Planning For A Life On Your Own Terms While in College

As a recent college graduate (or not so recent anymore) this past May 2019, I’ve been asked pretty frequently how and what I did in college to prepare for the stage of my life I am in now. The four years fly by extremely fast and next thing you know, you are done with school (maybe even for good) and now you’re stressed about hitting the real world. Reality sucks, but there also so many opportunities to plan ahead and get ahead of the game while you’re still in school and I share all about my personal tips and what I did leading up to the point of graduation.

*Figure out who you want to be and what fulfills you
When I was thinking about who I wanted to be when I was done with college, I started to write it down. I wrote down values and principles that I uphold and knew that whatever work I pursue, I will be following those principles. This forethought also came alive after reading Ray Dalio’s book Principles, one that I highly recommend to anyone, especially those are getting close to graduating.

I was self-aware about my passions, I knew that I love to be creative and do things out of the ordinary, but also that I have always been very entrepreneurial since I was in elementary school and had my first “business”. Sit down by yourself and write down what you are actually passionate about. Not for your parents, not for your friends, not for anyone else. Ask yourself, what fulfills me? What makes me light up? If it was a perfect world, what would I want to spend my life doing? What would the perfect day look like? 

It’s crazy how we become more true to ourselves when we start to answer these questions without considering what other people think. That’s exactly what I did at the start of my Junior year in college. I figured out what fulfills ME.

*What are you already good at and could capitalize on today
I’ll admit, yes I was a little lucky with my previous background in figure skating and I was able to use it as my competitive advantage to find a part-time job involving this sport. And it paid much better than the average job a college student typically earned. That is why it’s extremely important to reflect on who you are and what you already good at and how you could potentially capitalize (make money) from it while you’re in school. Think outside of the box, don’t just settle for what everyone says you should be doing. The best part about capitalizing on what you’re already good at? It takes less mental effort to do the job.

Some examples:
Good at time management, organizing calendars, and planning? — become an assistant to those who may potentially need one…entrepreneurs, bloggers, small/medium sized business owners

*Use your free time wisely
One common theme that many college students end up doing is utilizing 80-90% of their free time for social time with friends, partying, or something that ends up being unproductive. Perhaps consider the next time you want to attend a frat party on a Friday night, to stay in and instead and work on a project or idea you’ve wanted to start. It could be a blog, a business idea, writing a book, etc. I’ve always been asked how I ended up doing the things I do today (having a business, podcast, blog, part-time jobs)…it’s because I used my free time while I was in school wisely! I balanced out my social time with my ultimate dreams and at the end of the day, success is about what you want now vs. what you want most.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the misconception of content creators or entrepreneurs like myself that live a “facade” type of lifestyle. The truth is (at least from my personal experience), I made it happen by putting in the work early on and not doing what 99% of individuals my age were doing. In 2018, if I had a free hour in the afternoon after class before sunset, I would find a way to fit in a photoshoot and work on garnering content for my personal brand–which is why I have my current opportunities to work with incredible brands such as VS Pink, Kimpton Hotels, Getaround, Brooklinen, and more. I create content not only because I thoroughly enjoy the process, but I am self-aware of what I am naturally drawn to and the value I have brought to specific brands over time. It’s essentially being a non-capital capitalist–exchanging value in different forms vs actual money/capital.

So if you’re in college right now, just know that it is truly the best time to set yourself up to have the best probability of doing what you truly want to do after graduation. And if you’re already past the point of college, it’s never too late to reevaluate where you’re at today and where you want to be (6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years) from now.


Emily Duong

Born and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, but currently residing in Orange County, California. Emily Elizabeth is an entrepreneur, athlete, and lifestyle blogger sharing her everyday lifestyle and healthy mindset.



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