Best Advice for College Grads? Don't Move Home

Learning to live on your own is a "rite of passage" into adulthood, so quit free-loading.

By , Contributor
After four years away from mom and dad, the idea of moving back home "for a while" certainly has its appeal for the recent college graduate.

So much so, in fact, that a recent TwentySomething survey estimates a staggering 85 percent of 2011 college grads will move back home upon graduation.

I understand the logic - you can live rent-free for a while, job search, figure out exactly what it is you want to "do" and try to find that oh-so-perfect employer who's willing to pay you the sky-high figure you're sure you deserve at 22. But if I had one piece of advice for those receiving diplomas, it's this: Get out on your own two feet.

I graduated in December 2007, during what was arguably the lowest point of our recent economic recession. Still, I was young, cheeky and full of optimism. I found a roommate, took a risk and moved to New York City.

My naivete and blissful ignorance didn't last long. Searching for work became a job in and of itself, and I worked hard to make ends meet. I babysat - oftentimes 60 hours a week - and took the occasional production assistant gig, where I did everything from archiving '80s rap videos to fetching coffee for the bigwigs. No, I wasn't exactly advancing my career, but I was damn proud to be earning a paycheck and supporting myself.

Any job interview I could get, I took. I trekked an hour and a half into Brooklyn to the set of a (now defunct) soap opera and tried to convince the show's producer of my merits. I tried to no avail to make multiple startups believe I'd make the perfect receptionist. Of course, when these gigs didn't work out, the rejection stung; but each one was an invaluable learning experience to draw from as I eventually moved forward in my career.

I was fortunate in that I was only in limbo for a few months before landing my first "real" full-time job. But it was in that time, when I was admittedly a little lost, that I discovered just how much of my self-worth I derive from being independent and supporting myself like an adult.

Finding your way in the "real world" is a rite of passage. It's the time of your life where you
accumulate the stories and experiences you'll reminisce about for the rest of your life. You can live with crazy roommates you find on craigslist, eat nothing but ramen noodles for a week, and work ridiculous gigs to make ends meet. But every individual needs to have this experience and learn how to find their way without the security of mom and dad's roof overhead.

You lived with your parents for 18 years already. Isn't it odd as an "adult" to go back to the same living situation you had in kindergarten? You need the formative experience of being strapped for cash and truly needing to find work to pay rent. There's no real incentive to earn money when you're living with mom and dad. And I can tell you way too many people I know who intended to move home for "a few months" and are still there three years later.

So whether you bag groceries or sing for tips in the subway while you're looking for that "dream job," don't move back home after college. Now's the time to be an independent adult, even if it means working at Waffle House until you score that book deal.

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Rebecca Macatee is a writer in New York City. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, NY Mag,, PopEater, iVillage and Us Weekly. In 2010, she co-wrote MTV's "A Thin Line" campaign to raise awareness about digital abuse. She grew up in Asheville and is a graduateā€¦

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