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The Truth About Your Adult Child’s First Year After College Graduation

They’re back! With costly college diploma in hand, thousands of 20-somethings have returned to the nest. Some will be starting jobs, while others ponder their next move. No matter which category, odds are most parents will provide some financial support to their adult child for a year or two — or more. A recent Upromise Sallie Mae poll found that 65 percent of parents expect to support their children for up to five years after college graduation, including those with jobs.

"Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood."

Yet even with a parental safety net, 20-somethings often feel adrift without school, which has anchored them for 16 years. Asked to describe life after graduation in three words,  Mashable readers offered answers from the morose to the upbeat:

  • No more naps
  • Studying was easier
  • Booze, unemployed, Netflix
  • Learning, unlearning, relearning
  • Résumé, application, repeat
  • Ambition paid off


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Alida Nugent, a 2010 college graduate, was so shaken by the experience that she wrote a book, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething’s (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood.

Nugent graduated with a creative writing degree into the depths of the recession, “diploma in one hand, margarita in the other.” She moved back home to Westchester County, N.Y., to try to make it as a writer and “a living, breathing, job-having, bill-paying, responsible adult.” She has more than met her goals. We chatted recently to gain some insight into that often perplexing millennial mind-set.

Q. When you moved home did you have a game plan?

A. I knew I needed to do freelance work to build a portfolio. Just before graduation I also started a blog about millennials called The Frenemy, so I worked on that, too. My parents were very supportive; parental instinct is to help out a child. They knew that if I didn’t find some security in writing I would look for an office job after a year.

Q. You were able to move out to your own apartment in less than a year when you got a contract for your book. Did your parents continue to support you?

A. I kept writing the blog, freelancing and worked a bunch of other jobs to make money — from clothing stores to office work to social media. Still, I don’t think you ever completely lose the roles in the parent-child relationship. My parents gave me Trader Joe’s gift certificates, paid for health insurance and bought me clothes. But I paid my other expenses.

Q. Were you scared about not making it on your own?

A. It was exciting and confusing. Exciting to be able to figure out things like how to pay off student loans and other bills and still have money left to go out. Confusing because those first few years after college, you’re not exactly sure if you’ve made the right career choices and you sort of take life as it comes. But independence is a great feeling.

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Q. You liken the first four years after college to getting another degree, this one from “life university.” How have you changed now at age 27?

A. I am able to set goals and not just take life as it comes. I can afford things beyond the necessities and open an IRA. When I was younger I’d take any writing job; now I can make more concrete career plans like getting a second book published. But you also worry more about making mistakes. You can screw up in your early 20s, not so much now.

Q. Any advice for parents as their new grads come home?

A. Remember that the last time your child lived at home he or she was a minor. They may still not be  fully functioning adults, but they have lived on their own for four years, so it’s hard to tell them exactly how to live their life. Also know that it’s really hard trying to find a job. I was so frustrated and stressed that I really couldn’t enjoy the central air and free food and people who were excited to see me. I now look back and wish I could have enjoyed that passing time more.

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