If I had to rate my last year at university, I would call it by far the most complicated year in my college career. In my last year, I found myself in the midst of doing many things and having many feelings. The list of things to do included studying for classes, preparing for graduation, preparing for life AFTER college, packing, extracurricular activities, and graduation activities. It became a mixture of being happy about graduating, but also being overwhelmed and anxious.
The last year of college can be exhilarating, fun, and excited as you prepare to graduate and enter life in the real world. It's those same things that can also leave you overwhelmed, anxious, and scared.
It's experiencing all these feelings at once that can leave you feeling confused as to whether this is truly an exciting phase of your life. However, there are other former graduates who may be able to lend you some advice and guide you along the way.
Unfortunately, everything isn't shared and there are some things you will have to learn on your own.
In order to save you a few headaches, here are a few things I (and my friends) learned in our last year of college.
1. Make a list.
This will not be your ordinary grocery/task list. Get a good size piece of paper and put in on your wall. Write down everything you need to do for your final year in college. It's best to separate it by sections, such as apartment, school, clubs & activities, etc.
When writing the list, make sure to list everything that you need to do. Yes, this means even the simplest things, like returning your mail key.
At this moment, it's something you think you won't forget. However, when you in the between the bliss and chaos of graduating, it may easily slip your mind.
Start the list now and add/edit as the year goes on. You'll be sure to thank yourself when graduation is over.
2. Extensions. Extensions. Extensions.
Ask for an extension if possible, especially if it doesn't cost anything. If you're moving out of your apartment, don't be afraid to ask for an extension that allows you to stay for an extra three to four days. Be sure to make sure it doesn't come with any penalties, though. If there is a penalty, assess it and decide if it's worth it.
Everyone's situation is different, but paying an extra $50, just may be worth it in the end.
You may think, "I'll start packing ahead of time." The chances of that happening are slim to none. You'll be too busy with graduation activities, finals, and more and may not get to finish anything.
This can also apply to other things like paperwork, interviews, and any other deadlines. It doesn't hurt to ask and can save you the hassle of rushing.
3. Check for money.
That's right. Make sure there is no money left behind that is owed to you by the school. Many forget about the money that went unused from scholarships, grants, etc. This is especially applicable if you're graduating from college early.
Any money that was not used towards your education should be refunded to you.
It's your money that was awarded to you, so don't leave without it.
There's nothing better than getting paid on graduation day.
4. Review your transcript.
This may be one of the most obvious things, but it's important. Be sure that everything on your transcript is correct. For example, if you retook a class or received a grade change, make sure that is reflected on the transcript.
In addition, this is a good way to make sure you have all the credits required for graduation. The last thing you want is to be three credits short of graduation. Of course, you'll be able to walk across the stage, but you'll have to come back to finish ONE class.
Your advisor is there to guide you, but it's your responsibility to make sure you have everything required for graduation.
Review early and throughout the year.
If there are issues, this will leave you enough time to address them and get it fixed.
Walk across the stage feeling completely free (at least for now).
5. Print an unofficial copy of your transcript.
This one is for your future benefit (and your pockets). After graduation, print yourself an unofficial copy of your transcript. You'll need this as a reference for yourself and may be acceptable for some employers.
Don't wait to do it. As soon as your graduate status is posted, print it. You may eventually lose access to it and will have to pay for a copy.
Leave the money for official transcripts for official uses, like graduate and professional school.
From one broke college graduate to another, you're welcome.
6. Ask questions.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. This is a cliché one, but for those like me…it may be hard to ask questions. If you're not sure about something, be sure to ask an academic or graduation advisor. It may be the simplest question, but you want to be sure about EVERYTHING.
They will most likely have resources for you to refer to as questions continue to arise throughout the year.
Be 100% sure to ensure you have a graduation that is as smooth as possible.
7. Don't wait until the last minute to order items.
Please do not wait until the last minute to order your cap and gown! As soon as orders open for it, do it! This is something you should be excited about, so don't wait for it.
The longer you wait, the more likely a chance something may get messed up. You don't want to add more stress to your growing responsibilities.
This is also a way to protect your bank account.
If you wait too long to not order your cap and gown and graduation accessories such as stoles, cords, etc. they may become out of stock. If they become in-stock again, you may have to pay rush fees to get them in time.
This way if an issue does arise (ex. too small, incorrect item), you will have time to fix it.
Save yourself the hassle and money. Order early.
8. Use all resources to your benefit.
Make sure to use all the resources that are provided to you through your university/college. All the resources you haven't had a chance to use, be sure to do it now. Each of them was paid using your tuition. Of course, there will still be some that you have access to as an alumnus (including new ones).
Just don't let your money go to waste.
The next three don't pertain to graduation itself, but to all the things you should remember in your final year.
9. Reflect on all the things you've learned and experienced.
If Moana was apart of your college journey, reflect that on too. Giphy
This one is all about growth. Take some time and write down everything you've learned in class, about yourself, and the world. Don't forget to include all the experiences you've had, even the smallest ones like going out for dinner with your friends.
You'll be amazed at all everything and hopefully, realize how much growth you've done since entering college.
If you were thinking you achieved nothing besides school, think again. You've achieved much more than you thought.
10. Don't compare yourself to others.
This can be one for a lot of us. We look at our friends and see all their amazing jobs and opportunities. You will set yourself up for failure by comparing yourself to them and others.
Be happy for your friends and congratulate them on their accomplishments. Be confident in yourself and your plan. It's much easier said than done. However, the more you practice that confidence, the more real it becomes.
The plan may change and evolve, but the most important thing is you achieving your goals and being happy.
If you continue to work hard, things will come to you in perfect time. This is your journey and it's unique from everyone's else.
11. Graduating is the most important thing.
Grades may not be what you wanted or achieved the honors you always dreamed. Yes, it can be disappointing, but it's not the end of the world. The most important thing is that you're graduating. At the end of these very long years, you are receiving a degree.
Once again, don't compare yourself to anyone else. Appreciate all your accomplishments. There's not one too small to celebrate.
Be happy in the moment. No one knows what it took you to get to this moment. You've worked hard whether through a job, mental illness, or just your normal college shenanigans.
Walk across the stage with an insight into the person you've become and what's in the future. Congratulations on making it to your final year of college. Keep up the hard work. Can't wait to see you out there with all of us graduates!