College graduation caps
Credit: Jason Bache on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

 It's here! Where did all the time go? College graduation, a day that once loomed far over the horizon, is now at your doorstep. For years you've waited for this wonderful day with baited breath and anticipation; suddenly it's here. Chances are you'll have mixed feelings, ones of both excitement and apprehension. These emotions are normal, so don't worry if you are feeling hesitant.

While being in college gave you a good chance to experience a level of independence, the thought of going out to tackle the "real world" can be overwhelming. The good news is there are ways to decrease some of this anxiety or nervousness.

Prior to and during your senior year you'll want to do some pre-emptive planning to help ensure a smoother transition to the next stage of your life. Items to plan for include graduation, living arrangements and employment.

Graduation Checklist

It is a wise idea to sit down ahead of time with your academic counselor to discuss your credits and degree program. Going over your transcripts with your counselor prior to application for graduation helps determine whether or not you are may have missed any specific degree requirements. This happened to me in my undergraduate program, but fortunately by evaluating my credits early, the one liberal arts credit I was missing to meet my degree criteria was detected by my counselor. After consulting with him, I quickly registered and secured a spot in a drawing (art) class which made me eligible to graduate (as an aside I had absolutely no drawing experience and this turned out to be one of the best classes I'd taken. Had so much fun! So even if you have to take something you think you'll hate, you might end up actually loving it and broadening your horizons).

The detection of the missing credit occurred just prior to my last semester, so I was really glad I checked early. Fortunately, it still gave enough time to ensure timely graduation. Definitely don't wait until the last semester! Make sure you've got all your proverbial ducks (credits and other requirements) in a row ahead of time. Mistakes can delay graduation and your entry into the "real world".

Also, before entering the "real world" take some time to re-evaluate your goals. Chances are you've changed a lot during your college years. Early in your college career you probably outlined your goals and aspirations, and now in your senior year it's time to carefully evaluate and make sure you're still on target with your plans. Also, if you find some of your goals and aspirations have indeed changed, you'll want to make any last minute adjustments in your plans.

Living Arrangements

Have you decided where you are going to live? Knowing your options well ahead of time is essential. You don't want to have to struggle or scramble to find a place after you leave the comfort of your school's dorm or nearby apartment.

Radford University
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Whether you are moving back home or relocating to another area you will need to carefully plan for your transition in leaving college and securing a place to live. If you are going to be looking for an apartment, take some time to go apartment hunting and don't forget you'll need not only rent money, but a security deposit too - this could be one or two months worth of rent. Plan your finances carefully if this is your plan.

Career Planning

Several months before your graduation, get right out there and explore available job opportunities; there are numerous resources available to assist you in your search for a job.

  • Go to your college's career center to search out resources in job leads, resume building and how to develop strong interviewing techniques. Talk with a career counselor if one is available. If not, find a counselor in an outside organization. Being proactive in learning the ins and outs of landing a job significantly increases how you can boost your marketability.
  • Visit websites such as Career Builder and Monster, these sites share good tools you can utilize during your search for employment. They also offer lots of helpful tips and advice in the "how to's" of finding employment. You'll find information on resume and cover letter development, interviews "do's and don'ts" and you can search through the job search engines.
  • Visit other websites too. While the above two are "universal" sites, also check your local newspaper's website, the sites of industry leaders, career placement agencies or other periodicals related to the career you're entering, you'll find both career advice and job leads. 
  • Take the time to attend career fairs and any other networking events you can find scheduled. These are good events that will let you see first-hand what opportunities are available. It will also give you good practice in dealing with other people in the professional environment.
  • If you have not already, start visit online forums and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Networking is an important part of your professional career, so it's a good idea to start earlier than later. Even if you don't feel comfortable joining any professional networking sites, read any visible forums to get a feel for what is going on in "the real world."

The resources out there are many, be they offline or online. Some of these resources will prove to be invaluable. Take the time to search them out and see what you can learn. Local government offices often have job information too.

Leaving college is a bit scary, and going out into the world for the first time can be a mixed batch of feelings - full of exhilaration and fear. With conscious planning and attention to what needs to get done, this will make the big picture feel less intimidating. Take baby steps because any early preparations you do will ease the difficulties of transition and lessens any feelings of anxiety.

You've worked hard during your years of study, and now you get the chance to bask in your accomplishments. Traveling down the next path in your journey will be exciting as you get out and prove just how much you've learned and grown during your college years.

[ Related reading: College Life: What to Expect During Your First Semester ]