What I Wish I Knew About the Transition Between College and Postgrad Life
No one really tells you how abrupt the transition is between college and “real” adult life is, because it’s not exactly a process that someone can prep you for. Sure, I could say you need to prepare yourself for the change, but that kind of change is so drastically varying that it is impossible to fully understand until you’re in it. What is helpful is to take inventory of what your life is like while in college and acknowledge which elements of it will shift or no longer be there at all.
I’m not a candidate for most well-adjusted recent graduate. I’ve failed a lot and learned most of what I know along the way, but I do understand the anxious feelings that hit before graduation. I empathize with anyone currently thinking of what their lives will look like postcollege. So, here are a few tips I wish I had known.
1. Adapt Your Schedule to a College-Less Adult Life
My senior year of college was what I imagined my perfect life schedule would be. I started class at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. I only went to campus three days a week and timed out my breaks for optimum food and coffee lines. I held two student jobs that gave me weekends and holidays off. My internship mentor only asked to meet once a month. I had so much freedom and independence, which was a flexibility I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford in the future.
So I practiced preparing for what time management would look like when I graduated. I got up at 7 every morning to get my sleep pattern to a more neutral place. I meal prepped on Sundays to get in the habit of not being able to eat out whenever I wanted. Each Monday, I made a weekly goals list that included when I’d do laundry, went to the grocery store, and paid bills. Everything I did was in an effort to simulate what my busy schedule could become once I graduated and how well I could mentally and physically manage it all. There were so many privileges I had taken for granted during college (like free movies and gym membership), and I preemptively checked my habits to avoid a big shock.
2. Build a Community Outside of Class
From preschool to college, most people who had the ability to enter into a traditional education system were also forced into social interactions. I was the maid of honor for both my fifth grade best friend and my best friend from college. These are women I love and adore and probably would never have spent a second of time with had we not been seated next to each other in classes year after year. But apart from my few rock solid relationships, what I also learned from college is how often we have mild acquittances that are set to fade after graduation.
I know it sounds pessimistic, but it’s true. There are a lot of people who come into your life in college because of proximity, and when that closeness is gone, you’ll find it hard to maintain the same kind of bond you had while laughing at the professor who can’t work the projector. My advice to everyone is to cultivate a community that is not just reserved to a classroom setting. Be a part of the town outside campus, join a book club at the library, or volunteer.
If you want to foster relationships with other students that may feel surface level right now, invite them over for a movie marathon night or to happy hour at a small bar. You’ll want to ready yourself for when you go from seeing 50 or so people a day to potentially no one. Friendships require a lot of patience and effort, especially when your mutual obligations are taken away.
3. Spend Time Alone
One of the more difficult lessons I had to learn after graduation was to be alone. Growing up with siblings and always having roommates sort of guaranteed privacy, and quietness wasn’t a reality for me. After I graduated, I made the decision to live on my own, and while there’s a really magical sort of anticipation to pick out a space entirely for yourself, decorating with only you in mind, and declaring physical autonomy with your lifestyle, there’s also a lot of fear. I cannot stress enough how terrifying being alone can be for someone who has never really done it, no matter how exciting the transition.
College is crowded, like extremely crowded. I spent a majority of my time there moving from classes to waiting in line for smoothies with hordes of other people and going to readings with friends. Even studying independently meant being in a library near dozens of other people, which is why I wish I had spent time alone, to get used to the idea that this is possible and likely after leaving a college campus. My comfort levels had dug their heels in the sand, which made it extremely difficult for me to be alone. I didn’t know how uneasy I would feel walking through a mall on my own, until I left one in a hurry two weeks after graduation. I hadn’t slept completely alone in a house since I was a teenager, and the subconscious paranoia overtook me the first time.
If you have anxiousness like me and have slight fears over solitary activities, my best advice is to start early and small. If you are still in school, fight the urge to ask someone to walk to class with you every day, eat alone in spaces that aren’t your own bedroom, and limit yourself from staying on the phone with someone while shopping. These small acts can build to a more confident and comfortable version of you.
4. Invest in Yourself
If you are still in college, please (please!) take advantage of the counseling and health services at your school. You may not have the resources for insurance and therapy once you leave, and beginning any sort of treatment now is so worth it. If you are already struggling to find the time or financial means, invest in ways you can make your home the best possible place for you. Cut out toxicity in your life; you do not need to hold onto people or activities that make you feel inadequate.
I am a big advocate of seeking out a mentor, whether one you know from school or someone you admire in your field and talking yourself up. You deserve to celebrate your successes and feel proud of what you have accomplished. Network with everyone you have built a connection with at school, and let them know you are transitioning to your postgrad life and ready for something incredible. After school is done, invest in what feels natural and feasible for you, but know not all investments are fiscal. You can invest in yourself emotionally and with time. You do not have to feel stagnant once you leave school, because that is not the measure of finality when it comes to learning and growing.