In my senior year of college, I was ready for a major change in my life. I was ready to live my life after college. So by December of that year, I had landed a spot in PepsiCo’s Sales Associate Rotational Program. I had it all planned out. One month after graduation, I would move to southern California. Then I would rotate through cities and different roles once a year. Then I would probably get married, get a dog, buy a house, and start my master’s program at some point….
Well it’s been four years after I graduated from UW and things haven’t gone quite as plan. I’ve still accomplished some of my goals but life definitely took its own course. So today I thought it would be fun to share my life after college: expectations vs. reality.
This blog post is for any new grads out there about to leap into the “real world” or maybe has been out of college a year. I’m here to personally tell you that it’s okay if what you planned doesn’t work out the way you expected things to. Here’s some candid advice from the girl who lives by her planner but has learned to go with the flow.
So here are five things I expected to happen and what actually happened…
1. Life After College Expectation: I thought I would still be living in a different city.
Like I mentioned above, I was ready to get the heck out of Seattle my senior year of college. I purposefully chose a 4 year rotational program that would move me to different cities. I was ready to move to Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, or wherever PepsiCo was ready to send me. I thought I would eventually move back to Seattle after 4 or 5 years.
Life After College Reality: I only lived in southern California for a year and then moved back to Seattle.
Well I ended up being so unhappy with my job and the PepsiCo culture that I left my rotational program after one year. I realized that sales ranking culture didn’t motivate me and that I couldn’t stress out over oatmeal and Gatorade. You can read about this experience here.
I also realized that I wanted to go back to grad school earlier than I thought. PepsiCo only offered $8,000 to put towards a master’s degree so I knew I couldn’t stay with the company. I ended up going back to the Boeing Company and starting my master’s degree last fall.
2. Life After College Expectation: I thought I would be married by now.
During my freshman year and even my junior year of college, I thought I would be married at 26 years old. I had dated my high school and college sweetheart for 6 years. And I thought that was the typically timeline to be married.
Life After College Reality: Not married yet and I’m living my best life.
Well we ended that 6 year relationship when I graduated from college and moved down to Southern California. And honestly this was the best thing that could have happened to me. I spent the next two years after graduation really focusing on figuring out who I am and what I wanted out of life – and I’m still working on figuring this out. I dated, I traveled (and am still traveling when I have vacation time), and I’ve prioritized my education.
Even though I’m not married yet, I’m happy with where I’m at with my relationship with my boyfriend Brandon. He understands and is accepting of who I am – as a career woman, a blogger, a graduate student, a shopaholic, and more.
3. Life After College Expectation: I thought I would have a dog a few years out of college.
All I ever wanted in college was to have a puppy. I literally used to look at puppy photos while I studied for midterms and finals.
Life After College Reality: Meet Boone!
WOOH! Brandon and I do have a dog. His name is Boone and he’s 1 ½ years old. He’s a Norwegian elkhound and he’s honestly one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. He knows how to unzip backpacks and unscrew water bottles. I’m so glad Brandon and I have Boone in our lives!
4. Life After College Expectation: I thought I would have my MBA.
During my college internships at the Boeing Company, I learned that MBAs and graduate degrees were necessary for advancement. My managers and mentors all had their MBAs so I thought I would also get a MBA after I graduated.
Life After College Reality: Surprise! I’m in a master’s of communication in digital media program instead.
As I studied for the GMAT and took a certificate program at the University of Washington, I really struggled with the idea of going back for a MBA. I realized that after I took the GMAT that I should pick a graduate program I was excited and passionate about.
As my blog and social media platforms have grown over the years, I’ve found a passion for digital media. I love content strategy, writing, photos, and engaging with audiences. I was so excited when I discovered the MCDM program at the University of Washington. I wanted to take every single class they offered so I took that as a sign that I needed to apply to the program. I was admitted to the program last year and just finished my first year. I’ll graduate next spring!
5. Life After College Expectation: I thought I would still be doing back tucks and partner stunting.
I learned how to partner stunt in college so I was able to take some of my gymnastics skills with me after high school. Even though I never officially cheered for UW, I loved partner stunting and throwing back tucks. I really thought I would still be doing back tucks…
Life After College Reality: I haven’t done a back tuck and partner stunted in probably 3 years.
After I graduated from college, I didn’t have the cheer community to partner stunt with any more. In college, I had a whole group of friends who would partner stunt at local cheer gyms, parks, and the UW quad. But everyone moved on after graduation and I never found another partner/community to partner stunt when I moved to California.
Even though I don’t partner stunt or tumble anymore, I’m thankful that these two things were able to be a part of my college experience. Partnering stunting and tumbling taught me how to be comfortable with trying new things and trusting those around you – when someone is throwing you in the air, you have to be believe that they will be there to catch you.
Leaving you with a few pieces of advice…
Throughout these expectations and how life actually panned out, I learned a great deal of things. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone about to graduate is to not be afraid to set big goals and adjust/be flexible as life happens. Maybe you want to move to a new city or visit Europe for the first time. Or maybe you’ve discovered what your dream job should be. Whatever your dreams or goals might be, write them down and work towards them!
Additionally I’ll give you a heads up now that some relationships will end, new ones will form, you’ll leave jobs, you’ll move cities – and you’ll grow more than you can imagine. Know that you are given what you can handle in life and remember everyone around you is trying to figure it out! Learning how to be adaptable in a work environment or life in general will help you deal with the wave of changes coming your way.
What are some expectations you have for yourself in the next chapter of your life? How has life turned out differently than you planned?
If you’re a senior in college or have recently graduated, you might enjoy:
4 Early Career Mistakes I made as a New Grad
5 Pieces of Financial Advice for New Graduates
7 Pieces of Life Advice for New Grads
10 Tips for Finding a Job After College
Thank you for reading!
Photos: Annabel Meija
Friend featured in photos: @sonyaxblade
I really love your blog. I’m going to be a newly grad by the end of this year and there’s so much pressure from people around me to get my post graduate degree in Information Systems which is what I’m currently studying. I love that you chose to go back to school to study something you’re truly passionate about. I think you’ve given me the confidence to do the same and follow my heart. I really wanna study fashion after I’m done with my first degree and I think I might just go through with it. Thanks for always being so inspiring Emma.
I have been out of school for awhile! I have a niece graduating this weekend in SD and saying that out loud makes me feel old! Lol 😂 I too had expectations of getting married and having my first kid at 28. Things didn’t work out like that which I am happy to say I am glad because I got to travel to quite a bit first. I was able to soul search and find ways to be happier about my situation. Simply by letting go of my expectations, I was able to get more out of life, people and my experiences that are so priceless because no amount of planning would ever give me. One of these days I hope I’ll get to meet you! I love your blog and love your down to earth go get it done but let’s have fun attitude! You are my kind of peep! Lol 😂 Hey, it’s a goal right?! Happy Friday Emma. Wishing you a fabulous weekend!
Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com
I really love your blog, Emma. You have explained the “LIFE AFTER COLLEGE” in an excellent way. Numbers of dreams/thoughts come in our mind about what we will do after moving out from the college, will we go to regular 9 -5 job, or get married, even go for the master degree, explore the world blah blah blah…! But the reality is that from all those dreams/thoughts only few will come true. I must say it’s a great post and I am really happy that you are living your best life and doing a Masters in Digital Media Program. Thanks for the inspiring post.