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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Graduated

silhouettes of graduates celebrating with a sky background

High School Graduate

1. Have some fun!

Unfortunately your summer vacation after high school is often the last time you and all of your friends will be in the same place at the same time. When friends embark on new adventures whether it be moving away to college, starting a career, or starting a family; it isn’t always easy to stay as close as before. Take these few months to make some lasting memories with all of your friends and loved ones. Have a ton of beach days, binge on Netflix or take a drive around the island together.

2. Figure out what credit is all about.

You’ve heard adults talking about credit and your credit score all the time, but I bet you don’t fully get what the fuss is all about. Truth be told, you probably won’t use it right now, but you should definitely think about it. You’ll need it later. If you think you’ll ever need to borrow money (like for a car or house), rent a house or even get certain jobs, you’ll need a good credit score.

3. Plan for your finances now.

If you’re planning on moving away from home after high school, the last thing you want to do is arrive in a new city or state far from home with no idea how to pay for your everyday necessities. How you’ll make money is another dilemma, but I’m talking about how you’ll access your money. Will you use a debit card, credit card, cash or a combination? If you plan on using an ATM for cash, find out where you can use your debit or share card surcharge free. A surcharge is that $2, $3 or even $4 fee that you are charged for using an ATM outside of your card’s network. If you’re unsure of which one you can use, ask your financial institution. As a college student, you definitely don’t want to waste money on unnecessary fees.

4. Set yourself up to finish college on time.

College will be fun and there is always lots to do, but don’t forget why you’re going to college in the first place – to get a degree. Before you sign up for your classes, figure out how many you’ll need to take in order to graduate on time (which is usually 4 years for a bachelor’s degree). Is 12 credits per semester enough to graduate in 4 years? (12 credits is considered full time) You may need to take 15 credits instead. Remember that an extra year in college is another year of tuition to pay. If you’re feeling ambitious, look at increasing your course load per semester to graduate early, but only if you can handle the extra work and still maintain your grades.

5. Take your education seriously

Going to a university is a whole different experience than the high school you just graduated from. It can be easy to get caught up in the freedom and independence of it all, but don’t forget to make your education the priority. Be sure you’re attending all your classes, completing your work on time and putting in your best effort. A lot of money is being spent on your education and you want to be sure you’re not letting it go to waste. Continue working hard to obtain your degree and reap the benefits when you graduate on time and start searching for your dream job.

College Graduate

1. Don’t wait to pursue higher education

Are you considering continuing your education after obtaining your bachelor’s degree? Don’t wait! Before graduation be sure you start applying to master’s programs and searching for sources of funding. Many times taking a break can make it difficult to find the motivation to go back to school. It can also push back career goals that require a master’s degree or higher.

2. Have patience

You’re probably thinking that since you have that degree, now you’ll find that perfect job! But wait, you’ll need a little patience. Most times, the first jobs you find fresh out of college are not the jobs you end up making a career out of – and that’s perfectly fine! Use the jobs you find to gain work experience and make valuable industry connections. You may go through 2 – 3 jobs or more before you find that perfect one, but don’t give up.

3. Keep those contacts

When you’re applying for jobs, you’ll need references and your college professors are a great option to include, especially if the class is applicable to the job you’re applying for. The same theory goes to your college jobs (even on-campus jobs). Although they may not be in the same field, your supervisor can attest to your work ethic, timeliness and communication skills.

4. Sign up for alumni communications

You never know where life will take you. You might have a job lined up after graduation but things may not work out for the long haul. Your college alumni association is a great opportunity to connect with fellow graduates and they often are a valuable resource when job hunting.

5. If you haven’t figured out the credit thing, I suggest you get started ASAP.

Many financial institutions (like HFS FCU) offer its members a tool to monitor their score, receive alerts when something hits your credit report and provides tips on how you can improve your score. For more information about our tool, read this article about Savvy Money.

Other helpful links:

ATM Safety – What you need to know

The Do’s and Don’ts of Credit Cards in College

How to Financially Prepare for College

Do you know what’s on your credit report?