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Summer Bucket List: 10 Things Every Grad Needs To Do Before The Real World Begins

The summer after graduation signifies a shift in the seasons of your life: Sure, summer is happening all around you, but you're stuck somewhere in between this season and the next, between one phase of your life and another.

Summer is the unwritten grace period that floats between life in college and life in the real world; it's the bridge between the you that was and the you that will be.

But even though the warmer weather hints at all the changes that have yet to come, it's also the last time in your life where you'll be free from practically everything: Responsibility, course loads, midterms, finals, homework, internships, RAs, parents, life as a student and life as an adult.

Summer marks the beginning of the end for many things, but that isn't any reason to stop the celebration. The new you can wait three months before taking center stage. For now, it's time to revel in the moment – and make the most of what's in front of you.

1. Rent a cheap summer house in a new city

Once summer ends, you probably won't have the money available to start over in a new city and be financially stable while you search for a job in the real world.

But before you pack your bags and mope back to mom and dad’s, how about one last hurrah? You and your friends are experts at making due on a small budget and a lot of creativity, so why not make it work just one more time?

Pick a spot on the map, your favorite city or a place you guys have always wanted to go but never thought you'd get the chance to – and go. You can work with a local travel agent to find a summer share that's in your price range or scour deals on discounted sites for rates you all can afford.

It won't be the last fun you ever have, but it will be last guilt-free summer you'll spend tanning all day and drinking all night, without a responsibility in the wind.

2. Plan a road trip

Before you walk off the stage, put a plan in motion to explore a piece of the country that you've probably never really seen: the interstates. One of my friends in college mapped a route with another one of our friends and rented an RV that took them coast-to-coast a week after we were all officially college grads.

They took off with whatever money they had with one goal in mind: to see, experience and take in as much of the United States as they possibly could.

They made pitstops in big cities, honky-tonk towns and out-of-the-way midwestern states for a taste at America's diversified and unscripted regional culture.

If the RV doesn't work for you, or if you're the type that needs a destination in order to make the journey worth it, ditch the oversized ride for a smaller car and pick a city to travel to.

In college, we toured the entire east coast on a trip to Florida for Spring Break, stopping at every fast food chain we saw. On the top of our list? Waffle House, Chick-fil-A and Bojangles.

3. Find seasonal work that comes with no strings attached

Whether it's working for a restaurant behind the bar, waiting tables or teaching local kids how to swim, securing a seasonal job that's only intended for a few months will help soften the money-hungry blow dealt by life in the real world.

You're fresh out of college, so chances are that mom and dad are still willing to support you on the monetary front, but that doesn't mean your bank account should be completely limp.

Maybe they'll have enough to help you pay for the biggest things, but it's a little embarrassing to ask your parents to spot you a $20 so you can buy a rack on the way to your best friend's house for the night.

Plus, a summer job that comes with a built-in expiration date makes it easier for you to draw clear lines between summer fun and reality.

Once the beaches close, it's time for you to kick your career into gear (ugh, that rhyme) and get started on what really matters: your future.

4. Rewrite your resume

Resume-writing classes weren't always required courses in college, so that means there are thousands of us who think the crap we're passing back and forth to potential employers is actually made of good quality material. Spoiler alert: It isn't – and it's not totally our fault for not knowing that.

Before you press send on another horribly-written job application, consider this: Your resume should highlight who you are, what your experience is and the skills you possess that make you an ideal candidate for a role.

Be concise and try not to tell your future employer about your hobbies. They don't care that you're great when it comes to rowing or that you know child CPR.

Take the time you've been unceremoniously given and use it to your advantage. Look up resumes online, ask around and consult resume-writing services that actually make you sound great on paper.

Having a great resume doesn't mean you'll be a shoe-in for any job, but it will prove your potential. 

5. Spend a weekend at the beach

No matter what's waiting for you this summer – an internship at a prestigious company, a job at the local seafood spot or a retail position in a chic boutique downtown – make sure you block off some time to hit the beach.

Not only will some fun in the sun relax and rejuvenate you, but you're also technically still a college kid (even if the timestamp on that title is slowly winding down).

Pack up your parents’ car and coolers filled with your favorite beach-themed treats, even though the new you is a puzzle waiting to be sorted out, you can still enjoy everything old you used to love.

6. Censor your social media accounts

Hey, remember that time you posted a picture of yourself naked and blacked out on the steps of your favorite professor's college rental? Or that time you tweeted about how many lines you did off that rando guy's chest while you were at Coachella? Even if you don't remember doing it, prospective employers are never going to forget seeing the photo proof.

In addition to making the whole world smaller than ever, social media platforms are your biggest networking tools. The right messaging and the right posts give hiring managers a deeper look at the type of person you are and the type of work that inspires and excites you.

They won't want to hire someone who gets so wasted on Tuesday nights that they can't leave bed until the following Thursday.

7. Go abroad by yourself or with your best friends

Maybe you and your girls have been dreaming of getting away and exploring some place new, or maybe you've always wanted to get lost in a big city where you don't speak the language – or hell, maybe you and your mom have been dying for a bite of authentic Italian mozzarella, made right from the source.

If you've never been (or if you've been and want to go again), do yourself a favor and go. You won't always have unlimited time to spend doing whatever you want whenever you want, so buy the airfare and get excited.

Plus, you never know where packing up and leaving will actually take you.

8. Narrow down your field of career-focus

While rating all the bars on your block for just which offers the best boozy brunch takes up much of your mornings, that leaves all afternoon and even all night to do some seriously soul-searching when it comes to your future.

Look at the people that you interact with on a daily basis: Do you want to be a nurse like your mom? A dentist like your dad? A PR intern like one of your sorority sisters? Did you even like your major – or do you wish that you'd gone after something you were really passionate about? Use this grace period to figure out what you really want from life and ask yourself the following questions:

Are there specific companies that you love? And if the answer to that is yes, why do you love them? Is flexibility important to you in the workplace? Are you the type of person who needs set hours or are you better when you work on your own timetable? Do you want to pursue the type of career that means more schooling, or are you more of an on-the-job training kind of person?

Knowing what you want – and what you don't – will help you zero in on industries that most interest you.

9. Buy books that you want to read, not books that you're told to

Good news: You're officially free to read all the trashy magazines you want, all the saucy romance novels you can get your hands on and all the sci-fi trilogies you've been putting off reading for the past four years in favor of less popular required reads like the “History of Female Anatomy” or “A Comparative Guide to the American Postmodern Experience.”

10. Savor the moment

Guys, it's not always going to be this simple. The hold you have on the college life is slowly slipping away and there's nothing you can do to keep it within reach, so do yourself a favor and enjoy it.

Pretty soon you'll have emails to answer and 9 am meetings to sit through, so you might as well savor your fleeting moments of freedom.

Photo via Imgur

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Kylie McConville


Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?
Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?

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