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5 Adulting Lessons You Don’t Learn Until After Graduation

Come graduation time, it’s easy to feel like you know it all. You’re the “big cheese” on campus, you’ve likely worked a few jobs or internships at this point and you carry yourself with a confident demeanor, ready to take on the world.

Not so fast.

Though it might seem as though you’re a true adult, the real growing up begins once you step away from the comfortable walls of your college campus. Here are a few lessons in becoming an adult that you’ll only absorb once you’ve already graduated:

1. Sometimes, not achieving your original dreams can be a good thing

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Unless you’re lucky, it will be difficult to have everything fall into place in your early stages of post-grad life; namely, getting the perfect job, apartment, city or romantic partner.

A hard lesson to learn post-grad is the ultimate cliché that when one door closes, another opens. For instance, it can feel devastating to get rejected from a job at your dream company, only to find that another company has a job waiting for you that is a much better cultural and role fit.

Lauryn Higgins, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, quickly learned that life has an interesting way of putting you on a path full of twists and turns. She says, “Not getting my ‘dream’ job out of college helped me decide to pursue my master’s degree, and in turn, has opened so many more doors for job opportunities.” The same can apply to your love life, as Higgins notes that getting your heart broken can lead you towards an even better relationship.

2. Never be afraid to ask for help

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Graduating college can seem like the ultimate mark of independence for a young person, as you set out into an unknown future. However, the real world doesn’t have to feel lonely.

At this stage, you’re not expected to know everything, and that’s completely normal. A phone call to your parents or friends can provide comfort as you navigate so-called adult tasks, from finding an apartment to filing tax returns for the first time.

You should especially not feel embarrassed to ask your coworkers at your first job for help. After all, you’re only entry level, so you still have plenty to learn! If your question isn’t something that you can easily Google the answer to, then it’s perfectly acceptable to seek guidance from your teammates. Likewise, seeking out a mentor in your field can help direct you towards your career goals when you feel stuck.

Related: 16 Times You Actually Succeeded at Adulting

3. You’ll learn how to manage your money better

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Being an adult is expensive. You’re faced with rent, student loans, health insurance…the list goes on. Even if you held a job during school, the number of financial commitments will only increase. Your first full-time job and a larger paycheck come with great responsibility.

Make sure that you’re budgeting your money to cover your needs, so that you have enough funds to enjoy time with friends and go out from time to time. There are plenty of apps to help you take the first steps towards managing your earnings, such as Mint and Acorn.

Haleigh Kopinski, a graduate of Point Park University, uses the Mint app religiously. “Once you get in to the habit of tracking your spending and figuring out where your money is really going, it’s much easier to deal with. Those Starbucks lattes and girls nights out  quickly add up and, like everything else, are better in moderation.”

Additionally, start thinking about allocating some of your salary towards savings. A good rule of thumb is to save up so that you eventually have three months worth of savings (rent, food, basic needs) in case of an emergency, such as being laid off from your job. By creating a security net for yourself early, you will avoid the stress that comes with unavoidable life circumstances.

Related: 22 Signs You’re So Not Ready to Adult

4. Your health is your first priority

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Remember those all-nighters that you pulled in college, filled with Red Bull and junk food? Those types of bad habits can negatively affect your health over time in the real world. 

Now that you’re done with the burden of school and have a little more time to focus on yourself, it’s beneficial to make your health more of a priority in your 20s. As an adult, it’s time to replace the ramen with more whole foods that will not only give you more energy and increase your productivity at work, but boost your mood and make you feel good. Exercise is an equally key component of health, but you can make it fun by taking workout classes with your friends and trying new things, such as rock climbing and Zumba.

Shira Kipnees, a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, made the difficult transition from being on a meal plan in college to now having to cook for herself. She says, “I learned how to deal with making my own meals and also how to rid myself of my terrible college eating habits. I learned how to better read nutrition labels and what an actual healthy meal can look like and what constitutes healthy snacks.”

5. It’ll take a while before you truly feel like an adult

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Though you’re technically an adult at age 18, when most people start college, it’s easy to still feel like a kid during your four years of school. However, that sentiment won’t dramatically change overnight once you graduate. Just like how it’s important to ask for help, it’s also important to know that the real world can feel overwhelming at times, and that that is normal.

Much of one’s feeling like an adult comes with developing confidence, a quality that can take time throughout one’s early career. Many entry level professionals experience Imposter Syndrome, a sentiment where despite your qualifications and experience, you feel as though you’re incompetent and will be “found out” by your peers. However, as long as you continually work on improving your self esteem through self-care, those fears will eventually become insignificant.

There is only so much that you can learn about adulthood while confined to your college campus. It’s only when you graduate and start living on your own that you’ll begin to develop the “adulting” skills that will help you succeed.

Mara is a Boston native who ventured west for college, graduating from the University of Southern California in 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Communication. She is passionate about marketing, journalism and digital media. Some of her favorite things include SoulCycle, trying new restaurants, country music and debating about the Oxford comma. To learn more about Mara, follow her on Twitter @marahyman.
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