growing up

The Post-Grad 15: Advice from Readers

graduationTime to turn your tassels, ladies and gentlemen. Graduation is in the air! :)

Normally in May, I collect 15 tips from college students and alumni specifically geared toward your undergraduate years (see Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3), but my focus shifted slightly after receiving my Bachelor of Arts last year. After a year in the workforce, I shared 15 of the lessons I learned since graduation, and decided that this year’s advice from readers should also focus on life after graduation.

Whether you just graduated or are just beginning your college career, you will learn a lot from this month’s blog. Several talented bloggers and professionals have come together to provide their insight into life beyond the classroom, and I am happy to share their words of wisdom with each of you! Be sure to check out their blogs and social media, and add your own tips and questions in the comments section below.

Oh, and to all of those recent/upcoming graduates, congratulations!

The Post-Grad 15: Advice from Readers

1. “Make a list of every possible career path you can take with your degree, along with things that you find yourself doing in your spare time. Don’t immediately reject any opportunity you may come across either, no matter how off the wall it seems and especially if it’s on your list. Finally, stay positive throughout it all. You’ll figure out your career with time, so just enjoy this chapter of your life and know that the best is yet to come.”
- Nicole Simmons, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations major (Website: Nicole M. Simmons)

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perfectionist-image2. “Not everyone is going to work as hard as you. I’d like to believe I have always been a hard-working and diligent perfectionist. If I promise something is going to be done, it will get done (even if it means I practically sleep at the office). I have learned however, that even seasoned professionals don’t always work as hard as they should. Not everyone cares as much as you do, and it’s an obstacle you need to mentally overcome. Don’t let it discourage you from working to your potential.”
- Christina Frost, University of Florida, Applied Physiology & Kinesthesiology major

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3. “It’s a tough world and finding a job here in the UK, even as a graduate, is hard. Just go to Uni/College, do something you love and enjoy every minute. Employers don’t mind too much what your degree was in; they want to see you stuck to something that a lot of people can’t, and they will see you were determined to better yourself.”
- Kenzie Harvey, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), Performance for Stage & Screen major (Blog: Lemonaid Lies, Twitter: @LemonaidLies)

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4. “It’s okay to feel completely lost straight out of school. You spent the past 18ish years educating yourself and the world is a big adjustment, but you’re not alone. No one in their 20s has life all figured out, and if they do, they’re probably missing something huge. And always take time to take care of yourself.”
- Jennifer Zhou, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Chemical Engineering major (Twitter: @sprawlingdivide)

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lifebeginssmall5. “Step out of your comfort zone. If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  One decision may change your life, but it certainly won’t ruin it.    It wasn’t until I left my job and blindly backpacked through Europe, that I found true happiness and purpose in my life.  Take the leap.  Believe in yourself.  Opportunities are everywhere, and it’s up to you to make your dreams come true.”
- Max Pankow, University of Florida, Finance major (Blog: Motivate Your Plate)

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6. “Here’s two things you should definitely do before you graduate: Apply for a study-abroad program and get an internship. You will be hard pressed to find a more eye-opening experience than living abroad on your own, and a degree is virtually useless without hands-on experience in today’s market.
- Jorge Rincón, University of Central Florida, Economics major

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7. “My advice is for college students to meet as many people as possible. Go to networking events, meetings and socials; join social and mentorship organizations; sign up or run for leadership positions to boost your presence in the community and show people what you can do. Make an impression. In the future, you’ll be remembered for your involvement and contributions, and your network will become one of the things you’re most thankful for.”
- Kevina Lee, University of Florida, Journalism major (Website: Kevina-Lee.com, Twitter:
@kevina_lee)

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72e0ad8cc08481dced5879b8099ea09c8. “A big change when moving from college to post-college life is that a lot of your built-in daily support system is displaced: roommates, friends, professors, RAs and other fixtures of college life are no longer quite as accessible as they once were. Sometimes the newfound ‘alone time’ or ‘quiet time’ feels strange or isolating as you navigate early adulthood.

