had to find affordable housing on my own. Living in Los Angeles as a recent college graduate is super difficult (just like any other major city), and I had to spend several hours a day looking up housing that was within my budget and a reasonable distance from my workplace. Those who plan on living alone after college should prepare by researching early, setting a budget, and looking for a roommate several months in advance. Ask your friends and family, or reach out to your college community for help! There are also several apartment apps available for smartphones. Airbnb and share houses are great ways to find temporary housing if finding permanent housing is a little difficult at first.


Related to finding housing in your price range, setting a budget is something all people should be prepared to do after college. While you may only have to worry about a few expenses as a student, you need to worry about rent and utilities, transportation, insurance, groceries, loan payments, and more after college. While many professionals have different ideas about saving and budgeting, the most important thing is to make your own decisions that are feasible for your income and lifestyle and stick to them. Set a rule for how much you should save each month and how much you want to spend on each category. Have a plan if you have to go over that budget and what you’ll do if you have any unexpected expenses (e.g., your car breaks down or a family emergency requires you to travel home).

Related: Budgeting Basics and Spreadsheet for College Students

Social life

Enjoy the times you can call up your friends in the late hours of the night, because after college, it will take a lot more effort to meet up with them. It’s much more of a challenge to see your friends with a full-time work schedule, and not being able to see your friends every day may be hard for some people. Understanding and accepting the fact that it may be difficult is the first step, but thanks to technology, it’s a lot easier to keep in touch! Make plans with your closest friends on how often you want to meet up and/or call every month. Other than friends, it may be a lot harder to see your family too. While during school you got two to three months of summer vacation every year (plus multiple breaks), as a full-time employee, you may only get one or two weeks off a year—and depending on your field, you may not be able to take time off during regular holidays.

Actual work

From elementary to high school, we sat in school for six or seven hours a day. Then in college, we only had maybe three hours of class a day with the rest of our time free for clubs, part-time jobs, studying, etc. At a full-time job, you’ll be working for at least eight hours a day. Depending on your job, you may have to travel and be on your feet a lot, or you may be sitting at a desk for the majority of your shift. Adjusting to working the majority of the day without major breaks (or a nap) can be tough for new graduates. In addition to the hours, the actual content of the work may be challenging. It can be easy to get overwhelmed during training. Always ask questions, take good notes, and practice, practice, practice! You aren’t expected to be a perfect employee at first. Your personal qualities and potential stood out as a reason to hire you, so don’t fret too much.

Related:  7 Things to Do on the First Day of a New Job

Sometimes it seems unfair that we have to be thrown into the world of adulthood after being coddled for so long. While no one is perfect, being willing to learn and humbly accepting mistakes is a major key during the transition from college to a full-time job. In no time, you’ll look back at all the things you struggled with in your early 20s and realize it wasn’t so bad after all.

For more advice on how to succeed at your first job after college, check out our Internships and Careers section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Naomi Hong

Naomi Hong graduated from Occidental College in 2018 with a degree in International Relations and Japanese and a minor in Economics. She currently works as a concierge/front desk agent at a luxury hotel in Southern California. She's passionate about hospitality and travel and hope to continue my career within the hotel industry. She also enjoys writing articles about career advice, studying abroad, and learning new languages. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress helped open me up to many colleges that fit my interests. I’m only a sophomore in high school, so I like having a lot to look at, and CX does a great job of picking colleges that meet my wants. It's a great website that I'll continue to use until it comes time for me to apply for colleges. I also like that it notifies me through email with options to look at. Thanks CX!



Student, University of the People

I registered with CollegeXpress and filled all my necessary and relevant information as well as the course I wished to study. A few days later, an email was sent to me with a list of schools offering the course; amongst them was the University of the People, the school I got admitted to.

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

Mataya Mann

Mataya Mann

High School Class of 2022

To say that CollegeXpress is a helpful tool would be an understatement as it is much more than that. Before finding CollegeXpress, all I knew was that I wanted to go to college, it was going to be insanely expensive, and I felt lost. CollegeXpress has given me access to resources such as helpful tips for applications and scholarship [opportunities], and helped guide me in a direction where I feel confident moving forward and pursuing a career. CollegeXpress has helped instill a spark in me that makes me want to continue and supports me in doing so.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA

Marymount University

Arlington, VA