I Graduated From College Last Year, and Here Are My Top 5 Pieces of Advice For the Class of 2020

Graduating college comes with so many emotions. You're excited, scared, driven, and probably completely unsure if you're cut out for the real world, which, is anyone really? For me, I was ready to get out of my small college town and start my life. And in the short amount of time since I've been out of school, I've learned a lot. While I'm certainly no expert on adult life, there are some important things that I wish I would've known during my last few months of college. So, if you're part of the graduating class of 2020, here are my top five pieces of advice.

1. Don't Rush Your Last Semester

My last semester of college was spent stressing over getting enough credits to graduate, searching for jobs, and desperately wanting to be out of my college town. I was over the "college life" and couldn't wait to start fresh. I wanted to get a job, make money, and feel like an adult. In doing so, I missed out on spending quality time with my best friends who I soon wouldn't see every day. I didn't get to enjoy those last few months of having copious amounts of free time and independence.

My advice is to make a bucket list of everything you want to do before graduation, whether it's hitting up all your favorite food and drink spots with your friends, going to a show offered by a department on your campus, or exploring certain buildings you've never been in. Whatever it is, forget about what lies after graduation and focus on what's happening now. Life is coming quickly, and you'll never get those carefree undergraduate days back!

2. Remember to Take Time For Yourself

The day after graduation, I went on back-to-back vacations with my mom and boyfriend to get away, travel, and enjoy some time before the real world arrived. I knew what was waiting for me: job searches, student loans, moving home, and all the other scary stuff that comes along with graduating from college. Taking time to focus on myself, relax, and celebrate my degree was so important. Going from one stressful situation to another is never healthy, and taking a time out can change your entire perspective. Once I got back, I was in a much better headspace to start my job search and get serious about my future.

3. Your Relationships Are Going to Change, and That's OK

After graduation, all of my closest friends went in completely different directions. One started a graduate program in another country. One started law school over 1,500 miles away. No matter how many times we swore we'd FaceTime or do group calls, we just don't — and that's OK. After graduation, your friendships and relationships are going to change. People move and change and grow, and that's not a bad thing! Even if you don't talk or see each other every day, they can still be your best friend.

Not only did my relationships with my friends change, but so did the ones I have with my family. I moved back home after college, and it was really difficult to give up the independence I had while living on my own. I think it was a hard adjustment for my parents, too. Our relationship was different, and it took some give-and-take from both sides. But just patient with the people you love, and everything will be OK.

4. Your Interests and Directions Might Change, and That's OK, Too

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Environmental Science, and as soon as I got my degree, I realized I had a passion for non-fiction creative writing. I had a concrete plan for exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and that plan has changed, changed back, and then changed again countless times. Trying to map out your life in your last semester won't do you any good, and will most likely just stress you out. We're still so young and have all the time in the world to change our minds. Your degree does not define you and doesn't confine you to one single path.

5. Make Your Happiness a Top Priority

One of the hardest yet most important lessons I've learned since graduation is that you can't spend all of your time trying to please others. Throughout my entire life, I've been way too focused on what others think of me and how my decisions would impact them. What I learned after graduating is that if I keep making decisions just to keep others happy, the only one that will suffer is me. Your life is in your own hands, and you have to have your own back. Go for your dream job, end a toxic relationship, move across the country, stay in your hometown, or whatever else you want to do. No one's opinion of your choices matters besides your own.