But oftentimes, the moments that feel the most lonely are sometimes the best reminders you are connected to everyone else. Because everybody on this planet has experienced sadness, felt heartbreak, been sensitive to rejection, laid in bed at night with tears coming down their face. The moments that feel the most isolating are usually when you are experiencing the most universal feelings.

With that in mind, my best advice for post-college is to not be afraid to reach out when things feel tough. Something as simple as a text message that says “I feel sad today” to a friend or a parent can get you a little support, and help you deal with some unhappy feelings until things get better. Which they always do. Everything in life, and especially in your 20′s, is always getting just a tiny bit better, even if some weeks the ‘tiny bit’ feels extra tiny.”
- Molly Ford, Northeastern University, Smart Pretty and Awkward*

9. “Always remember that being good at something doesn’t make it exciting. Find what it is you’re passionate about and chase it for as long as it takes. Five years from now, you’ll be happy you did.”
- Mercedes Reinhard, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations major (LinkedIn: Mercedes Reinhard, Twitter: @isitbutadream_)

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Maybe this isn't the best example of mentorship, but you get the idea!

Maybe this isn’t the best example of mentorship, but you get the idea!

10. “My piece of post-grad advice is to find mentors who are able to guide you in areas of your life beyond just your career (but you need the career ones too) and seek out their advice when you need it or just check in and bounce ideas off of them. And no matter where your life plans and path take you, stay in touch!
- Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting major

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11. “My first year as a post graduate and young professional was wrought with highs and lows. I’ve learned so much that college didn’t prepare me for, but I wish someone has advised me to make time for myself and the things I find most important. I love my job, but I made a mistake in devoting myself COMPLETELY to my career. My advice is to focus on your career, but be sure to also make time for yourself, your friends, your family, and your health.”
- Beth Ginsburg, University of Central Florida, Elementary Education major

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12. “Talk to strangers. Actually, talk to everyone. This goes against one of the cardinal rules your parents taught you growing up, but now that you’re a “grown up,” toss that piece of advice out the window with your twin XL sheets and your astronomy textbook. Everyone has a story, or an idea, or a friend, or a piece of advice that has the potential to simply, yet chaotically, flip your entire world upside down. It’s important that you silence the butterflies in your stomach and reach your hand out to say hello and to introduce yourself to every person around you. Maybe you’re at a networking event and you’re just hanging, idly, by the bar. Or you’re sitting on a park bench, in silence, next to a guy who is also sitting there, in silence. Perhaps you’re on the subway admiring someone’s nail polish color or you’re in the elevator and the person is getting off at the same floor as you. That one ‘first move’ hello is all it takes in this real world to teach you something new. And in this real world, you won’t find lectures or a syllabus or a textbook the size of your coffee table to teach you things. The most important things you’ll learn out here come from the people standing right next to you. It’s that simple.”
- Jen Glantz, University of Central Florida, English and Journalism major (Blog: The Things I Learned From, Book: All My Friends Are Engaged, Twitter: @tthingsilearned

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prof-farnsworth13. “University leaders will be your advocate. It is very easy to get wrapped up in academics, friends, and social life that you might forget about the other people on your college campus who have the potential to strengthen your network.  Some of the most influential and interesting people at college are the employees that work at your university.  The directors of the departments, the deans of admission and administration, the list goes on. These people can not only mentor you throughout your undergraduate career but can also help set groundwork for your career by inviting you to attend important dinners with university leaders or even make a call to a friend for your first job interview. In my personal experience, the leaders at my university laid the groundwork for some of the most important experiences on my resume.  I participated in small job opportunities in their organization and that small job turned into lifelong relationships that still positively influence my professional journey.”
- Lexi Butler, Stanford University, Communications and Spanish major (CEO of The Grown Up Truth, Twitter: @lbee27)

