After making it through your last finals and long nights of studying, college graduation is a moment of major relief and accomplishment. But the euphoria of graduating can quickly be replaced by worry about the uncertainty of the future.
Leaving behind the familiarity of the flexible, but purposeful structure of campus life can leave you feeling isolated and with your confidence depleted. Challenges of landing your first job or moving to a new city, and worries about staying in touch with friends and making new ones often lead to post-graduation blues. However, you can prepare for the stress or depression that may come with dramatic post-college changes, and tackle them in healthy ways.
Make an agreement to talk to your friends about the hard things, not just the good things
You’ve made a lot of great friends in college, but as you all move to different cities or focus on building a post-college routine, you’ll have to make an effort to stay in touch. But it’s worth it—maintaining those college friendships will cheer you up and reduce your stress. Make an agreement with a few friends to not just focus on funny or positive things in your life, but to also open up about your post-graduation struggles and questions. These deeper conversations will show you you’re not alone in post-graduation challenges, give you some perspective, and will boost your emotional well-being more than small talk. Just listening to each other will help you and your friend feel supported and less alone. Start with planning a phone conversation with one good friend once a week.
Even if you have old college friends around, you need new friends
It was easy to meet people with common interests in college. Through classes, clubs and activities organized through the school, it was clear how to get involved on campus. While the idea of moving away from your college network and forming new friendships is tough, social connection is important to thriving after college.
Accept that social opportunities will not come as easily as they did in school and that you’ll need to take the initiative to get out there and meet people. Get creative to build your social and work networks. Try combining hobbies you love with activities that enhance your social life. Look into joining sports leagues and book clubs, attending professional networking events, and volunteering for a cause that you’re passionate about. Since work friends can improve your satisfaction with your job, productivity, and success at work, participate in work happy hours and invite people on your team to eat lunch with you to get to know your coworkers.
Post-college life doesn’t come with a guide, so it’s okay if you don’t have your career figured out
Graduating is probably the biggest change you’re going through so far in your life, because—unlike leaving home and starting college—this is the first time in your life that you haven’t had a script or template to work from. What comes next, now that you’re making all the decisions? Keep in mind that it’s okay to not know what your dream career is right away or what city you’ll be happiest living in.
New grads are often really hard on themselves, but try to calm your perfectionistic tendencies. Remember that finding a job is a full-time job in itself and could take several months. If you land a first job that isn’t “perfect”, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a worthwhile career. Most adults change jobs eleven times in their life before finding a good fit. And sometimes a career that sounds perfect on paper ends up being boring or overwhelming once you try it in the field. Be open to the idea that you may change careers despite majoring in a certain subject or idealizing a specific career path.
It’s important to stop comparing yourself to your peers who you think have successful careers right out of college or have figured out their life passion. There’s no right time, way, or age to find your path.
Taking care of yourself means giving up some typical college habits
I know, you’re already going through this huge transition—is now really the time to change your sleeping patterns or diet? It is. Physical and mental health are closely connected, so you’ll feel better and be less prone to stress and sadness if you replace some of your unhealthy habits with good ones. The college norm might have been erratic sleep schedules, pulling all-nighters before an exam, and living on a diet of pizza and Top Ramen—but they’ll take a bigger toll on your body the older you get. Instead, schedule exercise into your routine, eat healthy foods, and get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. If your post-graduation anxiety is keeping you awake, try these exercises.
If you feel overwhelmed by the transition to post-college adulthood, are feeling abnormally tired or agitated, or are finding it hard to make decisions, take our free assessment to get a reading on your current emotional challenges and strengths.