The pinnacle of the last four (or more) years of life just happened. Your diploma arrived in the mail, you lifted it from its envelope and, for the first time, the white sparkle of your glittering degree peered back at you. Here you are. You made it.
Suddenly, the world is full of unknowns, the possibilities are endless, and the future is up in the air. You may be thinking “now what?” Here are some things to expect if you just graduated from college:
Making friends as a working adult is a whole different beast. When you were in high school or college, you were surrounded by potential friends. Now, just meeting new people will be a challenge.
However, if you pursue your passions, you are sure to meet people along the way who you connect with; whether at work, while traveling, or in any groups or clubs you may join.
Maintaining your friendships from college will also be difficult. For the past four or more years, you and all of your friends essentially had the same lives and struggles. You also had time to spend with each other! If you just graduated, all of this will soon change. Your friends may start families, move in with their partners or relocate to completely different parts of the country. It’s important to keep in touch, but long-distance anything will be a challenge. Don’t let go of your friends just yet, but be ready for the arrival of inevitable change.
Job Search Blues
If you’re unemployed right out of college, this is not something you should judge yourself for, especially in the current economy. Even the crappiest of unpaid internships require that you have more than a year of related experience. For whatever reason, the job market is not always set up for the young and hard-working to succeed. Make sure to give yourself time and space to fail. Do not beat yourself up for how long it takes! It is normal to feel down! Check out this article for practical advice on how to cope with job-search depression.
Sometimes it helps to treat your job search like it’s your actual job. Start at 9 a.m., take coffee breaks, and a lunch break at noon. Apply for any jobs you like, but make sure you’re applying for jobs with fewer candidates as well. If you aren’t getting any responses, it’s most likely because hundreds of people are applying to the same job and you aren’t being seen. Reach out for help where you find it and badger your college to help you as well. (I mean, they kind of owe you, right?)
You are more than a career or a job — don’t let your material success define who you are! American culture pressures young adults to have careers and live independent lives, but remember, you have the autonomy to make your own decisions! Design the life you want, not what is expected of you.
Moving Back in With Your Parents
Trust me, living with your parents as an adult is no stroll on the beach. It will undoubtedly be difficult. Parents tend to forget your long-ingrained status as a self-sufficient adult when you live with them. Old dynamics from your teenage years will resurface; arguments and bickering over silly things will definitely ensue. But remember, this situation is only temporary!
Make sure you have short-term goals with clear plans of action. Develop a vision of where you want to be in the next year or two, and come up with small steps that will help you get there. If your primary goal is moving out, figure out where you want to go. If you are aiming for a specific job or opportunity, take the steps to make it happen.
Look at it as an opportunity to connect with your parents in a new way! As a child or teen, your parents were your guardians and providers, but now you have the chance to give back to the ones who gave you everything. Help them with projects around the house or just spend time with them. Your efforts will be appreciated!
If you made it this far without taking out a single student loan, I commend you. It’s far more likely, however, that you have a solid amount of debt racked up from your years of college expenses. In 2019, the average college debt among borrowers in the United States was $32,731. According to the Federal Reserve, this was an increase of approximately 20% since 2015!
So if you have a heavy hunk of student debt weighing you down, you’re not alone! The best thing to do is to get ahold of the situation as early as possible. The quicker you pay off your student loans, the less you will actually have to pay. Take on the responsibility and come up with a plan to keep your student loans in check.
However, do not live with regret, your education was worth it!
Comparing Yourself to Others
You may find yourself wondering why your peers seem to have figured everything out.
First of all, they haven’t, even if they are good at pretending they have on social media. Also, everyone has their own timeline. In 10 years, you may be settled down and completely confident, and they might be back to square one. You just never know!
Although it’s hard to stop comparing yourself to others, it’s important to step back sometimes and remember that life will work out how it’s meant to. The struggles we face make us stronger if we let them. Besides, your 20’s are supposed to be about struggle, right?
Life Happens While We’re Busy Making Other Plans
Yes, there are numerous challenges you will face as a recent grad, but I promise the future is not actually bleak! All this being said, even if you plan out your life to a T, things will not happen exactly how you expect. Don’t forget to take a breath and enjoy the rollercoaster while you’re still on it!
Your list of responsibilities will increase and numerous life-altering decisions await, but with uncertainty comes freedom. And with freedom comes boundless possibility. If you embrace the fear and learn to say yes to opportunities that come your way, your post-college experience and your journey into true adulthood will be unforgettable.
In the wise words of Bilbo Baggins, “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”