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14. “Don’t take things, or yourself, too seriously, and stop worrying about the little things outside of your control. You are still young, in your early- to mid-twenties, and contrary to what you may think, you do not know everything. You’ll face adversity in time, so be prepared to roll with the punches that life will throw you, and remind yourself that you are not entitled to anything (besides being treated decently by others, which you should do as well). Work hard and be persistent with what you want in life, but be sure to make the time to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
- Branden McCreary, University of Central Florida, Pre-Clinical Health Sciences

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15. “If a recent graduate has a specific job in mind during the application process, I would advise them to research former employees who had the same position. As important as it is to get to know who you’d be working with, it’s even more important to learn where a job might lead – did those individuals get the skills they needed in this position to land a killer job at the next level? If you feel it’s appropriate, you should even reach out to them to ask how their experience was.
- Kacie Boniberger, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations (Twitter: @kacieboniberger)

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A huge thank you to our wonderful contributors! :) Be sure to check out their blogs and social media.

Readers, what tips would you offer to upcoming/recent grads?

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

When I was a freshman in college, I launched The Freshman 15 series on my blog. Every month, I provided a list of 15 tips for college students geared toward a particular theme, such as getting involved on campus, navigating college relationships and overcoming homesickness. That first April in 2010, the series kicked off with a list of 15 lessons I had learned that year in college, and this quickly became a tradition – every April brought with it a list of what I had learned outside of the classroom that year (see Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).

Although these posts were some of my blog’s most popular, The Freshman 15 series fell to the wayside about a year ago. However, this month, I am excited to announce that The Freshman 15 is officially back and (hopefully) better than ever!

As many of my readers may know, I graduated from college back in May 2013, so this month’s article comes with a twist – a list of 15 lessons I learned in the year since I graduated college! The past year was particularly eye-opening for me, as I moved to a new apartment, began working full-time and experienced other substantial changes in my life. In that time, I faced plenty of ups and downs, and am excited to share what I discovered in the process!

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

 1. You can get through the seemingly impossible, but you have to take the first step. (Tweet this!)
In my first year out of school, I overcame a few challenges in my life that I thought would be impossible, simply by moving forward. Instead of sitting around, waiting for things to get better, I took action and made my life better. This year was proof that “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” I achieved positive results in my life by doing things I’d never done before, and learned that our biggest opportunities for growth often come from the challenges we didn’t think we could face.

2. Don’t put glass bottles on the top shelf, especially above a carpeted surface…
… And if you do, make sure you have plenty of carpet cleaner on hand! I learned this lesson the hard way when I knocked a bottle of Kahlua off a shelf and had to make a late-night trip to the store for cleanup. Several rounds of vacuuming later, my apartment was as good as new, but my leg and foot were a different story! (The worst part is that neither my roommate nor I drink Kahlua or had any use for it on our shelf!)

01595c42c30d4e84d087359d60e68d083. Tragedy does not care about timing.
I have written about this before, but I cannot stress this lesson enough. Only a month after graduation, I experienced two profound yet completely different losses within four days of each other. At the time, I was in new-hire training at work, and in the middle of packing up for my upcoming move across town. Dealing with two negative situations at the same time was difficult and often felt unfair, but I quickly learned that – cliché as it is – life isn’t always fair. At the end of the day, you still have to find healthy ways to cope and still function as a human being. Life will continue to happen around you, whether or not you pick up the pieces, and the world will spin madly on.

4. You can find alliances in unexpected places.
Accept them. You will need them, as you adjust to The Real World, and from time to time, they will need you. Be the type of friend you would want to have, and open your eyes to the wonderful people out there who want to be yours.

5. Get a roommate.
You will save money this way, and you will be a lot less lonely!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

6. Breathe in the fresh air.
I mean this literally. Make it a priority to go outside. Several months ago, my boyfriend and I discovered a nature trail near my apartment, and since then, I have enjoyed countless walks down that trail when I need to get away. (Recently, my roommate and I even encountered a bunny out there!) Find a peaceful place where you can go when the weather is nice and you need that change in scenery.

