5 Ways to Start Your Post-College Life Well

College graduation is a huge milestone. For most people, it marks the transition into adulthood. You’re now responsible to find a job, pay the bills, figure out a career path, and plot a course for the rest of your life.

For Christian students, I think it’s an especially critical moment. Will you set your priorities based on God’s values or the world’s values? Will you approach money, relationships, work, and the spiritual life in a way that honors Jesus? Too many graduates find themselves wandering around aimlessly. After ten or twenty years, many look back and are forced to admit that their life choices don’t really match the priorities they say they have.

For those of you graduating this month, here are a few steps to help you start your post-college life well: 

1. Determine your priorities. What’s important to you? Do you want to invest your life in sharing the Gospel? In knowing Jesus well? If you’re married, do you want your family to reflect God’s values? Most people fail to live meaningfully because they fail to consider their priorities. Decide now what matters to you — who do you want to be and what do you intend to invest your life in? Once you know what matters, begin arranging your time and energy around those priorities.

2. Find a church quickly. You cannot walk with the Lord in isolation. We all need encouragement and support, and too often I see college graduates hop from church to church for years without really connecting with one. You won’t find a perfect church, and you might not find one as “good” as the one you attended in college. That’s alright. Just find a place where they preach the gospel, believe the Word of God, and provide opportunities for you to serve and to grow. Find one within 2-3 months of graduation, and commit to it. If church doesn’t quickly become a part of your routine, it will become more and more difficult to fit it into your schedule.

3. Be careful with your money. Some of you will be on a very tight budget, while others will have more money than they’ve ever seen before. Either way, live below your means. Don’t try to match your parents’ lifestyle with your first house or car. Leave some room to save, and more importantly, to give. If you are married and both of you work, live on one salary if possible. Doing so will allow you flexibility if and when you have children. If you are single, live cheap and set aside as much money as you can. Don’t allow money to become a barrier to following God wherever He leads you.

4. Be careful with your time. Time is a more valuable resource than money. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. Spend your limited free time engaged in meaningful activities. It’s quite easy to fall into a pattern of simply surfing Facebook or watching television with every spare moment. Don’t waste your time away. Use your evenings and weekends to serve others, participate at your church, spend time with other people, read, learn, and grow in your walk with the Lord. Use your 20s well.

5. Invest in other people for God’s glory. In the final analysis, your life will be evaluated by your impact on other people. Will you take the time to love others, to tell them about Jesus, and to help them know Him better? Will you leave a legacy of love and faithfulness to Jesus, at home and at work and at church and in your community? People matter because people will last forever. You have a limited window of opportunity to influence others for eternity.

If you just graduated, congratulations! I hope and pray that your life will be effective and purposeful, that you will reflect God’s values and know Him more and more each day. Hopefully the ideas above will give you a good start.

If you are a recent graduate, what other advice would you give to those starting their post-college life? 

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Life After College: What Now?

Congratulations to everybody who graduated this weekend! Finishing college is a major accomplishment — you should definitely take a day or two to rest and celebrate. You’ve earned it.

After that, what comes next? Some of you have jobs lined up, some are still looking. Some are married or getting married, others are still solidly single. Some are moving into new homes, others are moving back in with Mom and Dad. Whatever situation you find yourself in, here are a few words of friendly advice as you move into the “real world”:

Know your priorities. Decide now how you want to invest your life. If you want to spend your days knowing and proclaiming Christ, then arrange your life accordingly. Don’t take a job that requires so many hours that you have no time left for things that matter. Don’t marry a person who has radically different priorities than you do. And plan your schedule so that you can pray, read, serve, and proclaim the Gospel. If it means you have to go to bed at 9 PM in order to wake up at 5 AM and spend time with the Lord, then do it. Arrange your life according to your values.

Don’t fall into the trap of simply seeking a comfortable life. Aim instead for significance, for a life that promotes the kingdom of God.

Quickly find a good church. Get some recommendations, visit a few, and commit to one within 2-3 months of moving to a new town. (See my previous post about how to find a church after college). Don’t just attend on Sunday morning — get involved in service and community so you can continue to grow.

Watch your money. That seemingly enormous salary will feel a great deal smaller within a few months. A major temptation will be to outspend your income in order to quickly increase your standard of living. The resulting debt can limit your life choices down the road and create considerable strain on you and your family. If you are single, live well below your means in order to give (to the church and to missions) and to save for your future. If you are married, and both of you work, try to live on just one income. This keeps your options open if one of you loses a job, or if one of you decides later to stay home with the kids.

Never stop learning. Your formal education might be over, but in a broader sense your education is just beginning. Do not allow yourself to stagnate — keep learning about the Scripture. Read at least one or two books a month. Engage in discussions about important issues with friends and mentors.  Men and women of influence and impact are those who keep learning.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list of principles, but just a few to start out.

Question: Any other advice you would give to a recent college graduate?

[Image via http://www.stcsig.org/canadian/courses.htm]

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