Congratulations, class of 2021! Despite the difficulties of the last year navigating the pandemic and the last few years of taking classes, you are successfully on the path to graduate with a college degree. That's not easy! If this past year has shown us anything, it's that even the best-made plans can end up not working out. Nevertheless, you've made it to May - only a few weeks left until you walk across the stage.
However, some of you may be wondering: what next? Some graduates might be planning to go into the workforce after getting that diploma, while others plan on transferring to a four-year university. Here are some tips for the class of 2021 on what to do next.
For All Graduates
Prepare for commencement: While the RSVP deadline for this year's graduation has passed, there are plenty of things you can do if you have already RSVP'd!
Get your cap & gown: Caps and gowns are now available in the bookstore for purchase. Come by Monday through Thursday from 9AM-2PM or on Friday from 9AM-12PM to try on yours! Don't forget to hang your gown somewhere when you get home so it can dewrinkle.
Decorate your cap: Decorating your cap for graduation is a fun and relaxing thing to do in preparation for graduation. You can choose a quote from your favorite book, movie, or TV show, or just choose any quote you would like! There are plenty of ideas available on Pinterest and all over the internet.
Taking graduation pictures: Taking graduation pictures to send to friends and family can be a fun way to announce your graduation. Get them done professionally or go with a friend and take them with a cell phone!
Send out announcements: Sending out announcements to friends and family is important to notify them of your achievement. You can design them yourself through programs like Canva or Google Drawings, or go to websites and personalize them there.
Pay all fees/charges to your student account: After you graduate, you don't want to worry about any overdue charges or fees to your student account, so be sure it's all paid off before the semester ends.
Check-in with the career & employment center or transfer center: Whether you're going into the workforce or transferring to a four-year, using the resources provided from these offices can help a lot later on.
Update your contact information: If you've changed phone numbers or other information about you has changed, be sure to update it so you can be contacted if necessary.
Compile all electronic files in one place: If there's anything you want to keep, like an amazing paper you wrote for a class or resource materials to reference later, be sure to save them on your computer. Many Canvas courses are archived after the semester is over, so be sure you have everything you turned in and want to keep.
Get a few copies of your transcripts: This can be really helpful down the line, especially if you're entering in the field you majored in. It may not seem important now, but you want to make sure you have them just in case you go back to school or a future job asks for them and you don't want to rely on the school to keep them for you.
Get contact information for your teachers: This is especially important if you want to have your teachers as references for applications - for future schools, jobs, or whatever else you might want a reference for.
Buy or make something to celebrate: Celebrate all your hard work! Bake yourself a dessert or buy one from the store, maybe celebrate with a self-care day sometime during the weekend. You earned it!
Thank your favorite instructors/counselors: Your graduation isn't just a celebration of your achievements for your family - it's also an achievement for the instructors and counselors who got you there! Send some of your favorite instructors and/or counselors a letter or gift to thank them for helping you get here and to tell them that you'll miss them when you go on your next steps after graduation.
Take a break: You're just a few weeks away from receiving a degree - give yourself a pat on the back! You've worked hard to get here, and you deserve a break. Take some time to destress, maybe watch your favorite movie or TV show, read a good book, or spend some times with friends and/or family.
For Transfer Students
Turn in your final transcripts: These are especially important! You can't do this until the semester ends and you've received your final grades for the classes you're taking right now, but as soon as you do, turn in your final transcripts to the college you will be attending. The difference between these and the transcripts you already turned in are that the final ones include the grades you received for this semester's classes. The college you'll be attending already accepted you on what's called a conditional acceptance - meaning that they accept you as long as you keep up what you've been doing in semesters past. Turning in those final transcripts will tell them that you have been doing just that, and most colleges will rescind their acceptance to you if you don't turn it in, which is why it's so important.
Also, keep in mind the difference between official and unofficial transcripts - you'll likely need official ones. The difference between these is how they're sent. Official transcripts are printed on a special, watermarked paper. They are sent directly from the college you're currently attending to the one you will be attending. Unofficial transcripts are ones that you have seen, have been opened, or electronic transcripts that have been printed and rescanned in an email. To send official transcripts to the college you'll be attending, you'll need to go to WebAdvisor
Check your school email regularly for updates: This is super important for keeping up with deadlines and hearing about events! Your chosen school may have been sending emails to your personal email, or the email you put on your application, but they might not, and you don't want to miss out on any important information, whether it's about events happening for transfer students or deadlines to adhere to. I recommend checking it about once every other day or at least once a week.
My best recommendation is to put the email into your phone so you can receive phone notifications whenever you get an email there and can see it almost immediately. For example, Reedley College has student emails set up through Microsoft Outlook, so download the app for Outlook, log into your email account for school, and set up your notifications so you get emails for it immediately. Many schools have their student emails set up through Outlook or Gmail, so as long as you have that app on your phone you can hook it up.
Register for orientation events (if necessary): Many schools have orientations that they require students to be in before registering for classes. Make sure you've registered and have completed everything you need to have completed before orientation! It may not seem like a pressing issue now, but your later self will thank you for taking care of things sooner rather than later, and you don't want to be concerned about it while on your vacation.
For Non-Transfer Students
Start hunting for jobs: You've probably already started doing this, but make sure to get started looking for jobs in your chosen field. Visit the Career & Employment Center on campus for more help on where to apply and how to build your resume.
Ask for references: References are necessary on most job applications - that's why you'll want to make sure you have plenty of them. Keep in mind, too, that many jobs don't like people to use family members as references. Here's a tip - many teachers can be great references too. Think of one or a few teachers you've really liked in your classes and ask them to be a reference on your applications.
Speaking of which, remember proper etiquette: Meaning, make sure to ask your references if it's okay to have their name down on multiple applications, not just one, just so they aren't blindsided in case they receive multiple calls for the multiple applications you put in. Additionally, ask them what contact information they're okay with you sharing. Sometimes jobs might ask for a home address, but really most places only need a cell phone number.
Start budgeting: You may already be doing this, but just make sure you're preparing for the financial roadblocks ahead of you. Are you currently living on campus? If so, make sure you're preparing for whatever comes next - whether that's moving in with family or moving into a place of your own. Consider the possibility of having roommates, or where you want to live. Do you have student loans taken out? If so, payments for that loan are probably going to be due starting six months after graduation (psst - that's this November).
Get some closet upgrades: This may be true for almost anyone entering a new stage in their life, but this may be especially important if you're going into certain kinds of jobs. Sweatpants and tennis shoes every day, unfortunately, just won't do anymore. If you're going to be working in an office or somewhere people wear office attire, you'll probably want to get some more formal clothes. Think about what you'd wear to a job interview, and expand on that.
Keep in mind, also, that there are many clothing closets nearby to help find clothes for job interviews and work for low-income people, such as churches and thrift stores. Keep an eye out for places like these if you're on a tight budget.
Most importantly, prepare but relax. All of this may seem a little daunting right now, but don't let it scare you - you've got this! Remember, you've got plenty of resources in your corner to help you through this stage of life. Additionally, it's always nerve-wracking for anyone leaving school, so you're not alone! Reach out to a counselor at the Career & Employment Center, family members, or friends for advice on how to go about your next steps, and take things one day at a time.
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "The Ultimate College Graduation Checklist." ThoughtCo, Aug.
Tips on Transferring from a 2-Year to a 4-Year College, Big Future,