Ask Lauren: Conquering Your First Year in the Real World

Ask Lauren: Conquering Your First Year in the Real World
The other day I was going through inbox, and I noticed that a lot of you were asking questions about one specific topic: life after graduation. I recently covered a few tips about what to do leading up to graduation, and it is definitely an exciting yet uncertain time. But once you’re out in the real world, you may find that life isn’t the way it used to be. While there are a few obstacles every graduate will face, I have some tricks up my sleeve that will help make the transition a little easier.

I’m not going to tell you to get a job or decide where you want to live (I’ve already covered that in this post). Instead, here’s what you really need to know about conquering your first year in the big, bad real world:

  1. Set up weekly get-togethers with friends.
    For those of you who lived in a sorority house or a college town, you probably spent the last four years living in close proximity to your closest friends. While post-grad life is definitely fun and social, you probably won’t be sharing a house with 10 of your besties anymore. When you and your friends are no longer living under the same roof, staying in touch requires a little more effort than before. Plan a weekly activity, like a supper club or a girl’s night out, that will allow you to see your friends on a regular basis. And it doesn’t have to be on the weekends—arranging a weeknight get-together can be a fun way to break up the workweek. It might sound silly to “schedule” time with your friends, but I promise you will be glad you did!
  2. Get on a daily workout schedule.
    One of the best parts about graduating is that you can swap partying and all-nighters for a much healthier lifestyle. I’m not saying that you won’t still bar hop and get a little wild (you will!), but the real world is definitely a better environment for developing good exercise and diet habits. Since you will no longer be able to hit the gym in between class, I recommend setting up a daily workout schedule for yourself. This is especially helpful if you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day. If you’re a morning person, you will love the feeling of logging in a sunrise sweat sesh before you head in to work. And if you like to snooze, join a gym that stays open late so you can pack a bag and exercise after-hours.
  3. Draft a beginner’s budget.
    When you enter the real world, the last thing you want is to feel financially unstable. To avoid having any “eek!” moments when you look at your bank account, draft a budget for yourself and stick to it. Playing personal accountant doesn’t have to be a drag—today there are so many apps and programs that make budgeting easy. Try downloading iReconcile, Mint, or MoneyBook onto your phone so you can log your expenditures on the go. Also, if you took out student loans, you will want to set up a system that allows you to start gradually paying them off. If you make budgeting and saving money a habit in your first year out of college, you will be much less likely to have financial woes in the future.
  4. Make your house your home.
    I am a big believer in nesting—adding special touches to my home to make it feel cozy and comfortable. One of the best parts about transitioning out of your university housing is that you will probably rent a place of your own. It will feel more grown up, and you can invest in some nicer pieces that won’t get destroyed during an impromptu college rager. I recommend buying a bigger bed (maybe stepping up from a full to a queen), collecting quality kitchenware, and decorating an outdoor patio or balcony if you have one. These little touches will make you feel proud to live in your own place, and they will impress any dinner party guests too.
  5. Don’t stop learning. 
    Just because you’re not going to class everyday doesn’t mean you can’t continue to learn after graduation day. This tip is very important to me. When I’m not learning in some way, I tend to feel unfulfilled with life, which is why I’m always starting new projects and taking on new challenges. It may feel nice to take a mental vacation for a few weeks after graduation, but when you start to miss the constant flood of knowledge that comes with college, just try something new. Start your own blog, take a cooking class or join a book club. Learning should never stop, no matter how old you are.

The best way to tackle post-grad life is to use this time as an opportunity to discover what your goals, values, and challenges are in life. If you can learn how to overcome the obstacles that come your way while still driving towards your life goals, you will have all of the ingredients for a happy and fulfilling life.

What questions do you have about post-grad life?

Also if you have an Ask Lauren question, leave it in the comments below or feel free to send me a private message by visiting my Profile Page.

XO Lauren

Illustration: Carrie Beth Taylor

Categories: Ask Lauren, Grow
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  • Rachel Trampel

    The first year in the real world is such a whirlwind. You grow up so much and learn that life isn’t as easy as you thought it might be! It would have been nice to have weekly meet ups with friends except I moved somewhere where I didn’t know a single person! Sooo my advice would be aside from your job, get involved in a group or volunteer to meet other people as soon as possible with your interests, otherwise in can be really hard to make friends in a new place!

  • Brenna Gray

    My advice would be to pay off your student loans asap! I did and now I have no debt and a free feeling! Don’t just pay the minimum because that will get you nowhere with high interest rates like 6.8%.

    I also recommend living at home with you family a little longer. Ya it’s hard and “”not cool””, but it will save you so much money in the long run. Trust me, I’m still at home and wish I were my friends with an apartment, but in the long run I know I’ll be better off because I’m saving up for a better future.

  • darcyylynn

    I seriously loved reading this post! All of these tips are so true. Graduating has definitely helped me to work out and eat better — I feel like I can finally control everything (as opposed to being influenced by all of my roomates!). Making plans with friends is a must – if you don’t you’ll never see them! I will be linking back to this on my blog later today as well as sharing some of my own “”advice””!

  • photosbyjaana

    i say don’t be afraid to shoot above and beyond what you think you are capable of. if you fail, get back up and try again. i took many jobs that were “”out of my league””, and they led to bigger and better things!

  • suzanne

    Great tips! It can be difficult sometimes to find the right balance :)
    Suzanne from

  • Valeria Alvarez

    Great tips!! I allready went through that a long time ago and yes it`s hard but not impossible!!

    <3 Val

  • hooleywithaz

    great tips! the one that has helped me the most is to live on your student budget even if you are making money…saving/paying off as many loans as you can is easy to start from the beginning, but it’s near impossible later on if you get used to using your whole income for fun stuff right away. it’s not glamorous, but it’s worth it down the road!