7. There will still be days that suck.
You know the ones I’m talking about… the long, cold, rainy ones when all you want to do is go home and sleep, but then you find yourself pulled into one fiasco after another, and when you finally think it’s all over, you drop your keys in the dark. Those days still exist, even now that you’re supposed to be a well-adjusted, sophisticated adult, and you will never escape them completely. But then there are the good days that make all the struggles and minor crises that much easier to take, because they remind us of the success we’re working toward.

8. You are never too old for a Disney movie night.
Sometimes it’s important to stop taking ourselves so seriously and to enjoy the simple things that remind us of our childhood. Whenever I’m sick, I curl up in bed and watch Beauty and the Beast, partly because Belle is my all-time favorite princess and partly because the film takes me back to a simpler time in my life. Find those comforts and take advantage of them when needed. (This same rule can be applied to the Spice Girls movie, which my roommate and I may or may not have watched at home a few months ago…)

9. Clothes make the man (or woman).
To be taken seriously in the workforce, you have to invest in a few key pieces. Make sure you have a nice suit and can put together a clean and polished outfit for an interview or for work. Some items can be found on sale or for much cheaper, but you will need to invest in quality clothes. (These are great graduation gifts to ask for!)

121212someecards110. Learn about finances before you graduate.
Know how to write a check, balance your checkbook and create a budget. You can find plenty of templates online to get started, but you will need to find ways to stay organized so that you can avoid paying late or spending more than your paycheck allows. Learn about how to build your credit score and develop positive habits now, so that your borrowing history doesn’t keep you from reaching your dreams later in life.

11. It is much more difficult to take time off to go see family.
Because of this, you have to value that time now more than ever. Don’t let those visits get lost amidst piles of work and obligations. Appreciate the family you have and make the time for them when you are able to do so.

12. When looking at jobs, think big picture.
Salary is important, but what about the job’s benefits? What about the company culture? Will you be happy there? I was lucky to accept a job where many employees have stayed on for years, one where I could see myself long-term, but some people will go against their gut and take the first job offer they can get their hands on. Keep an open mind, but don’t settle if the job isn’t for you.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

13. Develop a sense of community, wherever you end up.
Find free events in your area, cheap museums to visit, local parks and other attractions that contribute to your community’s identity. This helps you to take pride in where you live, especially when you are in a new place, and in my case, it helps me feel less homesick! These types of events can also help you to save money while still having fun with friends.

14. Life doesn’t fit into a neatly shaped box.
Sometimes, things don’t go as you plan, no matter how hard you try. There may be times when your life feels less like a glamorous Audrey Hepburn movie and more like an extremely depressing episode of Girls. It’s okay to veer off path once in a while, so long as you develop that support system that can steer you back on course.

15. Be thankful for the good times.
I cannot stress this enough. While you experience highs and lows after graduation, you will want to remember the highs and never take them for granted. As one project I’m working on this year, I keep a jar of all the great things that have happened in 2014. Every time I experience something positive that I want to remember, I write it down on a small slip of paper and stick it in the jar. At the end of the year, I look forward to pouring everything out and reliving some of those happy memories. After all, amidst the lows, the year has also brought with it some pretty spectacular highs. :)

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Readers: Are you a college graduate who would like to share a lesson you’ve learned since graduation? Email me at vmoses90@gmail.com for details on how you can contribute to an upcoming article on So It Must Be True!

The Weekend Five: Things I Miss Most About College

nostalgiaAs you may have guessed from the subject matter of this blog, I loved almost every minute of my college experience. Even during the times when I was drowning in assignments, battling the flu and waiting for that one completely-wrong-for-me guy to text me back (sometimes simultaneously), I was madly in love with my university and ready to share that love with the world. In the six months since graduation, I have begun to hit my stride through a full-time job and beautiful new apartment, but I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times I long to be back on campus, signing up for next semester’s classes and toying with the idea of a Master’s program.

