The Essential Last Year of College Checklist

Welcome to your last year of college! For some, the last year of college is just another steppingstone on the path of a well thought out plan. For others, the last year of college is a time to get serious, a time to shore up plans for the future. There are many things to consider when entering your last year of college. Have you met the credit requirements? What will you do for work? Will you continue on to graduate school? How will you deal with student loans? Where will you live? Your last year of college offers an opportunity to solidify friendships, establish life-long memories, and plan for the next adventure along this path that we call life.

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I had recently read that more than half of college graduates were either unemployed or underemployed. Everyone knows what being unemployed means, but being underemployed is a bit confusing. Being underemployed means you're working with high school graduates and probably earning the same amount. That said, job hunting early in your final year of college might reduce the challenges you'll face when you finally hit the road. So, where do you start?

Most colleges and universities have career counselors. Connecting with your career counselor early in your college career year is best, but starting late is better than nothing at all! Your career counselor will help you find a job and get a job. You're probably thinking, is there a difference between finding and getting a job? A career counselor has connections to potential employers. That's the "find a job" part. The "get a job" includes services such as: resume writing, cover letter writing, interviewing tips, mock interviews, and networking. It's also important to know that there are a number of career-specific job boards on the Internet. For example, teachers can search to find a job anywhere in the United States or overseas. The next item on your checklist addresses those student loans.

I could write a book on student loans-actually, many people have already written books on the topic. I suppose some people enjoy curling up to a student loan book. Personally, I'm not one of those people. I'm going to keep it short and focus on important areas of student loans. You have 6 to 9 months after you have finished school to start making payments. You'll want to connect with your lender(s) as soon as possible. Given the present economic situation, there are a number of repayment options. There are even options to avoid repaying your loans-these are called loan forgiveness programs. The two most important things to remember when ticking "student loans" on your checklist are consolidation and defaulting. First, if you consolidate with the government-not a private lender-you will likely have more repayment and loan-forgiveness options. Do your research before consolidating. It could save you thousands of dollars. Second, avoid defaulting on your loans at all costs. Once you default, it's difficult to enter some of the special repayment programs or get new student loans. On to item number three, graduate school.

A few years ago, a bachelors degree was all you needed to find a decent job and earn your slice of the American Dream. These days, the bachelors degree is the new high school diploma! Over the past few years, college education has become a huge business, especially with online education-chances are if you're reading this article, you're familiar with online education. Because the bachelors degree is the new high school diploma, the graduate degree is the new bachelors degree, albeit it doesn't offer a one-way ticket to a successful career as it once did. If you decide to continue for a graduate degree, do your research! Some are more valuable than others. Whether you enter the workforce, start your own business, or continue your education, you'll probably have to find new housing.

I'm not your run-of-the-mill parent. I like to travel. I don't just travel, I actually move to places just to visit them! When my son graduates college, chances are good he won't have the opportunity to move home. I'll likely be living on some remote island or chopping my way through the dwindling rainforests of Indonesia. Like him, you'll need to decide where you're going to live. Whether you go home, live with friends, or hightail it to the jungle, you need to think about basic housing. Homelessness-unless it's on a well-supplied, deserted island-is not an option!

Your college years are coming to a close. This chapter of your life will soon serve as casual conversation among old friends. How will you remember your college years? Will you finish well? With proper planning and preparation, you'll soon begin the next chapter of your life in a manner that makes life worth living.

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