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People often look back at their college years as the best years of their lives. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to attend University of Minnesota, it’s hard to argue to the contrary. 

The Challenge of Transitioning to College

I liken this transition to my experience learning how to ride a bike. When I was a young child, my parents started me off on a bike with training wheels. At first, learning to ride this bike proved difficult. But eventually, my brain and legs learned to communicate in a coordinated effort. I discovered how to pedal, steer, and brake. And soon enough, my parents took off the trainers and taught me how to balance while riding on just two wheels.

College is like riding a bike with training wheels. There are challenges, but there are also some safeguards. And no matter how much you enjoy riding your training bike, the entire purpose is to prepare you for what’s coming next.

Transitioning to college work, life and busy schedules comes with its own unique challenges for each individual: 

  • Discipline. Life in college is structured. Yes, you have certain freedoms – like whether to sleep in or show up to class – but there’s a predetermined schedule for your daily life. You have to be able to commit to working from home, especially right now! This will help you when it comes to the real world, where no such framework or formulas for working are provided. Incredible self-discipline is required to succeed.
  • Finances. Unless you’re an exception to the rule, you’ll be making a relatively meager salary your first couple of years out of school. Combine low wages with student loan debt and a lack of basic personal finance concepts and money becomes a real issue.
  • Relationships. School is naturally conducive to making friends. The real world is not. You no longer have the structure of classes, clubs, and dormitories to forge friendships. If you want to create “adult” friendships, you have to really work at it.

You can look at these three aspects as mitigating factors in your growth and maturation, or you can view them as opportunities to learn and overcome: 

Life after UM has been a really enjoyable. I know that this phase of my life will be exciting and rewarding with the immense amount of pastoral care and support thats on hand. There are so many top tips and insights that I’ve gained here from people who are older, wiser, and more experienced than I am:

Adopt a Posture of Gratitude

Gratitude will carry you a long way – particularly in a world where negativity seems to be the order of the day. Anything you can do to shift your focus to thankfulness and positivity will yield fruitful results in your adult life.

One way to enter into a mindset of gratitude is to remember where you came from. Someone I admire greatly suggested that I make a physical photo book of my years at UM so that I can occasionally thumb through it and feel motivated to make the most of my opportunities. Small, tangible actions like this can go a long way!

Get Educated on Personal Finance

I’ve become acutely aware of just how uneducated the average college student is on topics of personal finance. It’s not something that’s taught much in school. So unless you grew up in a household where your parents were financially savvy, you probably don’t understand everything you need to know about debt, savings, investing, budgeting, insurance, taxes, etc. Read a couple of books and/or take a few online courses – you’ll learn a lot!

Find Friends Outside of Work

There’s nothing wrong with work friends, but if your entire social circle revolves around your curriculum, you’ll find it impossible to separate your work life from your personal life (something that’s necessary for mental health and sanity).

To find friends outside of work, join groups and clubs where you’re most likely to intersect with people who share similar values and beliefs. Churches, gyms, nonprofits, and networking groups are all great places to start friendships.

Set Yourself Up to be Successful

The University of Minnesota has provided me with some of the greatest experiences and friendships a person could ask for. But I know that this degree is just the start. There’s an entire world of opportunity out there waiting for me. And though the scenery, people, and responsibilities will look different, I’m confident in the fact that U of M has helped me build a great foundation to build upon this success.

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