May is here.
All month long, your social media feed will be filled with high school graduations. And middle school graduations. Even kindergarten graduations are now a thing.
College graduation, however, is very different from graduating from middle school or high school. By the time you're done with college, everyone expects you to be an adult who has their wits about them.
But what if you don’t know what in the world you want to do after college?
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t know what to do after college,” you are not alone.
Even if continuing on to grad school or some form of post-baccalaureate education is not in your immediate future, and a job is not exactly what you are looking for, there are ways to live life after college that will still make you a productive member of society.
In this post, I will share eight of them with you.
Join the Peace Corps
The United States Peace Corps started in 1961 as a way for Americans to experience other cultures while helping in different parts of the world.
If you don’t have your own money to travel and you derive a lot of joy from helping other people, the Peace Corps will allow you to travel to places you didn't even know existed and fulfill that inner need to be of service to the world.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you can serve in one of several areas: education, health, agriculture, economic development, youth development, or environmental preservation.
Applications and openings to 60 countries where Peace Corps Volunteers are posted, are open year-round.
AmeriCorps is like the Peace Corps when it comes to volunteering. Unlike the Peace Corps however, you will be serving local American communities.
Join the Military
Joining the military as a college graduate usually will put you at a higher ranking (better pay and benefits) than if you join right out of high school.
The great thing about the military is that it has several arms you can enlist in: Air Force, Navy/Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard.
Each of these arms of the military will have physical and age requirements that most college grads meet and so you are more likely to be able to join.
There are some educational benefits that also come with joining the military. So, if later on you decided to go to medical school for instance, you could receive help for that.
Volunteer with Your City
You don’t need to travel outside your city to volunteer and make a difference. Right within your city, there are several opportunities to volunteer.
Organizations you can volunteer with within your city include:
- Meals on Wheels
- American Red Cross
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Local city government
- Food banks
- Homeless shelters
- Habitat for Humanity
Now of course, these are volunteer opportunities which pay little or nothing at all. So you would still need to have some financial support while serving in these volunteer roles.
Start Your Own Business
Having a source of income does not always have to involve a job. On this blog, there are several posts on starting your own side hustle or full-on business.
Most of the time, people think of starting a business as a Herculean task that will involve them coming up with some groundbreaking idea and getting rounds of funding from angel investors.
That is one way of starting a business.
There is the another way of starting a business where you provide a service people need and get paid for it. Freelancing as a writer, web designer, or graphic designer are legitimate ways people make a living.
Join the Gig Economy
Airbnb lets you rent out your couch.
If you like pet-sitting, Rover will become your favorite go-to app.
These money-making apps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the gig economy and they will help you get the bills paid while you figure out your next step.
If you have a stable source of income that allows you to work from anywhere such as freelancing, you could travel to places you want to visit.
As I mentioned above, travel will introduce you to other cultures, give you a fresh perspective, and might even spark an idea of what your next step after college should be.
Learn a Trade
If graduating from college has you wondering about what to do next, could it be that you are discouraged by how difficult it is to find a job in your field?
If you cannot find a job in your field or cannot see yourself doing what you learned in school for the long haul, perhaps learning a different trade is for you.
Community colleges and trade schools offer courses in areas like nursing, medical assisting, medical transcription, mechanic training, and plumbing.
These skills typically offer you opportunities to work sooner and you might find that you enjoy it better than your college degree.
If you don’t know what you should do after college, you are not alone. Millions of college graduates before you have felt the same way.
Take a deep breath.
Now, go back over the eight various pathways we listed in this post and find which one suits your particular situation best. Pursue that.
Your thoughts and comments are welcome below.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.