I’m fortunate to have a great job that allows me to work closely with my alma mater, but there are definitely things I miss about campus life. Here’s a list of the things you miss out on (or the things that students shouldn’t take for granted!) once you graduate.

The Weekend Five: Things I Miss About College

1.    The countless opportunities to meet new people.
In college – especially if you attend a large university – it can be incredibly easy to make friends. No matter what your interests are or how much of a social outcast you considered yourself in high school, there’s a huge chance that you will meet a few kindred spirits in school. When you want to meet new people, you can join a club, attend a social in your dorm or even turn to the person next to you in class. As a “grown-up,” I find it a lot harder to meet new people in the Real World, because those social opportunities (minus the bar scene) are fewer and farther between. Take advantage of it while it’s abundant!

images2.    Taking classes.
Yes, I know, nerd alert. When you’re in school, you are primarily there to take classes and earn your degree (although campus activities and internships are important, too). However, unlike in high school, your classes focus on the subjects that interest you and that will benefit you in your career, so once you get into your major’s curriculum, the classes often become more enjoyable. And when there is room for electives outside of your major, you have the chance to study a subject that interests you just because. I now work in marketing for a financial institution, but in my final semester of college, I took an anthropology class and wrote a paper on the gender roles in a fairy tale versus its modern-day Disney counterpart. College classes allow you to think about things in a new way and step out of your element to learn something completely different.

3.    Ability to make appointments during the week without taking time off from work.
I dread scheduling doctor’s appointments, because most of my doctors work during the same time that I do! When I was moving into my apartment over the summer, some of the deliveries I needed were limited to weekdays, and I had a difficult time scheduling those deliveries because of events at work. In the end, I asked a friend (a student with more flexible hours) to sit in the apartment for me. I love my full-time job and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I miss scheduling my classes so I was done by 2 p.m. or so that I had Wednesdays or Fridays completely open for any errands I had to do. This is much harder to arrange once you start working.

ongoing-list-freebies4.    Access to free stuff.
Because I do a lot of marketing and events on a college campus, I say this a lot – students love free food and T-shirts. In fact, they will flock to any vendor who supplies those things! Because of this, they are constantly inundated with pizza, promo items and great discounts. This probably says a lot about the importance we place on the millennial generation as consumers and our expectations of them as the lowest common denominator in our society (or something thoughtful like that), but the point I’m trying to make is much simpler: As a student, you have unlimited access to free stuff.

5.    Being “in the know” about campus events.
My school began implementing new marketing strategies for the athletic teams, including a slogan that has caught on this semester. Although I was aware of this new campus tradition, it was weird not being a part of it as a student. I love attending events as an alumna, but a part of me feels like Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire or Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, reliving my glory days in a place where I don’t quite belong in the way I did six months ago. (Yes, I actually feel this way, even at 23.) As a college graduate, you can always remain connected with the campus, but things do change when you are no longer enrolled.

Graduates, what do you miss about your college experience? For those in school, what perks of college do you love the most?

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

It’s crazy to believe that it has been a little more than half a year since I graduated from college! It feels like just yesterday I was ordering a cap and gown and finishing up my last few senior projects for the year. About a week before walking across the stage, I accepted a position in my dream job, and looked forward to beginning anew.

Six months later, I am finally adjusting to working full-time and living on a different end of town. As I settle into “adulthood,” I am still in love with my work and apartment, but I have also learned a lot since the day I turned my tassel and accepted my diploma.

This week, I will reflect on some of the lessons I have learned in the past six months. Feel free to add your own post-grad lessons in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

1. Not everyone will like you.
It’s harsh, but it’s true. No matter how sparkling your personality is, how hardworking you are or how well you match your accessories to your outfits, you won’t win the heart of every single person you encounter. As someone who cares admittedly too much about what others think, this was an especially difficult truth for me to accept. Sometimes this has to do with the other person — maybe he or she is jealous of you, or just bitter about something you can’t control. And sometimes this has to do with you — maybe you’re an acquired taste. Instead of trying to change those people, focus your energy on the things you can control.

