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You’ve Graduated College. Now What?

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

College graduation is a mixed bag of emotions. There’s a sense of accomplishment — graduating college is a big achievement, after all. There’s also some sadness about leaving your friends and memories of the past four years behind.

And, for most of us, there’s uncertainty about what you’re supposed to do next.

Are you supposed to have a job lined up after graduating college? Are you supposed to have your next five years mapped out?

What if there’s nothing you’re truly supposed to do? Your parents might have followed a traditional path of going to college, meeting their spouse, graduating, getting married, buying a house, having kids, and so on. But what if you don’t follow suit? Is that OK?

Yes, it’s OK.

There are plenty of ways to live this life

We can all agree that no two people are the same, right? So why should we be expected to go through life in the same sequence of events?

Your parents’ traditional path might have worked well for them, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go a different route. 

Maybe you want to move cross country after college to challenge yourself, and your job is just a way to pay your bills and live freely.

Maybe you want to start your own business and need to live at home for a few years to save up enough money to do so.

Maybe you want to join the Peace Corps to contribute to a greater cause and will start your career when you return home.

Or, maybe you want to dive into your work right away, climb the corporate ladder, and establish your career before looking for a relationship.

The point is: Don’t feel pigeon-holed by the traditional life stages. It’s your life, nobody else’s; if your life was a television show, make it one you’d want to binge-watch.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the less-glamorous responsibilities like work and bills, but you should go through life in a way that makes you happy. 

Don’t compare yourself to others

Everyone has different priorities and goes through life on different paths. Without context, a snapshot of your life at any given time could be interpreted a lot differently than someone else’s.

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If your life was a television show, make it one you’d want to binge-watch.

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It might make you feel inferior, for example, to visit your friend’s apartment in the city for a weekend when you live at home while going to grad school. In that snapshot, it might feel like your friend is light years ahead of you — they’ve got a good job, a nice income, and the lifestyle you want. But realistically, they’re not. It’s an apples-to-oranges kind of comparison.

You chose the path of going to grad school to pursue your dream profession. Therefore, of course you’re going to have to sacrifice some of the luxuries that your friend is currently enjoying. That doesn’t mean you should quit grad school and find a job and an apartment. You could have those things in due time once you graduate. You just need to have patience.

Can you live your way and pay down student loans?

Whatever path you want to go down, there are some things we all go through. That includes bills; most notably, student loan payments.

So, will student loans get in the way of the life you want to live? Not necessarily.

You have some flexibility when repaying federal and private student loans. For example, you could apply for income-based repayment on your federal student loans. Or, you can consider refinancing federal and private student loans to a lower interest rate or longer repayment length.

Income-based repayment or a longer repayment length may cost you more in interest over the life of your loan(s) in exchange for this flexibility, but it could be a tradeoff you’re comfortable making.

What to remember

There’s no single way to live this life. We all have different goals, personalities, and interests. Why shouldn’t our journeys through life be as different as we are?

More information

Find out if the Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan could free up the money you need know to live the post-grad life you’ve envisioned.

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