Earning a college degree is no easy feat. Think countless late-night cram sessions, tedious loan applications, heavy textbooks to haul around. For some college seniors, June cannot come fast enough, and it’s understandable why senioritis kicks in. That said, there’s still a lot of important work to do before crossing that graduation stage.
From jumping through the logistical hoops of making it to graduation day to launching a job search and addressing student loan payments, there are a lot of important pre-graduation to-do’s that may require prompt attention.
Here’s a comprehensive checklist that will help college seniors be prepared to graduate and enter the working world.
Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s
Ideally, before senior year begins (or sooner for those planning to graduate early), students should meet with their guidance counselor to make sure they have all of their ducks in a row in order to graduate. Switching majors, studying abroad, or misunderstanding degree requirements can lead to confusion about which classes must be taken to graduate.
Before setting a class schedule for the year, it can’t hurt to double-check with a college counselor that all requirements are being met. Some schools even have a certain amount of community service or chapel hours required in order to graduate, so again, it’s smart to confirm that everything is moving along as it should be.
Preparing for the graduation ceremony needs to be done in advance. Colleges and universities often require students to apply to graduate and register their planned attendance at the ceremony well ahead of the actual day.
To streamline the process, many schools have grad fairs where students can pick up their commencement tickets; buy a cap and gown, class rings and commencement announcements; and ask questions about the logistics of graduation day.
Transcripts can come in handy when applying for jobs and graduate school programs, so picking up a few copies while still on campus can save time down the road. And don’t forget to turn in those library books! No one will want to trek back to campus after graduation to pay late fees.
Getting a Jumpstart on a Job Search
It’s no secret that college graduates flood the job market each June, so getting ahead of the pack can make job searching a little easier. Applying for jobs earlier in the spring can lessen the competition and give seniors confidence that they have a job lined up when they graduate.
If launching a full-blown job search during school isn’t possible, college seniors can at least take steps toward preparing for the job search.
Stop by the career center and see what resources it can provide. Schools have a career center for a reason! Most are ready to help students prepare their resumes and perfect their cover letters, and they typically have job postings from companies looking to hire recent graduates.
Some career centers may offer mock interviews so students can hone those skills, or they may provide support when issues arise during a job search. Popping by between classes to see what services are offered will only take a few minutes.
At the very least, college seniors can poke around online job boards and research local companies to see what opportunities are out there.
As a student, it may feel like having a professional network is unattainable, but many build one while in school without realizing it. One easy way to get a head start on a job search, without doing too much work during a hectic final year of school, is to focus on building relationships and requesting references.
Professors, employers, and intern supervisors can all provide references that can strengthen a job search. Finding that first job out of college can be tricky, when resumes are on the shorter side, so a handful of strong references can make all the difference.
While requesting references, college seniors should tell their connections what career path they’re hoping to pursue. One never knows where the next opportunity might come from.
Paying Back Student Loans
Preparing to navigate life after college can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finances. No one wants to think about student loan payments, but it can be helpful to start making repayment plans before graduation day.
Try beginning the planning process by simply looking up the current balance for each student loan held, including both federal and private loans. Then note when the grace period ends for each loan and when the lender expects payment. It’s important to plan to make loan payments on time each month, as that can boost a credit score.
Lenders usually provide repayment information during the grace period, including repayment options. Many federal student loans qualify for a minimum of one income-driven or income-based repayment plan.
Federal student loans may qualify for a variety of repayment plans, such as the Standard Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plans, Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Income-Based Repayment Plan, Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, and Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan. It is important to carefully research each payment plan before choosing one.
For private student loan repayment, it is best to speak directly with the loan originator about repayment options. Many private student loans require payments while the borrower is still in school, but some offer deferred repayment. After the grace period, the borrower will have to make principal and interest payments. Some lenders offer repayment programs with budget flexibility.
Whether students or their parents chose to take out federal or private student loans (or both), reviewing all possible repayment plan options can provide choices. And who doesn’t like choices?
One Loan, One Monthly Payment
Some graduates may want to consider refinancing or consolidating their student debt.
Borrowers who have federal student loans may qualify for a Direct Consolidation Loan after they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.
Consolidating multiple federal loans into one allows borrowers to make just one loan payment each month. In some cases, the repayment schedule may be extended, resulting in lower payments, after consolidating (but increasing the period of time to repay loans usually means making more payments and paying more total interest).
Refinancing allows the borrower to convert multiple loans—federal and/or private—into one new private loan with a new interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. The goal is a lower interest rate. (It’s worth noting that refinancing a federal loan into a private loan can lead to losing benefits only available through federal lenders, such as public service forgiveness and economic hardship programs.)
Refinancing can be a good solution for working graduates who have high-interest, unsubsidized Direct Loans, Graduate PLUS loans, and/or private loans.
If that sounds like a good fit, SoFi offers student loan refinancing with zero origination fees or prepayment penalties. Getting prequalified online is quick and easy.
Learn more about SoFi Student Loan Refinancing options and benefits.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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