Financial Literacy for Everyone

Go Forth, Graduate

Once the cap and gown are packed away and final exams are just a lingering memory, it’s time to consider your next endeavor. Here are a few ways to seize post-grad opportunities while helping to seal your future success.

Take Your Education Further
For many students, the end of school means – well, the beginning of more school. If you’re starting graduate school this fall, prepare for your expenses by setting aside funds now. The average grad student pays roughly $9k per year in tuition and expenses for a public school, $20k to $30k for a private school – no small expense. The good news is that a master’s degree can mean earning about 25% more than you would with a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Is grad school in your more distant future? There’s no better time to start looking into programs of interest and preparing to apply:

  1. Research schools. Decide which programs and institutions interest you the most.
  2. Think finances. Compare the costs of different schools and ask how much, if any, your family can contribute. Research financial aid possibilities using the resources at FinAid, as well.
  3. Commit to save. Determine how much you’ll need to contribute to your tuition and expenses and then create a monthly savings plan that will get you to your goal.
  4. Prepare to apply. Request applications, register for prerequisite tests or courses and add application deadlines to your calendar. Also get an early start on essays and recommendations to avoid a last-minute scramble.

Ace the Job Search
If you’re joining the workforce for the first time, or entering a new field post-graduation, consider these tips for landing a job in today’s challenging market.

  1. Know what you want. Deciding what type of job you want to pursue is critical. It can help you determine where to look for listings, which prerequisite courses or tests you need, and how to tailor your resume to that specific position.
  2. Ramp up your resume. A concise, error-free resume is essential for securing a position in most fields. Consider using the samples and suggestions at Resume-Resource when crafting yours. Also draft a cover letter or introductory email that you can tailor to each job opportunity.
  3. Check listings — daily. Sites like Craiglist.com, Monster.com and HotJobs.com are among the most popular sites for finding jobs. Remember to research job sites specific to your field, as well.
  4. Get word out. Tell Facebook friends, college contacts and family friends that you’re looking for a job. Networking with friends can be invaluable in your job search, and can even alert you to open positions before they’re made public.
  5. Keep at it. With a national unemployment rate of 10.2% and a predicted 2% decline this year in the hiring of recent grads, it’s a tough time to be looking for work. But the more time you put into it, the more likely your efforts are to pay off. If you aren’t getting a good response, adjust your resume or add to your experience with an internship in your field. For more ideas, check out Welcome to the Workforce.

Master Your Finances
You’ve devoted the last few years to education, an investment in itself. Most students graduate with some college debt and little or no savings. Here are a few ways to navigate your new circumstances and get off on the right financial foot:

  1. Live at home for less. According to Monster.com, about 40% of 2008 college grads still live with their parents. Gone are the days when graduation meant a job—and apartment—were waiting. If moving home is an option, it can be an excellent way to save for your next step.
  2. Keep working. If you have a part-time job from college, keep or reestablish that position while you search for other opportunities.
  3. Master student loans. How you handle college debt will have a huge impact on your credit score and your future finances. Know your grace period, your total debt and your interest rate. Be sure to make payments on time, and contact your lender if move or anticipate missing a payment. You can calculate how long your loan will take to pay off using this Repaying Student Loans Calculator.

With courses, labs and textbooks behind you, adjusting to life after college can be a challenge. But setting goals and planning your next steps will make the first months easier. Rely on the wealth of online resources to help you navigate post-graduation finances, education, housing and more.

For advice about loan repayment, finding a job and paying taxes, visit What’s My Score’s Welcome to the Real World . For help finding an apartment, check out Gradspot.com. You can search for internships and entry-level jobs at AfterCollege.com. And to find your dream grad school, visit GradSchools.com.

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