Ready to Make a Big Life Change After Graduation? Here's the Most Important Thing You Need to Do

Source: Eleonora Di Zanni

I was working as a materials scientist in one of the most important research institutes in Italy, when I realized I wasn't happy. There was a pivotal moment when I realized I needed to change my life completely.

I think a lot of people can relate to this — feeling stuck in something you are no longer passionate about. But the next question is, what do you do?

Sure, you could just quit and take time to figure it out. But most of us can't afford that. So, a great next step is to just start getting involved with different organizations or hobbies — start to figure out what you are gravitating toward.

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I got involved with Tender To Nave Italia Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to fight prejudice on disabilities and social hardship through on-board educational programs. Something they call adventure therapy. I started to support their activities by building a digital presence, creating an effective communication plan and managing their social media.

I loved it! Building that marketing strategy ignited a new passion within me. That is why I decided what I wanted to do was pursue digital marketing in New York City, where everyone says dreams can come true.

So, how do you make a dream a reality? It comes down to three words: Make a plan.

Step 1: Research what you want.

Figure out how you can get that digital marketing job. Do you need a degree? If so, where are some of the best places to do it? Are those places ideal to better expose you to the marketing environment?

After some research, it was clear to me that New York City is probably the best area in the world to pursue marketing and advertising.

Step 2: Research where you are going.

I was moving to New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world! This is not something you should do without a lot of research and planning — or you could get yourself into a lot of financial trouble.

I needed to figure out how much airfare costs, how much the average rent is, how expensive it is to live there vs. where I was living now.

When you are not only changing cities but also moving to a different country, with a different currency, you must be very careful and do a very well-structured research in order to have all the information you need and create an accurate business plan.

At the beginning of my research, I used online resources to get an idea of the costs, but later I decided to improve the reliability of my calculations about rent, cost of living, transportation, and so on, by measuring the average of the values I found online.

Step 3: Figure out how you are going to pay for it.

Once you know what you want and what you need to get it, you have to figure out: Can I afford it? How much money will I need? Will I be able to pay for my education and life on my own, or do I need to a loan from a bank?

I made a spreadsheet, tracking all of this. I'm including here a screenshot of a spreadsheet similar to the one I used for my plan. I included in my spreadsheet the most important elements that might be useful for anyone who's interested in planning a big change in life: how much the bank loan would be, plus how much my school tuition, living expenses, health insurance, rent, transportation and other expenses would be. 

Source: CNBC

I would suggest starting by filling in the spreadsheet with the expected values and correct it over time once you get more accurate numbers. Also, I would suggest increasing all the values by 10-15%, in order to always have a backup in case something unexpected happens. For example, if you think you might be able to afford a room for $1,300/month, you might consider a monthly budget for your rent of $1,500.

Step 4. Set a timeline.

If you are, like me, going back for an advanced degree, you must be as precise as possible with your timeline because time literally means money when you don't have a job! So, be precise, get all the information possible from the school and connect with your alumni from your school to learn from their experience. They can tell you what their expenses were, what unexpected expenses came up, etc.

In my case, I reached out to an Italian e-commerce professional who pursued the same master's degree in New York I was interested in, to confirm if my timeline was correct. 

Step 5: Make a budget for your new life in the new city – and stick to it.

Once you have an almost finalized budget plan in your spreadsheet, you have verified the reliability of your numbers from multiple sources and you are sure that you can afford all the expenses, you must force yourself to stick to your plan, no matter what.

Once you have a plan, you'll realize it gives you a lot of confidence even if you're doing completely new things. And one day you'll realize — hey, I'm doing it!

To plan my change of life I used several resources, and I'm sharing some of them here:

The StreetEasy app and website was extremely useful to get a sense of how much the rents were in the different areas of the city.

Subway apps like MTA can be extremely helpful to test the commute time and avoid living in a place too far from your university.

I also used more generic websites like, where you can find some detailed information about food prices, as well as internet connections and electricity.

Finally, I suggest always checking if the neighborhood of your interest is considered a safe place simply googling it and reading different articles about it. Sometimes, it's worth paying a little bit more but feeling safe when commuting back home at late hours. 

College Money 101″ is a guide written by college students to help the class of 2022 learn about big money issues they will face in life — from student loans to budgeting and getting their first apartment — and make smart money decisions. And, even if you're still in school, you can start using this guide right now so you are financially savvy when you graduate and start your adult life on a great financial track. Manuel Crugliano is a spring 2022 intern at NBC News with the digital research team. He is pursuing a master's degree in social media and mobile marketing at Pace University. The guide is edited by Cindy Perman.

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