I Graduated, Now What?! College Advice You Need to Hear


College Graduation Pictures, UW Whitewater, Finance Degree Graduation Photos, Creative College Graduation Photos, Women in Business, College Advice, College Blogger

College Graduation Pictures, UW Whitewater, Finance Degree Graduation Photos, Creative College Graduation Photos, Women in Business, College Advice, College Blogger

A few weeks ago, I walked across the stage in front of thousands of people and got my diploma that I have been working my ass off for over the last several years (it felt like forever). I feel like a real grown up now! I obviously don't know everything, but I have learned A LOT of things about life and college over the last 5 years. Some things I learned the hard way, so I wrote this post in hopes that I can help someone get through college without doing everything the hard way (or in case you're curious about my college path and want to read about it).


College Graduation Pictures, UW Whitewater, Finance Degree Graduation Photos, Creative College Graduation Photos, Women in Business, College Advice, College Blogger

Here's a little bit about my college background. I graduated from high school a full year early, so I was thrown into the real world right after I turned 17. I was so excited and motivated, but also kind of scared! I thought the best choice for me would be to start my college education at a 2-year school that was only 30 minutes from home. I was accepted to UW-Baraboo Sauk County, and I started as a freshman in the fall of 2013. There were a few reasons I decided to go here rather than start at a 4-year school. I worked my entire high school career to graduate early, but the official decision wasn't made by the school district until April 2013 (and then I graduated in May 2013). I was slightly underprepared financially for school, because in my original "plan", I thought I would have an extra year to save. I also didn't feel ready for a four year school. I am so happy with my decision to start at UW-Baraboo, and I don't regret it at all. It was absolutely the best choice for me at that time of my life.

College Graduation Pictures, UW Whitewater, Finance Degree Graduation Photos, Creative College Graduation Photos, Women in Business, College Advice, College Blogger

F R E S H M A N  Y E A R

Major: Accounting

University of Wisconsin Baraboo-Sauk County 


My first day as a college student came so fast. The UW-Baraboo campus is really small - it's only a handful of buildings right next to each other. It had that "college" feel, but also felt comfortable enough to keep my anxiety at a minimum. The classes were small, and I felt like that gave me a lot more support from the professors and that they really took the time to help every student learn the material. I took general education classes while I was here, like First Year Seminar, Writing, Algebra, Health, History, and Career Planning. I also took a few electives - Introductory Accounting and Advanced Accounting. At this point, I was leaning towards majoring in accounting, so I wanted to test the waters and see how I felt about it. Overall, my first year was pretty much a breeze. I did really well in my classes and had a lot of great experiences.

I feel like the transition from high school to college is not talked about enough, and it's honestly pretty difficult. My transition from high school to UW-Baraboo was not hard because I was still living at home, and nothing felt much different. However, transitioning from UW-Baraboo to UW-Whitewater was mentally and emotionally challenging. Starting a 4-year college is hard for a lot of people, and I was even more stressed because I was starting as a sophomore so I didn't know anyone.

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S T U D Y  A B R O A D  P R O G R A M

Edinburgh, Scotland


All throughout my Freshman year, I saw posters plastered all over campus about opportunities to study abroad. If you know me, you know I love to travel - I have always dreamed of studying abroad during college. I decided to look into it more, and ultimately ended up applying to study abroad in Edinburgh Scotland through the Wisconsin in Scotland program. I was accepted, and in May of 2014, I flew from Wisconsin to Edinburgh and began my adventure. My session was 3 weeks long, and I traveled around Europe with my mom for a full week before. I lived in a castle that the UW system actually owns, and the class I took for college credit was held there as well. I want to point out that this was not really related to my major at all (the class I took was women's studies), but I was able to use these credits as electives! It's okay to do a study abroad program that doesn't necessarily relate to your major.

Between my own travels and the group activities planned by the University, my time in Scotland flew by. I chose to do the summer program rather than a whole semester or year abroad because I honestly didn't want to be away from home for that long. Don't get me wrong, I love exploring the world, but I have a hard time leaving my family for long periods of time. Even being gone for 4 weeks was really out of my comfort zone. I didn't know a single person in the program, and my introverted personality doesn't always make it easy to attract friends. I gained a lot of independence during this trip, and much to my surprise, I actually made a lifelong friend in the process! The information from my Women's Studies class is long gone from my mind, but to this day I am constantly reminiscing on my Scotland adventures.

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S O P H O M O R E  Y E A R

Major: General Business

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


I got back from Scotland in July, and soon enough it was time to start school again. I started school at UW-Whitewater in September 2014 as a sophomore. My credits transferred over for the most part, which was a relief. The school required me to live in a dorm that year, and if I'm being honest, that was not a great experience. I had the roommate from hell who bullied me endlessly until she moved out at winter break (trust me, it was not amicable). Then I had the dorm to myself for about a month before a new roommate moved in. She was definitely nicer, but I still would have preferred living alone. Living in the dorm is part of the "college experience" for many people though! Also, I packed way too much stuff when I moved into the dorm and it ended up being overwhelming and stressful. Take my advice on this one - you really don't need to bring every one of your worldly possessions with you to college.