  • My Style Diary

    I can’t wait to graduate but I have one more year to go.. these tips are great though! I would really like to read an ask Lauren about how to become succesfull with what you love and what to do when you feel like giving up.

  • Alicia k

    I graduated college 5 years ago but even though it’s been awhile these tips are still very helpful. I love the tip about a workout schedule. It is hard to get motivated after working all day but make a schedule to follow helps a lot. I have done most of these tips and I agree, they are very helpful for adjusting to the real world after college :)

  • Stephanie

    I love that you told these graduates to consider their finances. I honestly think I would put money management as number one. It’s so important to learn. It’s the basis of your living. You’re not going out with your girlfriends if you don’t budget $5 each week for that coffee date!

    Including savings in your budget may not seem as impertinent as the water bill and rent, but hindsight has taught me otherwise over the years. Ten percent is always included and deducted from my finances.

    Best of luck to all of you who are out in this world. Savor every morsel of it. It’s beautiful!


  • Sam

    thank you so much for the tips, i thought that number 5 was the best, it makes sense, but nobody really tells you that
    thanks Lauren
    Love Sam

  • Lily P.

    These are great tips Lauren,thanks so much for the advice!
    xo Lily

  • Priscila Luna 93

    Thank you for tris tips :)

  • Sam
  • mike R

    Great post Lauren 😉

  • Ashley

    These are all fantastic tips, Lauren!! Thanks!

  • Ambi s

    Love this, it is such an adjustment from late teens to early 20s and these tips are great.


    My blog has just turned 1, and to celebrate, I’m hosting a little MAC lipstick giveaway. Please enter for your chance to win a free MAC lipstick of your choice :-)

    Ambi x

  • Kenzi

    Lauren, you are awesome! I wholeheartedly appreciate your advice and thoughtfulness put into this blog. Keep up the good work, it truly is inspiring : )

  • Emma Acomb

    HELP! I was wondering if u had any tips (maybe even enuff 4 an article 😉 ) on how to host the best summer party. I am having about 22 ppl over (boys included) and I want to make it a good 1. We r 14 so obviously we can’t drive or drink so I just wanted to ask some advice. Thanks!

  • Anne

    Hee Lauren, I have a question: How to get the perfect summer skin? I love summer, but I always turn into red when I lay in the sun… Can you help? :) Lots of love, Anne

  • Karlie Hurd

    Lauren! lOVED This tidbit of information on conquering the world….follow my blog and see my fashion advice in full swing! Whenever you need some extra hands I would love to help you in any way shape or form!!

    -Karlie Hurd

  • This Little Lady

    Being a recent graduate trying to find my new steps in the big bad world myself, this post comes as a warm welcome and gentle nudge of encouragement to taking that important leap of faith. Some great advice shared and wise words put across an enjoyable read and equally inspiring to use it in the real world :) Thanks, Lauren! Love TeeElle xo

    • PaolaM

      I couldn’t agree more! 😉

  • Alane Yandell

    Oh I wish I was 20 again. Love your site LC

  • Annie sabean

    Hey Lauren,
    I was wondering if you had any advise about living at home with your parents again after being at school?

  • Francheska Irizarry

    It’s kind of difficult to stay in a budget but with effort and discipline little by little you start to see the difference.

  • Loran Mohammed

    what colour blouse will match with a light blue pants and a pink vest?

  • Vera v

    I would like to know how you got to be where you are today? And if someone were wanting to get into the industry what would be your advice ?

  • Rysa Matheny

    Ask Lauren: Roommates with boyfriends

    Hi Lauren, I need your help!

    I allowed my best friend from high school to move in with me when we started college this year. I thought it would be fun, like a big, never ending sleepover. I made the unfortunate mistake of not setting any house rules because I figured “”we’re best friends, what could go wrong?”” But I now see that was a terrible idea.

    I am already undercharging her for rent, because we’re friends and I am aware of her financial situation, but now I have to some how mention that her rent has start having a due date, because I haven’t seen a penny as of yet.

    We also have not set any chore arrangements. So, along with the news about rent, I also need to break it to her that the house work needs to be divided and completed each week.

    {Now for the main event:} My friend has a boyfriend. I understand that she lives here and because of that, she is going to have her boyfriend over every once in a while and use my couch and my television, eat the food that I provide for the house, and invade my space (because now half of it is her space), but it has gotten out of hand. Her boyfriend is over Every. Single. Night! When I’m coming home from being at school all day and working until 10:00 at night, all I want to do is come home, get in my pjs, and enjoy some peace and quiet. But every night I come home and his car is in my parking spot, and he is in my way. Even when they’re in her room and I’m in mine, I can hear their conversations, the movies they’re watching, and everything else… I feel as though it is inconsiderate, and even rude of her, and that she’s abusing her new living arrangements and newly discovered freedom. Am I right to feel this way? How do I ask her not to bring him around as often (or at all) anymore? I don’t want to offend her or for her to be angry with me for being annoyed, but I’m about at my wit’s end with how the situation is right now.

    Please help.

    Thank you,


  • Jessica Ponce

    My question is how does one get into the industry you are in? I have a passion for fashion and would just like to know what your advice is.

  • eva kalenska

    One of my questions (and the thing that seems to be difficult for my post-grad life) is : How do I keep in touch with people o_O I know this seems a silly question but when I had a huge social life due to school, part-time work and hobbies, I seemed to have so much to talk about and things were flowing just fine. Now I have friends with kids, others focused on their jobs and I am unemployed and a bit on a budget. Seems like my social life is not what it used to be and when we get together I seem to have nothing new to talk about. Makes conversations uncomfortable at times (although this is certainly more from my view, because I still have friends that want to get together with me).



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