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ElleWoods2. Take advantage of everything you can get your hands on.
“That’s not in my job description” isn’t necessarily a good reason to turn something down. Whether you have the opportunity to learn a new software program or head up a project in a different area than you’re used to, you can make yourself a much more valuable asset by saying “yes” and trying something new.

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3. Tragedy doesn’t care about timing.
In other words, life isn’t always fair. I learned this lesson the hard way when I experienced two great losses in my life within four days of one another. Although I knew that both were coming, they still hurt, and it was difficult to cope with one while coping with the other. Sometimes, you’ll experience several hardships in a short time, but you still have to pick up the pieces, show up at work the next day and function as a normal human being. Remind yourself that things will eventually turn up, and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

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graduation4. Timing is, however, important.
Never underestimate the significance of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I would have begun networking earlier in college if I had known how helpful it would be in the time that followed. From job prospects to relationships, timing can make all the difference in how successful you are. Work hard, but be patient.

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5. Learn to laugh about the bad experiences and mistakes you have made. After all, you can write about them in your memoir someday!
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Whether you just endured a difficult breakup or struggled through an important interview, the way you handle your hardships will define you. You won’t be able to find humor in everything, but try to learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them forever. When I look back on some of the things I worried about in college, I can’t help but laugh and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” Nowadays, I think a little reflection and a few laughs are just signs that you’re growing up.

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What are some of the things you learned when you first graduated?

Link Love Wednesday: Ashton Kutcher and Rejection

ashton kutcherThe past few weeks at work have been completely packed, as we gear up for the fall semester. From a football kickoff luncheon to several all-day tabling events, I’m loving my job but completely ready to unwind with some Link Love. What are some of the fabulous articles and blog posts you’ve been reading lately?

Link Love Wednesday: Brackets & Buzzwords

jargon_push-envelopeHope everyone is having a wonderful week! I can’t believe the first week of fall semester is about to begin, and for the first time ever, I’m not enrolled in classes! Coincidentally, my schedule at work happens to be at its busiest yet, only to get crazier next week. Because of that, I find it more important than ever to uncover some interesting articles and links to de-stress and maintain a fresh perspective! :)

What are some of the best articles you’ve come across lately?

Link Love Wednesday: 20 Before August Edition

Millennial_mainHappy Wednesday! Can you believe it is almost August?

This feature, Link Love Wednesday, was postponed after a series of difficult Wednesdays throughout June and July. However, this week, I wanted to share a few interesting articles I found – especially pertaining to our age group of twenty-somethings!

  • This list of 21 Secrets for Your 20s is fun, practical and easy to relate to your own life. The blog post even inspired a book!
  • Thought Catalog posted a list of superpowers that 20-somethings don’t actually have. If you’re part of this age group, you will probably laugh your way through it, as many of these will apply to you or your friends.
  • Where would we be without one more article about millennials? This article talks about the things that millennials just don’t get. What are your thoughts? (Personally, I can’t stand all the negative commentary that people have about our generation – I think some of it is blown way out of proportion or incredibly misguided! I also think that a lot of this article would pertain more to someone starting out in a new job, rather than specifically to all young people.)
  • Take this quiz to find out if you can tell the difference between quotes from The Bachelorette and Taylor Swift lyrics! (I am proud to say that I earned 100 percent on this one!)
  • Check out the cast of Edward Scissorhands, then and now. The movie (one of my favorites) came out the same year I was born, so it is interesting to see how much has changed since then for many of these actors and actresses!
  • Flavorwire recounts several children’s book film series that failed to become the next Harry Potter franchise. (I was a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, by the way!)
  • There is a Twitter-themed hotel in Spain, where you can flirt and interact with other guests by tweet and hashtag. Personally, I would prefer if a guy actually walked up to me instead of just mentioning me through social media, but to each their own!

What are some of the interesting articles you came across this week?

