When Genevieve Ryan ’11 was graduating from Princeton, “leaving the orange bubble and entering the real world,” she says she felt unprepared to manage her personal finances and other real-world issues. Four years later, after graduating from Georgetown University with a JD/MBA degree, she found herself again facing those same apprehensions as she started her first full-time job. Ryan decided to do something about it that would help not only her, but others in her position.
In 2016, Ryan started Real World Playbook (RWP), a company that provides online tools for college seniors and recent graduates to help them navigate such issues as setting up a budget, choosing between different kinds of bank accounts, buying health and car insurance, and filing taxes.
“I realized the idea of being ‘real-world ready’ means understanding things like investing and insurance, and is sort of a universal problem, no matter what school you go to or what your background is,” Ryan explained. “They’re often flying blind and have to figure things out on their own.”
Ryan interviewed more than 1,000 college seniors, parents of seniors, employers, and “anyone who was a stakeholder at this life stage” before launching RWP.
A politics major at Princeton, Ryan said that taking John Danner’s “High Impact Social Entrepreneurship” course in her senior year had a big impact on her.
“I had been very focused on policy and that class introduced me to the idea of business as a social impact method as well. We consider Real World Playbook to be a social-impact business,” she said. “We’re really about helping people land on their feet when they get out there. That’s how we’ve approached the business as a whole — very problem-centric — and that class instilled in me the idea that business could be a very powerful tool for change.”
Ryan said there are three components to RWP: education, where concepts such as health insurance or employer paperwork are explained in a “hip” and entertaining way, including through music, videos and cartoons; tools and resources, such as links to sample forms and sample emails to request more information about a topic; and community, which Ryan described as “building a narrative [that makes] a life stage that can be very scary and lonely actually seamless, cool, and an empowered moment in your life.”
RWP’s “Real World Ready” program was launched on three campuses, including Princeton, last spring. The program is introduced to seniors through the career services department. The online program takes three hours to complete, and the website provides users with additional resources. Ryan hopes to continue expanding the program and eventually reach every school in the country.
Ryan said she is grateful “to see Princeton taking on this issue and being a leader in this space in preparing its graduates for real world experiences.” She added, “Having a school show how much they care about their students, not only when they’re on campus but after, makes me really proud to be an alum.”