Post-Graduation Life Hacks

I look back on all the advice I should have received before leaving the safety of the fraternal community, the sorority house and my college support system. Here are some of the life hacks I learned in my late twenties that I wish someone had told me.

With December graduation around the corner, I look back on all the advice I should have received before leaving the safety of the fraternal community, the sorority house and my college support system. Here are some of the life hacks I learned in my late twenties that I wish someone had told me.

Learning to Cook

Being of Greek and Italian heritage, I always wanted to be the queen of the kitchen, but I was never sent to the Sorbonne for culinary school with unlimited resources. Though eating out every day would be a dream and not a reality when you have to live on the salary of your first job. I taught myself to cook, the only way I knew how, by taking it one week at a time. I also opted into meal services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Choosing different protein types and trying the more challenging meals, I learned the cooking basics. Additionally, since it’s two servings per meal, I always had a healthy and budget-friendly option for the next day.

Then after trying all the meal services, I took to Pinterest creating a cookbook of things I could make and a realistic and endless opportunity to feed myself and others.

If you need cookware, think about asking for items you need as a graduation gift. Or, visit stores like Costco to help you save money on pots, pans and kitchen utensils (seriously, get them at Costco, you will thank me later).

Dressing for the Job

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, dressing for the job could be very costly. Wanting to fit in at the office and showing my own style was already a challenge, but learning to dress my body in something other than jeans and a t-shirt after college was a challenge. I had to learn to wear neutral colors and suits, something I had never done before.

It was in a late-night deep dive on Pinterest I realized what a French capsule wardrobe was. The concept is straightforward, have classic pieces that you can mix and match to dress for the occasion. Before spending money I didn’t have, I was able to take inventory of my closet, selling what I would no longer need and checking off the items I already had from the list. Then, I went to my local consignment store and TJ Maxx to fill in the gaps. My closet was clean, organized and I wasn’t stressed about what to wear because I followed the pictures from Pinterest and always looked polished, classic and smart.

Organizing the Memories and Decor

Purging all the things you don’t need to carry with you after college made moving to a new location and the transition better. Whether it is watching the Home Edit or Marie Kondo, learning how to fold, organize, purge and store made moving, organizing and setting up my post-grad life or married life better. Though, I would recommend buying storage containers at the dollar store and not somewhere where the boxes cost more than the items. Use your photographs, t-shirts that you love and memorabilia from your life as décor. Turn the T-shirts into pillowcases or a quilt and the photos and memorabilia into wall art.

Your Planner is Still Your Best Friend

You may not have your classes and study tables to worry about, but using your planner to schedule your dinners out, your self-care like the gym and nights of reflection or journaling will be useful. Learning to organize your time and not worry about having less to do than your active college schedule, can take some adjustment. Try to self-reflect, prioritize getting involved in your new community by joining a sorority alumnae chapter or other clubs in your area. Finding balance, making new friends and enjoying your new normal can take some time. It’s a transition, so seeking support from friends, professionals or family is never wrong.

Focus on Your Mental Health

For me, leaving the chapter house and living without the lively sisters I had grown dependent on was hard, it took a lot to adjust to being alone and OK with my new normal. Having sorority family facetime, trips and reunions helped. But, I also focused on me, filling my time with ways to give back to my sorority and finding new friends in the alumnae association made the transition better bearable. There is no harm in finding a counselor or taking time to focus on yourself. If I had a resource like TalkSpace in college, I would have been so grateful and spent a lot less time feeling alone.

Looking back, I did pretty well figuring out how to maximize and live the best I could. I got through with a few bumps and scrapes, but I wish someone had told me, “ life is hard, and anyone who says otherwise is lying, but you are never alone, and together we can get through the hard, stronger and better for the community we have.” So maybe now you can take what I learned one step further!

Clare (CJ) Smith

CJ is a member of Delta Delta Delta from the Alpha Tau chapter. CJ attended Carnegie Mellon University where she earned a bachelor’s in theatre studies and Colorado State University where she earned her master’s in higher education. CJ now works at the University of Arizona as a recruiter.

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