What I Would’ve Told Myself When I Graduated College: A Letter to Recent Graduates

5 Things I Would’ve Told Myself at Graduation - Advice for Recent Grads.


It’s been 2 years since I graduated college. I walked across the stage at Kent State University after having just returned from studying abroad and living in Asia for a year. At the time, I felt relieved and proud of myself for graduating college, something I didn’t know if I could do. I didn’t have a job lined up and I had no real plans at the time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to travel again, move across the country, start a business, or start a job. All I knew is that I had graduated college.

Since graduating, my life has danced in many directions and I’ve done all of the things that I had considered: I traveled again, I moved across the country, I started a business, and I also got a job - several of them. Above all of this though, since graduating, I’ve had incredible life experiences and lessons that have taught me more about life than anything that I learned in a classroom. College didn’t prepare me for real life. The past two years since graduating has been a degree in itself - and let me tell you, I’ve learned A LOT.

If I could’ve seen my life right now, I would have LAUGHED at what has become my life and career. Today I am living and working in LA. I currently work in PR (not my degree) and I also work as - wait for it - an Astrologer, Yoga Teacher, and Psychic…yeah, college definitely didn’t prepare me for that! If I could go back two years ago and have a conversation with myself, I’d tell her something like this:

1. No One Cares as Much as You Think They Do.

Your Parents? Your Peers? Your Professors? Your Significant other? Their expectations of you have NOTHING to do with your path. Yes, they care about you, and yes they likely want the best for you, but their plans for you should never interfere with your plans for yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mess of trying to please everyone, especially when the pressure of graduating and getting a good and even “cool” job seems like the weight of the world is on you. At the end of the day, when you are finally working that job, in that place, with that title, - no one else is going to be experiencing it but you. Your parents won’t be there at your 9-5, your friends won’t be there when you are making a business decision. This isn’t to say that you won’t have support, but rather to say that the decision you make about your life and career should ultimately be influenced by how YOU want to spend your time. At the end of the day, the people in your life just want to see you happy and healthy, this is a good reminder.

2. The Learning Doesn’t End After College

I’ve bought more books since graduating college than I did while in college, and I actually read them! I’ve learned more about life and myself since graduating college than I ever did in a classroom. The truth is, you can’t learn how to ‘adult’ until you actually start living like an adult. There are so many things that college won’t prepare you for. From doing your taxes to setting up auto-pay for your bills to learning how to cancel subscriptions after the free trial, to realizing that you have to make an effort to stay in touch with people who you don’t see every day - these are things that you can’t prepare for until you experience them. No class on taxes is going to help you as much as actually doing your taxes will. The hidden fees of adulthood are a REAL thing that no one told me about. Maybe you were or are lucky enough to have your parents help you with bills and finances, but at some point, adulthood means learning how to be independent, and let me tell you, that is a FULL DEGREE.

3. Your Career will Change

When I graduated, I put so much weight and thought into what job I would have. I put so much responsibility around making sure that my job represented my identity. I told myself that if I didn’t get a job that lined up perfectly with my degree and college experience, then it would all be a waste.

Looking at my life now, my degree had nearly no influence on my career. Yes, I learned a lot in college that contributed to my path and skillset. And yes, I wouldn’t have landed my first job without a degree. This is all not to say that college isn’t important, but rather than the specifics of what you study will not play a major role in what you actually do in life. I have shape-shifted through several jobs now, only to find out that what is actually forming as my “career” today is something that I NEVER would’ve seen myself doing. Today, I consider my career to be in astrology and spiritual studies. Laughing yet? yeah, so is my college advisor! I have studied astrology, yoga, light-work, and the occult since high school, but it was always more of a “hobby” or “interest”. Well, that interest is now turning into my career, and I never took one class on it.

Now - your career may very well line up with your degree. In fact, I graduated with an integrative degree in entrepreneurship, technology, and English - and it’s likely that you wouldn’t be reading this post if I hadn’t spent 3 years studying that! However, the “Career Perspectives” that were listed to me per graduation, looked nothing like what I am doing now.

So if you are feeling pressured or upset with the job you are in or the career field you have prepared for, just know that it will change. Nothing is permanent - especially not a job!

4. You will Make New Friends, and You Can’t Be Friends with Everyone

There is something beautiful about the college community - feeling connected with everyone because of a shared experience or association. When I graduated, it was hard for me to realize that all my friends were moving to different places, and doing different things. That feeling of shared experience and connection began to fade, and I found myself wondering how meaningful some of those connections actually were. It’s easy to be friends with everyone in college when you can just walk across campus or drive 20 minutes to hang out. Once you graduate, you begin to realize that true connections and friendships will outlast physical distance or lifestyle changes. The hard truth is that you may find yourself not wanting to go out and drink or talk about things that don’t have any relevance to your life, you may find that your time is more valuable than maintaining a situational friendship. Adulthood is a journey into the self, and you begin to realize that your identity has more to do with who you are, and less to do with who you are around.

From this, I’ve learned how important friendship truly is, the people who I consider my real friends will always have a spot in my calendar and recent calls. True friendship outlasts situations and transitions, but in order to realize this, it may involve letting go of “friendships” that don’t align with your life anymore. You can still have love for these people and an appreciation for the time shared, but you may have to release expectations about staying close so that you can create space for new people. The beauty of this is that you will find yourself making new friends who are aligned with your new life, the opportunity to make friends definitely doesn’t end after college, even if it might be harder. Go to the meet-ups, have a coffee date, reach out to people, if you are craving community, it’s there - and your real friends will also always be there.

5. Nothing is the End of the World.

I experienced depression, doubt, financial trouble, and crippling anxiety when I graduated from college. I had thoughts like, “What is my purpose?” “Am I prepared?” “Will I be successful?” These thoughts forced me into spirals of thinking.

I spent more time weighing the meaning of life than I did living.

As I look back now, having finally made it to Los Angeles, which had been my big dream for so long, I realize once again that there is no end destination, job, or feeling, everything is always in flow. The big goal is just one stop on your journey. Not getting the job, or ending the relationship, or forgetting to pay your electric bill is just one more experience to pile on to your life. It’s not the end of anything, and definitely not the end of the world.

The truth is, most people have spent their whole lives preparing for some ‘big event’ around the time of graduation. After years of schooling and millions of conversations about “career” and “Success” and “Life Purpose,” we develop this weight of expectation and obligations that we carry around with us, waiting for that “big break” or the end of the hard work. One of the first things I realized when I graduated college is that there is SO much of life left to live! Yes, your formal education may be over, but the part of life that no one talks about, the MAJORITY of life, is just beginning.

So, If you are in your twenties, graduating from college, and wondering what your purpose is

here is your reminder that your life is just beginning. Things will change, you will change, relationships will change, but that’s what makes life beautiful. We are always evolving. So allow yourself to evolve, allow yourself to take on new ideas, opportunities, and perceptions.

You are more than a goal, you are more than a job, and you are more than a degree. Your identity will always be in evolution. Now is just the beginning of a new chapter.


Julia Kelley1 Comment