About that Hellish Transition Out of College…

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I see it every day, the reality is setting in, and the reality can be brutal. College is over – the good times, the friends, the stimulation, the games, the interesting classes, the free time – all gone. After the graduation parties, the celebrations, and vacations are over, reality sets in. What’s next? Why couldn’t it last forever? And what good is summer if there is no “back to school” on the horizon. September will be like all the other months. The “real world” is at the door and knocking harder every day.

No doubt, the transition for many is harsh. It is a transition for which there is no preparation, no handbook. Programs that ease the transition into college are on every campus. But leaving college? You are on your own, sink or swim, do the best you can with that degree in hand. It can be depressing, discouraging and downright debilitating. We all know this feeling, including me.

Why is the time so difficult? First, the transition is severe and there is no soft landing, it is a cold turkey change. One day you are on campus rejoicing with the best friends of your life and the next day you are home on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns. Maybe there is a week in Hawaii or another adventure in between but that only postpones the inevitable. Life has changed and it can be scary.

The second reason why the transition is tough is that all of a sudden things are missing. So many things are missing that you can’t even describe all of them. Let me help. What is missing?

  • For those who lived on campus, there were scores of friends within easy reach. It was easy to make friends and the possibilities were limitless. You could have friends from classes, friends from intramurals or activities, friends from the residence halls, friends from everywhere.
  • Each term presents an assortment of options for classes and activities. Since you took Calculus last term, this term you might take it a little easier. You have lots of controls over how much you do and when. With a job, that is not as easy.
  • Yes, you know you will have fun again after college but it not as easy to count on. The Thursday nights with friends (and Friday and Saturday and more for many) were predictable and easy. Very little planning was required and fun was guaranteed. The social activities and the events were easy to walk to – they were on campus. Now, Uber is involved.
  • The “one” is gone. That “one” that you have been with for a while with whom you shared so many good times. Now you may have to make a decision about that “one” and whether he or she stays in that vaunted place. Up until now, no big romance decisions were required. This can create big pressure when you least want it.

So many good things are now missing. Will they ever be replaced? Is “this” what I worked so hard in college go become? Aaaargh. It is time to move on.

Whether you have a job or not, the transition is tough. For those who don’t have a job, it can be more difficult. College might be over but life isn’t. You need to move forward because you can’t go back. Maybe graduate school is in the cards but even that’s different than the college experience you are missing.

What should you do? It may sound simple but here it is: Make some decisions, put a plan together, get busy and don’t look back. The plan can be a simple one in your head like: travel for a year, then, go to work or grad school. Or, get a job at a startup right away – even if the pay is low, there will be learning. Or, get any job just to learn what I do or don’t want to do. The possibilities are limitless, if not perfect. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by those possibilities or lost in the shuffle. And watching the Seinfeld reruns is not a plan.

College – for those entering enjoy every minute. For those who are leaving, life is still good; it’s just different.

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