My living situation this year sucked, but classes went well. I was pretty much taking more general classes this entire year, and nothing was overly difficult. I knew Accounting wasn't the major for me, so when I came to Whitewater, I changed my major to General Business. This was kind of a buffer until I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. The classes for all business majors at Whitewater are really similar during the first two years, so I knew a General Business major wouldn't set me back too much. During my Junior Year, I took Chemistry, Macroeconomics, Gym, Microeconomics, Public Speaking, and a few other random classes. The year flew by, and before I knew it, I was packing up my dorm and heading towards Junior Year.

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J U N I O R  Y E A R

Major: General Business/Finance

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


The end of Sophomore year brought a big milestone in my college career. For my first two years of college, my classes were general classes that had a lot of variety. To continue on with any kind of business major, I had to apply to the UW-Whitewater College of Business and Economics. In order to be admitted, my cumulative GPA from Freshman and Sophomore year had to be above 2.75. To stay eligible for a business degree, I had to maintain a B average in the rest of my classes in the College of Business and Economics. I had really good grades, but part of me was still nervous. I obviously ended up getting in though!

Junior Year brought the experience of living in a dumpy college apartment - woohoo! Every apartment on campus was old and nasty and expensive, so my choices were kind of limited. I ended up renting a studio apartment by myself. I am soooooo happy that I lived alone this year. It's definitely not for everyone, but I like my alone time! I also did a lot of professional networking and interviewing practice this year. This was out of my comfort zone, but I think pushing myself in this way helped me grow so much.

My class load this year consisted of Business Statistics, Marketing, Business Finance, Business Writing, Organizational Behavior, Business and Commercial Law, Money and Banking, Financial Institutions, and World of Ideas.  Life never goes as planned for me, so of course I had a few bumps in the road. I struggled with some pretty major health issues that made it almost impossible to get out of bed some days. It was really frustrating to me because I was so young, and young people shouldn't feel so terrible all the time! After dozens of doctor's visits, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (and they think I got it over 5 years before the diagnosis). My doctor put me on a strong antibiotic that made me very sick. I was pretty much vomiting constantly and had terrible stomach pain for the entire 5 months I was on it. I also struggled with another health problem that was starting to surface, which I found out a few years later was Narcolepsy. Junior year was tough, probably the hardest year of them all. I kept on keepin' on though, and eventually Junior year came to an end. I landed a summer internship with Enterprise Rent-A-Car through my college's career fair, and I started that in early June and worked there for the summer.

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S E N I O R  Y E A R

Major: Finance

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


I started this year thinking I would be graduating at the end of it, which you'll soon learn didn't happen. I lived in another crappy on-campus apartment this year. It was a studio apartment again, and it actually looked almost identical to the one I lived in last year. This year was a big one for me. I took my senior capstone courses that rounded out my entire education. I struggled with my health a lot again this year, which made it hard to stay positive and motivated at times. The classes I took this year were Investments, Insurance, Calculus, International Banking, Bank Administration, Security Analysis, Administrative Policy, and a few other random ones.  

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S E N I O R  Y E A R  2 . 0

Major: Finance with an emphasis in Financial Planning 

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


In 2017, UW-Whitewater started offering a brand new Financial Planning Program. I heard about this literally 2 months before I was planning on graduating, and suddenly I was presented with a huge dilemma. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my finance degree, until I heard about this program and looked into it more. I felt like I had the biggest ah-ha moment of my life! Suddenly, becoming a Certified Financial Planner became my goal, and it is my dream job. I don't think there's any other major or career out there that would be a better fit for me. You'd think it would have been an easy choice when I had to decide whether to graduate with a regular finance degree or continue on in the financial planning program...but it was not. I was so ready to graduate and be done with college, and I honestly felt like I would be a failure if I was in school for more than 4.5 years (even though that couldn't be farther from the truth). 

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So, instead of graduating in May 2018, after 4.5 years of college, I stayed. Another roadblock I quickly discovered was that my school only offered the required classes during certain semesters since this program was so new. This was pretty frustrating, because it pushed my graduation back a full year. I got over it though, and started my classes in the financial planning program. These classes are by far my favorite ones I took in college! It's true that the further into college you get, the more you enjoy the classes you're in. To wrap up my degree, I took Essentials of Financial Planning, Estates and Trusts, and Advanced Life and Health Insurance. The only offered one of the classes during the fall and the others in the spring, which dragged out my graduation until 2019. It was a long haul, but I'm so glad I took the route I did.

