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Advice for Graduating Students

Grace is an American University graduate (CAS '16). At AU, she double majored in Literature and Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies and worked as a CAS peer advisor for two years, serving as the lead peer advisor in her senior spring semester. She now lives on Long Island (at #home with #mom), and works as a real estate journalist for Curbed, and as a receptionist for a tennis club. She recently went blonde and is already having more fun.

Got a question for Grace? Send her an email.

It's hard to choose just one, because each and every resource is designed to help with a specific part of transitioning. The Career Center is fantastic at helping with resumes and job applications. The Counseling Center is great for helping to deal with stress. Your advisor will help you to figure everything out while getting through undergrad and making it to graduation. Your professors have immense advice for post-grad life as they've all had incredible experience in their field.

Ultimately, the relationships that I built with my advisor and professors helped me the most because those were the people that came to know me the best and helped to assess my strengths and weaknesses. The best piece of wisdom that stuck with me through my senior year came from my academic advisor, Alicia Mandac. She told me, "You'll get a job. I can't tell you when you'll get it or where you'll work, but you will get a job."

That piece of wisdom just calmed me down and helped to refocus my attention on what was important.

For me, it's like the learning and discovering hasn't stopped--which I love. I'm sure there are some people who have their lives *totally* figured out right after undergrad, but for me and the friends that I've made, that just isn't the case. But that's the thing that I'm enjoying the most. I love not knowing where my life is going to take me because it keeps my mind open to possibilities.

I've noticed that going through undergrad life is kind of like I'm continuing to take gen eds, but just in life lessons. In college, my gen ed classes helped me to figure out what I was going to major in by exposing me to different subjects I may have otherwise never taken. Post-graduation, the new experiences that I've been opened up to are kind of like I'm taking a class in life.

Since graduation, I got a job at a tennis club, which exposed me to a sport I've never played and probably would have never gone out of my way to learn if it hadn't been for working there--and I'm really enjoying learning the sport. In turn, I've met a ton of international tennis players, who've taught me about their cultures. I even visited one of my friends from work in Australia just last month.

I've also worked as a bartender for the first time and learned how to make cocktails, which I never thought I would do. Turns out it wasn't for me, but hey, I learned something.

I'm also working as a part-time real estate journalist. Through college, I'd written for many publications but I'd never done reporting. So this has really been a learning experience.

Our gut feelings hold incredible wisdom.

It's great to think about all the possibilities that are going to be open to you, but ultimatley your gut is going to help lead you in the right direction. Transitioning from undergrad to post-grad is scary, and there's a ton of pressure -- so much so that every decision we make both in college and after college feels irreversibly consequential. But if you just listen to what your gut is telling you, you'll be OK.

It's also important to note that there's going to be a ton of pressure to get a perfect job and live in a great apartment and feel like you have your life together, but there's something to be said about taking some time to figure yourself out. You're in your early 20s! It's totally OK to not have a job that you want to stay in forever or realize that the city you're in just isn't for you.

The thing you don't want to do is stay stagnant in the face of decision-making. Being afraid of making the "wrong" decision is totally normal, but don't let it hold you back from doing anything.

No one is going to care if you move back home with mom (like I did), or if you don't have a job in your field. All that pressure to have your life together is totally made up. Plus, everyone is going to be so concerned with their own image that they're not going to be paying attention to what you're doing. What's important is that you maintain a positive attitude and look at everything as a learning experience. Don't worry so much about having a perfect job or professional wardrobe or apartment that's right near a metro line. Do what makes you feel good and what feels right to you.

I wasn't expecting to love my downtime so much… which may not seem like a struggle, but after the summer passed, I was doing a whole lot of nothing outside of work, and it ultimately made me lazy and unproductive.

In college I was so busy -- I was a double major, had multiple part-time jobs, was in leadership positions for different clubs, and had several internships. Once I didn't have anything to do except work, I fell into a lazy streak and would just do nothing once I got home from work.

Being lazy made me gain a bit of weight and actually had me a bit depressed for a few months after graduation. This was only magnified by the fact that I was feeling down about moving back home with my mom and not having a job even remotely related to anything that I wanted to do. But once I got busy again, forced myself to get back in the gym and eat healthier, I was immediately more productive.

Eventually I got over it by simply leading a marginally healthier lifestyle and forcing myself to get a hobby to keep busy. Looking for a new hobby made me reach out to a local website to ask about freelancing, and I was told that they were actually looking for a new editor--so I applied and got my part-time real estate journalist job.

Living in DC was great because I love cities. I love accessible transportation, nearby restaurants, and endless things to do on the weekends. Moving back to my small hometown with mom was tough because while it's super busy on Long Island in the summer, the population immediately disappears after Labor Day.

It was hard finding new friends and having any motivation to go out and try new things, but exploring my hometown helped a lot. There are actually tons of places I've never been nearby and never bothered to go to. So I started looking at it as if it was something totally new to me, and that helped.