You are in one of the most exciting times of your life. Graduation is bittersweet. It’s sad to say goodbye, but it’s also full of hope as you begin life’s next chapter.
In college, I made great friends who shaped me into the person I am, and I accomplished my goals and got my degree — but college didn’t prepare me for what came next. Not at all.
In the two years after graduation (the first year especially), it was wild watching how different life was, how quickly things changed and how life after college wasn’t at all what I expected.
That’s because transition is hard. And life after college is one of the biggest transitions you’ll ever face.
In what felt like so many changes happening all at once, I reached out to people who had been through the same thing, anyone who had pointers on how to survive the transition. Here are some things I’ve learned being a college graduate — and what I wish I had known before I made the leap into the world of adulthood:
1. Friendship after college is different and requires more work — and that’s okay.
The friends you’ve made in college are an incredible gift. But next, you’ll all move away, and before you know it you’ll be living different lives. Keeping in touch with old friends becomes harder; you have to have a life in the place you live.
So, realize that making friends in the place you live requires effort, and it takes much more time than it might have in college. Go to places and events where you’ll meet people, but don’t let those connections stay superficial. Pick a couple people and invite them to coffee to get to know them better.
Keep up with your old friends with visits, phone calls and Skype dates. But you’re not in the same location anymore, so know that it’s okay if you’re not talking all the time like you’re used to. Some friends you might connect with every few weeks; others, you might connect with every few months. Some might be once a year. You may even lose touch with a few. Just remember it’s okay that your friendships are different.
2. Be patient about your vocation.
If you enter into your vocation (marriage, religious life, priesthood) right after college, good for you. It’s so exciting! You’ll have joys and struggles, and you’ll have a lot of transition as you settle, wherever God’s called you. However, I can’t give much advice in that area because I didn’t; many of you who are graduating will be single and still looking for that vocation which is uniquely yours.
So, welcome to the new Catholic millennial struggle of finding your vocation. Really, I’ve learned that the vocation questions are quite simple:
If you haven’t discerned your vocation, take time after college to discern it. Pray about it and find a good spiritual director. Be patient in the time it takes to know what you want and what God wants for you.
It’s okay if you have to wait a while before your vocation comes. Your current vocation of singleness is just as meaningful. Take the time of singleness and waiting as an opportunity to grow in virtue, to discover yourself, to dream with God about what you want for your life and to have eager expectation that, no matter what you’ll be doing, if you’re aiming to glorify God in the present moment, you are in fact accomplishing His will.
3. Your job will be both a joy and a struggle.
One joy I’ve found in my first office job is that there is a blessed monotony in the nine-to-five. Of course, not all jobs will be that exact time-frame, and not everyone works in an office after graduating, but I was surprised to find something like — what is it? Peacefulness? — in a steady job.
One challenge I ran into is the transition from the college campus to the workplace. First, it’s professional. You have a boss. You have co-workers who may not be your peers. You’ll be working with the same people indefinitely — all of which is a great opportunity to learn how to work with a wide variety of personalities and styles. It’s helpful to seek out a professional mentor or two to help you with challenges as they come.
4. Your relationships with your family will change.
Yes, this changes too. As you grow, you’ll relate to your family differently. You’re living your own life; you have your own schedule, job and friends. For some, the transition in the relationship you have with your family might be easy. For others, it may be a struggle. However it changes for you, know that it’s okay that it is — it’s just another part of what’s evolving in this time of your life, just as they should be.
5. You’re an adult now, and you’re going to ask yourself, “How does one adult?”
Sure, you crossed the legal border at 18 — but after college, you’re actually responsible for yourself. You’re no longer primarily surrounded by peers; instead you’re surrounded by people who seem much adult-ier than you, and you’re just trying to pretend you’re a real one. Taxes, car payments, phone bills, landlords, trying to cook for yourself and develop somewhat of a budget: It can be overwhelming.
Pro tip: No one has it all figured out. Not even the adult-iest of adults. So, a good way to adjust is to keep your eyes open, keep trying and keep learning. You don’t have to know everything. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — and don’t be afraid to ask for help, either!
6. God is the one constant in your life, so cling to Him.
In the craziness of so much transition after graduation, I quickly learned that my relationship with God was my one constant. It wasn’t perfect, but remaining faithful to prayer, no matter what was going on, was what kept me going. I grew closer to God more than any other time in my life in the years I’ve been out of college. Life with Him is a rollercoaster, but no matter what’s going on, He is there and He will always answer every question you have with His presence — which is the best gift.
For resources and tips on post-college life, check out FOCUS Alumni!
(Also, I recommend reading “All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith and a Freaking Job! “ by Paul Angone — he writes books specifically for a millennial, post-grad Christian audience and I found it super helpful to find someone who’s been there, done that!)