A few weeks ago, on May 18, 2019, I walked across the stage in front of thousands of people to receive my diploma. I finally did it! Even as I'm writing this post, it still doesn't seem real.

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T H E  N E X T  C H A P T E R

Now what am I supposed to do?!


So you might be wondering, what's next? I decided a while ago that I wanted to go to graduate school to get my Master's of Business Administration in Finance. After doing some research, I ultimately decided that I wanted to stay at Whitewater for my MBA. It's such an amazing school with the best educators, so it seemed like the obvious choice. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would end up in grad school, I never would have believed you. I honestly never pictured that for myself until I found a major I was passionate about. Having a MBA as a Financial Planner will give me a major leg-up in the industry after graduation. It will open up so many doors for jobs, career paths, and I will earn an exponentially higher salary than I would with just my Bachelor's degree. 

To get into graduate school, I have to get a certain score on the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). This is a standardized test that's used to gain entrance into Graduate School. You can't get into the UW-Whitewater MBA program without taking it. Currently, I'm in the process of studying for it. I'm definitely going to have my work cut out for me, but I'm so excited for this new chapter. My goal is to be accepted into the MBA program this summer and start school in the Fall of 2019. After I graduate with my MBA, I will get a job in the finance industry. I will work and gain the work experience necessary to take the CFP (Certified Financial Planning) exam. This is my "end goal" - becoming a Certified Financial Planner.

Whew, that was a lot! If you made it to the end of my college story, claps for you. The rest of this post is going to be some college and life advice that I think is really valuable. 

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C O L L E G E  A D V I C E  Y O U  N E E D  T O  H E A R

Trust Me, I Know What I'm Talking About...


It's all about trial and error. One of the most important things I learned at UW-Baraboo was that I did NOT want to major in accounting! I'm so glad I figured this out as a freshman. If I hadn't taken those Accounting classes, I don't know how long it would have taken me to figure that out. I definitely recommend taking a few electives early on in your college career of majors that might interest you. Finding the right major is an art, so it's best to start early. If you have literally no idea of a major you might be interested in, there are a ton of online quizzes and resources you can use to give you some direction. 

"You'll just know when you picked the right major." I have heard this so many times in my life, and now that I graduated, I 100% agree. I used to roll my eyes when people said that...Come on, there's so many majors out there, how am I just supposed to know?! It's true though, you just have an "ah-ha" moment at some point along the way, whether it's from a class you're taking or a life experience. Be patient, you will have your moment!

The class you think you will hate might end up becoming your major. I had to take an Introductory Finance course as part of my general education credits in business school. If I'm being honest, I wasn't expecting too much from it. In comes my next piece of advice...have an open mind in the classes you take, especially during the first few years of college. Don't go into a class thinking it will have no value to you, because it could end up being your career!

Advisors aren't as useful as you'd like them to be. I learned the hard way that college advisors are not always as useful as you would hope. You have to be proactive about your own education, and do your own research. Don't just rely solely on what one advisor says. They work with hundreds of students a semester, so the reality is that they probably aren't too invested in you. Miscommunication with my advisor ended up setting my graduation back at least a full semester, arguably two. This was really frustrating, and to this day it's still pretty disappointing to me that my advisors were not helpful during my college career. 

Don't skip out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. If you've ever wanted to study abroad or enjoy traveling, you can't pass up a college study abroad opportunity. I get it, it's expensive to do, but it's worth every penny. I honestly wish I would have done it more than once during my college career! I hate to be cheesy, but studying abroad really changed my life. I feel like the experience helped shape my entire adult life.

College is expensive. Start saving early (if you're not in college and reading this post). My parents made me save a certain percentage of money I earned when I got my first job at 14. Like any teenager would be, I was super annoyed at them...how am I supposed to buy ugly flower headbands and Aeropostale logo shirts if they made me save all my money for the future?! I'm sure you can guess how this ended up playing out - I am so grateful that they "forced" me to save from such a young age. I just graduated as an underdgrad 100% debt free, and I plan to continue that trend in grad school. Student loans can make life after college really difficult and stressful, and I knew that was something I didn't want to worry about. Even if you're reading this while you're in college, it's not too late. Save up as much as you can and take out the fewest student loans possible - your future self will thank you.

Have professional graduation photos taken. Finally, my parting advice is that you should have graduation photos done of yourself. Even if it's just a few of them. You should celebrate your big accomplishment! It feels weird to be in front of the camera (for me at least), but I'm so happy I did a mini photoshoot on campus the day of graduation.

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If you made it to the end of this long post, props to you! College is such a weird time in a person's life, so I wanted to put it all out there in hopes of helping some of you with your own journey. Whether you're an incoming freshman or just graduated like me - remember to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. College is not a cookie-cutter path for anyone and it is very difficult at times, but the payoff is so worth it. 

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