Link Love Wednesday: Happily Ever After?

Fallen_Disney_Princesses-6Good evening, friends! For those who are beginning summer classes, hope you are having a wonderful start to your semester. :) Meanwhile, I hope the rest of you are enjoying your weeks.

Although I graduated from college just a couple of weeks ago, I’m still a Disney princess at heart (tiara, princess voice and all). I may be an educated semi-feminist, but there’s something about the franchise that brings me right back to my childhood. Of course, when Disney came up in the blogosphere this week, I had to take a look!

What have you been reading lately?

True Life: I’m a College Graduate!

Graduation28

This is me, rebellious as ever.

Haven’t you heard? I’m a college graduate!

For those of you who didn’t know, I received my B.A. last week and have officially begun the newest chapter of my life as a full-time marketing professional. It feels like just yesterday I was moving into the dorms and trying to figure out who to sit next to at club meetings! These last four years have been the most challenging and rewarding years of my life so far, and I can’t believe how quickly they flew by.

Graduating from college is simultaneously exciting and scary. It’s a time of transition that leaves no room for black and white, only gray areas that cause us to question how we should act and what we should be doing in comparison to our peers. We’re technically adults, but we aren’t completely sure if we should feel that way just yet.

Change can be terrifying. It can also be incredibly rewarding. For the first time since I was five (or younger, if you count preschool), I am not enrolled in school, which means that, in a sense, a huge chunk of my identity is missing. In other words, I am about to embark on a life that won’t be measured in semesters. And yet, the changes I’m about to experience – a new job, a new apartment, a (slightly) new city – mean that I have even more room to explore my identity outside of the classroom.

I learned a lot from my college experience early on, and my goal was to share those tips with readers as often as I could over the past few years. Although college advice will continue to pop up here, you’ll notice a bit of a shift in content as I transition into the professional world and record my journey.

For those of you who have recently graduated, I wish you the best of luck in your post-collegiate plans!

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

blair waldorf graduationIt’s hard to believe that when I first started blogging, I was only halfway through my freshman year of college. At the time, I thought that a blog would be a fun avenue for me to share the thoughts and ideas that I was too shy to say aloud, but in the years that followed, the blog became so much more.

In April 2010, we started with the very first Freshman 15, focusing on 15 of the things I had learned in my first year of college (some serious, some practical and some silly). Throughout the year, I created other Freshman 15 lists as well, focusing on specific topics like overcoming homesickness, making friends and navigating college relationships. Then, every following April, I listed 15 new things I had learned that year (see year 2 and year 3).

A lot has happened in the last four years. I’m shocked every time I receive an email about picking up my cap and gown, or filling out my college exit surveys, because I still feel like the awkward 18-year-old girl who navigated the university by map, the girl who couldn’t boil water to save her life and who hoped to meet her soulmate in the residence halls. Now, with just a few final exams left to go, I’ll share 15 lessons that I’ve learned since I first started college.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 4)

1. Stick around if you can afford it.
I meet a lot of underclassmen who enter college with junior standing and who hope to finish their four-year degree in two years. While I understand the financial reasons behind this, I would encourage you not to rush through your program if you can help it. So many of these students think that by taking on an overwhelming course load in the hope of graduating early, they will be able to begin graduate programs at a younger age. However, if you stretch your degree out to three and a half or four years, you will have the opportunity to participate in research, internships, extracurriculars and other activities that will make you more well-rounded and boost your chances of admission. It also allows you to pick up an extra major or minor if that interests you.

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2. Use university resources early on.
Know what resources the university offers, and don’t wait until the last minute to use them. Even though I attended a lot of workshops and events as a freshman, there was a lot that I didn’t know about until my senior year. Currently, in my position at the university’s career center, I have encountered so many students who are just weeks away from graduation and having someone on campus look at their resume for the first time. Find out what your school provides for its students, and use it! You are paying for it, after all. :)

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barney3. Know how to dress professionally.
In college, you may be invited to a “business casual” event on a moment’s notice, and you’ll need to know what that entails. Invest in a professional wardrobe so that you’ll always be ready for the next job fair, interview or networking event. Ladies (and gentlemen, too, I suppose), make sure you avoid anything too short or low-cut. If you would wear it downtown to a bar/it has sequins on it, it’s probably not okay to wear.

