Managing the end of your college experience

The last few months of your senior year may have you stressed, but don’t forget to enjoy everything you’ve worked toward.

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As you get closer to the end of your senior year, you’ll experience some big changes and face important decisions — about academics, your relationships, and even your career goals. It’s a time of year when nostalgia, fear, excitement, stress, and other feelings can easily occupy your mind during what you may have imagined as your “victory lap” in college.

Here are some challenges you may face and some solutions to help manage the stress.

Preparing for commencement

You’ve probably been looking forward to graduation since you stepped foot on campus, but once you start filling out the paperwork, it’s going to hit you that this huge event is just around the corner. Make sure you’re prepared by double-checking that you have all of the courses and credits you need to be eligible to walk.

Graduation also probably means family commitments. Talk to your family about graduation early to be sure you have enough commencement tickets and a plan for celebrating. Between hosting relatives and saying final goodbyes to friends, early planning will ease the process so you can enjoy the day when it comes.

Saying goodbye to friends

The last semester of college is when nostalgia kicks in. You experience a series of lasts: the last spring break, your last formal, and the last night out at your favorite off-campus hot spot. Trying to make the last club meeting, event, or game perfect can be stressful as you think about all the great friendships you’ve made and wonder what’s ahead. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment you’re in. Plan fun road trips on the weekends or visit a rival school you never got to go to. These memories will last for years after you walk away from campus. Attend school sporting events and take advantage of free on-campus events. Ask your friends about their post-grad plans. It’s never too early to make a tentative plan for a reunion or get-together.

Securing your future

As your senior year progresses, you may notice your friends — both at your school and at other schools — talking about their job offers. If you haven’t nailed down your career plan yet, don’t stress about it — just make sure you’re doing everything you can to prepare. Work on your portfolio and resume, and form a list of jobs that interest you. It can’t hurt to apply to companies even if there are no current openings; the human resources department may keep your application on hand until a position opens up.

If you’re going on to grad school instead of entering the workforce after graduation, plan out your summer. Use your time before classes begin to familiarize yourself with the school and area (particularly if you’ll be moving), spend time with friends and family, and most importantly, relax. Grad school may mean a whole different set of challenges from undergrad and will consume a lot of your time, so savor this small window of freedom before you jump back into life as a student.

Increasing independence

If your parents have helped you financially throughout college, you may need to have “the talk” with them about your financial independence on the horizon. This can be scary and overwhelming to take in all at once. Try slowly easing your way into financial independence by increasingly saving more money — set small targets and try to reach them, then increase your target. Or start taking responsibility for some of your own bills — set a schedule with your parents on the timing so that you gradually take over the payments. If you will be moving to a new city after graduation, take a trip there to learn more and research potential neighborhoods. The more you expose yourself to the city, the more comfortable, confident, and excited you will be to move there.

Even though there’s a lot on your plate, don’t forget to have fun. You’ve worked hard to reach this milestone — you deserve to enjoy it.