Planning for After College
Unless you've chosen a strict track from college to career, it's very likely that you're going into college without a firm grasp of what will happen after your next graduation.
It's really, truly okay to be less than certain. You will change, your plans will change, it's ultimately kind of impossible to predict how things will turn out. However, that's no reason not to attempt a rough plan to get you going; as we've said elsewhere, it's often true that those who can firm up their plans the fastest win, because a plan can give you a sense of purpose, help direct your choices, show you which opportunities will help you forward and which will take you backward, and give you a lot longer to build on the good opportunities you do get. Not everyone can suddenly make up their minds, of course, but even if you can't do it quickly, make sure you get some sort of plan in motion eventually. It's an incredible risk to graduate college still without one.
Actually, that's arguably the #1 thing you can do for your own future, so we'll say it again: just get a post-college plan going while you're still in college.
So with that in mind, this section is meant to introduce upcoming college students to things they should keep in mind as they embark on those next few years.
1. Know what to expect as far as choosing a major.
The one-sentence sum-up: always know your job options.
2. Build your resume as much as possible.
There are tons of ways to do this, depending on what your major is: internships, student organizations and leadership roles, mentoring, study abroad, research opportunities, and so on. Try to get involved in ways that reflect your capabilities and genuine interests — and crass though it may be, once you've found something you're interested in doing, try to fully exploit its potential for sounding impressive. (For instance, if you join a student organization, consider taking on a named position like 'President' or 'Secretary' rather than just being a member. Don't overload yourself to the point where you don't enjoy the extracurricular anymore, but if it's just a little extra effort, consider taking it on.)
3. Talk with your professors, talk with your advisor.
If you're really interested in a field, but don't know whether you could make it into a career afterwards, try talking to your professors, your academic advisor, and any career counselors your school may have available on campus. You will often find them surprisingly straight shooters, so just feel free to ask around about what the career prospects are like for certain fields and whether they think you have what it takes to be successful.
Of course, you don't need to take your professors/advisors as the final word on anything (still just their opinions, after all). But their advice should give you plenty to think about.
4. Start looking at career options as soon as possible.
Pretty self-explanatory, but don't wait until after you finish college to start wondering what you'll do about a job. If you know the direction you want, go after internships or apply to jobs as early as possible. As soon as spring semester starts your senior year, it's usually no longer 'too early' to be sending out job applications or lining up interviews.
Also, keep in mind that summer vacations throughout college can be a great time to get in some working experience in your chosen field (or something related). Here again, internships especially can be magical things that help build up your resume and show that you're ready to enter the professional world.
5. Be smart with your money.
Should be self-explanatory, but don't blow through everything you have. Most students, even if they worked throughout college or had money coming in from their parents, end up feeling the double sting of no income and impending loans once they graduate. If, after all that 'necessary' spending on things like movies and shoes and video games, you can bother to also roll some money into savings, you will earn Future-You's undying love and adoration.