A new grad living a better life after college, and sleeping.

Does life get better after college?

Everyone tells you that life gets better after high school… but does life get better after college? Yes, but it might not happen immediately—and that’s okay.

Get a heads-up on the most common challenges that new graduates face after college from someone who lived through it not too long ago.


A lot stays the same for 1-2 years

Graduating from college isn’t always the radical change in lifestyle that most of us think it will be. You’ll be left facing some common life obstacles, including:

Most people go through these challenges afterward. It takes time to get your life together, too—especially when you’re just starting out. Graduates from the humanities and liberal arts are particularly prone to underemployment in their early careers, too.

Bar graph showing underemployment by degree in 2016-2017.


That’s just the way it goes for most graduates, though. Their life changes in a flash and they’re expected to bring in money without any kind of transition from school into the working world. It’s no wonder that around 53% of new grads are unemployed or underemployed.


Pie chart showing 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.


On top of that, it takes fresh graduates an average of 7.4 months to find a job. You might even be fired from your first job after college after finding it, which happened to me. That’s why it’s so important to create a safe environment for yourself where you won’t drown in rent payments and car loans.


Bar chart comparing job search time of recent graduates to older professionals.


Acquiring your own work experience is one way to get around that stereotypical view. That’s something I cover in my 7-step roadmap about how to get a job, but there are other directions you can take in your post-graduate life as well.

If you’re wondering what to do after college then you should consider these options:

  • Moving home to save money.
  • Creating a financial plan to pay back student debt.
  • Starting to network with friends and family.
  • Teaching abroad (or online during the pandemic).
  • Building a portfolio or personal  website.
  • Taking a gap year after college.
  • Enrolling in a graduate program.
  • Volunteering with local organizations.
  • Focusing on your health or a lifestyle change.

There’s good news here, though. Having a bachelor’s degree gives you the highest statistical odds of employment. Look at the data here from the National Center for Education Statistics: bachelor’s degree holders have more than an 80% employment rate among people aged 25-35.


Bar chart showing employment rate by educational attainment for Americans aged 25-35 in 2019.


If you want a job then it’s definitely possible to find one—with a strategy and some patience.


Life gets better after college pretty soon, though

Despite all of those challenges, post-college life really does offer some changes that you’ll probably appreciate.

  • Making a lot of money after college becomes possible with a solid job.
  • Free time becomes a reality.
  • You can live independently (eventually).
  • You get to choose your career(s).
  • Healthy food becomes affordable with an actual income.
  • You’ll be able to save up for travel without chaperones.

Most of those benefits stand on a foundation of financial stability—and financial stability comes from employment for most people. That’s why this website exists!

Here’s what the data says: you’re not going to make much money in your first job out of college, but your salary will probably start climbing once you’ve gained some experience. Take a look at this data below from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.


Bar graph comparing salaries at graduation and peak careers between graduates of the liberal arts, professional programs, and STEM programs.


Yes, even graduates from the liberal arts and humanities will make pretty good money at the peak of their careers—to the tune of $68,000 USD per year on average.

Other data shows that recent graduates earn about $20 per hour (adjusted for inflation). These numbers are a little higher than you might see, but you’ll probably get to that hourly wage within a few years of working, if not sooner.


An area chart of entry-level wages for college grads from 1979-2013, adjusted for inflation.


Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you, though. You can start building the life you want for yourself much sooner if you figure out how to land your first job after college with a strategy in hand.

From there you can work toward the things you really want in life, which could include anything from being able to afford a suit to travelling around the world every year or two—or maybe even buying a house, in time.

All of that’s possible because life does get better after college. You just need patience and a strategy to get there.

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to show liberal arts graduates how to land jobs and build careers. He turned a history degree into a fulfilling career in digital marketing and UX, then founded Employed Historian to show others how to do it for themselves, too.

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