Post-Graduate Problems: Adjusting to life after college

grad plans

For college upperclassmen, the so-called “real world” is coming, and it’s coming fast. For recent graduates, there could be a bit of a culture shock during the transition from the wonderful world of college to the impending real world.
From finally completing a degree and becoming a full-fledged “adult,” to not only going through the agonizing trials and tribulations of job hunting, but having to spend all your newfound money on bills, insurance and paying off our good friend Sallie Mae, the transition can be a rocky one.
Campus Compared delves into the post-grad world to see what it’s like to be a soon-to-be grad from Ohio University and other colleges, and the ways in which post-grads are adjusting out there in the real world (shudder).

Graduation
Before you even enter the real world, you have to graduate. It can be a feat to actually get to step foot on that stage, however, as statistics show, those who graduate from college are the cream of the crop, and those who do it in four years are even … creamier.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center conducted a survey in 2013 called “Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates.” For six years, the study tracked the completion of degrees from first-time students who started college in the fall of 2007 nationwide.
More than 50 percent of students complete college within six years at the same university in which they started pursuing their degree. In contrast, 21.6 percent of students were no longer enrolled after six years and had not obtained a degree.
While comparable data were not available for Ohio University in particular, it is interesting to compare the time students have taken to complete their degree. Data from the Ohio University Office of Institutional Research shows the graduation rates of students between 2000 and 2009, and the percentage of degrees completed in four, five and six years.
The data shows that a majority (between 44 and 51 percent) of students completed their degree in four years, while a small percentage (2-4 percent) took six years.
While only half of the students graduated within just four years, it is common on campus to see students complete their degree during their fifth year. Andrew Mickelson, a fifth-year senior studying Engineering Technology and Management, can relate.
During his sophomore year he decided to switch majors from Mechanical Engineering to Engineering Technology and Management.

“(The switch) added extra computer- and business-focused classes to my course load, so that set me back,” he said.
Mickelson’s major also requires a full-time co-op, which he completed during the spring quarter of his sophomore year, and which put him even further behind in credits earned.
On the other hand, some students receive their degree in less than four years. While these students aren’t included in the data, their academic success is noteworthy in regard to graduation rates.
Miyah Grant, a sophomore studying psychology, will be graduating at the end of her junior year at Ohio University in 2016.
Grant came to college after attending Toledo Early College High School in Toledo, Ohio. The school’s curriculum is based on college preparatory classes such as Advanced Placement, from which high school students are able to earn college credit.
“I came into OU with enough credit hours to be considered a sophomore,” Grant said. “I definitely owe it to my high school, because now I’m able to finish my degree in three years.”
Although she will complete her undergraduate degree early, classes won’t stop for her. Grant said said she plans to head to graduate school.

Job hunting
After sending out countless applications and typing cover letters until your fingertips became raw, you’re ready to reap the fruits of your labor — which is, actually, more labor.
Most colleges offer programs for students to prepare them for their professional career, such as resume workshops, career fairs and mock interviews. Ohio University’s Career and Leadership Development Center helps students who are preparing for life after college, said Madeleine Elaban, an employer relations and event planning graduate assistant for the center.
The center hosted a career fair in February, in which employers set up booths in Baker Center and allowed students to approach them for information. The employers at this event were registered on Bobcat CareerLink, Ohio University’s job and internship database, and students who attended were encouraged to upload their resumes to the site. Bobcat CareerLink allows all Ohio University students connect with employers who are also registered through the site, Elaban said.
“One of our biggest responsibilities is Bobcat CareerLink,” Elaban said. “We do our best to provide feedback to each student who submits a resume, so they can make improvements accordingly.”
Some students also refer to their academic adviser for after-college planning. Allison Leonard, a senior studying hospitality, got an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, through a recommendation from her adviser.
“Of course, I was hoping to have a full-time job by (graduation), but I’m excited for my internship at Disney,” she said. “Not only is it paid, but I’ll get to live in Florida for a few months and gain experience while I continue my search for a full-time position.”
Students at other colleges across the nation have had similar experiences with their university contacts.
Amanda Fretz, a 2014 graduate from the University of Florida with degrees in Spanish and pre-nursing, said she thought her university, along with her professors, successfully prepared her for life after college and the pursuit of her nursing credentials.
“Through UF, I was able to become a clinician assistant at UF Health Shands Hospital and a research assistant for UF Health,” Fretz said. “These (opportunities) gave me so much experience and my professors and colleagues helped me with taking the next steps in my career.”
Fretz is now studying nursing at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, and will complete her nursing degree in August.

Student loans
Perhaps one of the biggest burdens of entering the post-grad world is having to begin paying back student loans — if you have them.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 37 percent of households in the United States that are headed by a person younger than 40 years old have student debt. The 2014 study, titled “Young Adults, Student Debt and Economic Well-Being,” also noted that the “median net worth of young households” with no student debt is seven times greater ($64,700) than those that have student debt ($8,700).
Travis Grimsley, a fifth-year student studying business at Ohio University’s Pickerington Campus is set to graduate this May, but he has yet to find a full-time job.
“My goal is to move to Georgia, but I haven’t found a job there yet,” Grimsley said. “I got a job working part-time in the warehouse at Limited Brands (in Columbus), and I’m just planning on living at home and saving up paychecks while I continue the job search in Georgia.”
Grimsley said he hopes to save enough to start making payments on his student loans as soon as possible.
To put the potential pay for recent graduates in perspective, The National Association of Colleges and Employers released figures from a 2013 survey that said the overall average starting salary for the class of 2013 was $45,327, which was a 2.4 percent increase from the $44,259 for the class of 2012.

While what lies beyond graduation may be scary to most, it isn’t a mystery. Most people in the professional world have also gone through this adjustment, and many have become exceedingly successful — it only takes some time.
Jessica Cohen, a 2012 graduate of Ohio University with a degree in journalism, moved to Cincinnati from her hometown of Aurora, Ohio, to begin her professional career at The Cincinnati Enquirer. She said that while it is difficult to adjust, getting on her feet wasn’t as hard as she anticipated.
“The ‘real world’ isn’t too much different,” Cohen said. “I got settled in no time, and … the hardest thing was making friends in the area.”
Cohen also admits that adopting her cat, Cooper, was a big help.
“He was my first friend here!” she laughed.

What are you the most worried about? Tweet us using #PostGradProblems at @CampusCompared, and check out our social coverage to know you’re not alone in this life changing time.

I asked fellow college seniors what their plans were for after graduation. The answers ranged from full-time jobs, to internships, to a continuation of the job search.
Students in order of appearance:
Hannah Yang, William Hoffman, Allison Leonard, Joshua Jamerson, Lucas Daprile, Allan Smith, Emily Bamforth, Andrew Mickelson

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