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4. Always keep your resume updated.
Don’t be the graduating senior who never made a resume before. Start a resume early in your college career, and add in the details over time. I’ve met some people who even kept a secondary list of organizations and jobs they have been a part of, and then they referred to that list every time they crafted a new resume for a different employer.

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5. Some industries are harder to break into than others.
I honestly didn’t know this until last semester. Whichever field you hope to work in, do a little research so you can decide if the job availability after graduation is worth it. (It might be. And your passion for a subject may surpass any worries you have about your future salary, but this is still something to keep in mind.)

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header6. Have some ideas about what you can potentially do with your major.
No, you don’t need to know what you’re going to be when you grow up – at least not right away – but it’s good to at least be aware of what types of career paths are possible with your major. A few months ago, I met a psychology student who was interested in graduate programs but disliked people and animals. As you can imagine, it was difficult to think of a career path he could follow in psychology that wouldn’t focus on either of these areas. Think about why you selected your particular major and research some of the careers that could potentially follow graduation. (Also, find out if they require further education or certification!)

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7. You won’t be loved by everyone at every moment.
Sometimes you have to say or do the unpopular thing, and it may make you feel like a villain. Nevertheless, it’s important to stand up for yourself and what you think is right, and at times, that means saying something that people won’t want to hear.

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8. DS4303evelop new skills whenever possible.
Find new ways to diversify your skill set. Learn a new film editing software, master a programming language, practice ballroom dance or try out a new recipe in the kitchen. Whether your aim is to boost the “skills” section on your resume or to become more well-rounded, learning new skills is an excellent way to exercise your brain. (Nunchuck skills are always a plus.)

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9. Do what makes you happy.
Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, all too often we worry about what others think about our actions, and let it define our happiness. Unless others are warning you against a potentially dangerous situation, you are perfectly entitled to make your own decisions, so long as they don’t negatively impact everyone around you.

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10. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Just as much as we need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of everything we do, we need to stop having such strong opinions about what everybody else is doing. Let others live their lives without so much judgment. Again, unless you are warning someone against a potentially dangerous situation, you should probably stay out of any situation you haven’t been invited into.

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11. Burnout exists. Give yourself a break.
As a complete workaholic, I fall especially victim to this one. Make sure that even when life is at its most hectic, you are taking care of your health and getting some semblance of sleep here and there. Check out this great article by Leonie Dawson for more tips on dealing with burnout.

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HermioneRonHarry12. True friends are hard to come by, but you will find them.
You are bound to meet a lot of people when you start college, but not all of them will become your lifelong friends. Your true friends will be the ones who celebrate your successes and help you through the rough times without expecting anything in return. That’s the key – your friends won’t have to remind you of what they’ve done for you, because they know you do the same for them.

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13. Take advantage of student discounts.
With graduation looming closer and closer, I can practically see all of the wonderful discounts that come with being a student just vanishing before me. Know that local venues, attractions and conferences will give you student discounts, because those can really help you out.

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14. Time management is everything.
Do whatever you need to do to stay ahead of your school work and obligations, because as soon as you fall behind, things will begin to snowball. Managing your time effectively will help you to avoid the burnout that affects so many of us! Here are 15 time management tips, many of which I use to this day!

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15. Learn the balance of yes and no. (Tweet this!)
This is a lesson that I am learning every day. When you first start college, you will want to join every club and be in 10 places at once. Unfortunately, there is only one of you and only 24 hours in the day. Learn to prioritize and figure out, over time, what you can and can’t commit to. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – trust me, you will regret it!

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What are some of the things you’ve learned during your time in college?