THE BLOG
11/19/2014 09:42 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

Freaking Out About Graduating? Don't.

In December, I'll be graduating from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women and Gender studies. I'm super excited to be leaving school and starting on the next chapter of my life.

I've become aware though that most people don't feel the same way; in fact, most people I know who are graduating dread it. They want to stay in the familiar routines of classes, semesters, and student orgs. The real world seems scary and intimidating. Some people will even take on a second major just to guarantee themselves an extra year on campus.

Here's my argument though: Graduating from college affords you the luxury of living your dreams. Yes, it requires some hard work and perseverance but I promise you, your destiny is within reach.

Here's my roadmap to getting there:

1) Be Independent: Post-graduation, it's really tempting to go back to your parents house, live rent-free, and have your lunch made everyday and your laundry done for you. However, this is neither realistic nor adult-like. This will not prepare you for the real world and if anything, will cause you to regress into your high-school ways.

So live on your own, even if you have to struggle for a while. Learn how to pay bills and balance a budget, get an actual "grown-up" job and figure out what you want out of life and how to get it. Plus, you'll be light years ahead of your friends who are crashing in their folks' basement and staying unemployed for as long as possible.

2) Make a Plan: As you're working and learning about what it means to be an adult, start to figure out exactly what you want to do within the next five years. What kind of career do you want to pursue? Is graduate school in your future? Do you want to start a family?

Map out your ideas and create a timeline with steps as to how you'll get there. Your dreams won't work unless you do and if you start now, you'll realize your potential that much sooner.

3) Pay off Your Student Loans: You likely have student loan debt of some type and the sooner you pay it off, the less interest you'll pay later. Plus, you can get a house or car loan and establish excellent credit for yourself. Even if you go on a 10 year repayment plan, try to pay it off in less time. You don't want your student debt to be haunting you in your 40s.

4) Do Things That Are Scary: This might be the most important piece of advice I can give to you. Pursuing things in life that make you want to run screaming in the other direction are usually the best things for you. Do you want to start a business, or write a book? This might seem lofty and far-fetched but with enough planning, research, and determination, you can do it. It might not take five months or even five years, but you can get there. Your dreams are within reach.

Do you see how graduation gives you the opportunity to start truly living and unlock your potential? Being a grown-up gives you the tools to accomplish your dreams.

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