4 Tips to Navigate the Transition from College & Stay Connected with InterVarsity
Dear college seniors (and those who care for them),
I’m so proud of you.
Stop. Read that first sentence again. Heck, read it as many times as you need. It’s okay to feel good about what you’ve accomplished!
In just a few weeks, or days, you’ll be leaving the school where you’ve worked and laughed and maybe even cried. You’ll be saying goodbye to friends you’ve made. You might want to show your family around campus one last time. Or maybe take that last run, play that last ultimate frisbee game, and complete that final project? Oh, and those spaces in the lab or library — you know, the ones you spent so much time in they could double as your mailing address? You should probably clean those out too.
The fact that you’re reading this means there’s a good chance you were part of InterVarsity’s ministry. We’re proud of you. Whether your chapter grew or shrank, whether you were a small group leader or member, whether you planted new ministry or not. We’re proud of you whether you were involved in InterVarsity for four years or four weeks. We’re proud of you whether you find yourself comfortably within Christianity, struggling with faith, or unsure. We’re proud of you for all the ways you’ve given yourself to Bible study, fellowship, and prayer.
We want you to know that we think of you in the same way that Paul thought of his friends in Thessalonica: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (1 Thes 2:8)
Did I mention I was proud of you?
I am. We are. Jesus is.
Graduating from college doesn’t mean graduating from InterVarsity. It’s easy to imagine our freshmen small group leader, our friends from large group, the students we led with, prayed with, or studied with as our connection to the ministry. While each of these played an important role, it’s God’s work in us and through us that we’ll carry with us into this new season.
In the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian,” Mandalorians greet one another with the phrase, “This is the way.” When they say these words, they are reminding one another that they are committed to a way of being in the galaxy. They are a distinct, and yet powerful, community. From the moment I saw that, I thought, “This is what alumni from campus ministry need, simple reminders of the way of being with Jesus we cultivated in college.”
This is super important because life after college is harder than you expect. Consider it this way: For many of us after we left high school, we had a college community investing real money, time, and programmatic effort to help us adjust to college life.
We attended seminars on getting the most out of college. Someone taught us the myriad of ways to use instant Ramen. We learned what bathrooms were worth trekking across campus to use and which to strenuously avoid. Clubs, fraternities, sororities, and campus ministries non-creepy stalked us, bribing us with cookies, parties, and activities. All of this effort was aimed at helping us adjust to college life. Still, most of us struggled. Forty percent of college students drop out every year, but many more contemplate dropping out.
Life after college is an even more dramatic transition. Unfortunately, there isn’t a college investing time, money, and program to orient you to this new reality. In the new environment, there’s a tacit assumption that you know how to budget, find a church, manage your time, maintain healthy rhythms, acquire new work skills, and build a social network on your own. It can be lonely, disorienting, and frustrating. For those of us who’ve grown accustomed to having a campus minister or small group leader checking in on us, the change can feel like abandonment.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! We can encourage one another “in the way,” so to speak. Here are some simple tips to remind ourselves of the way we’ve learned to be with Jesus in college. These can help us get through the college transition.
Making It Practical
1. Celebrate & Be Seen Before You Go
Every graduating student has the right to be seen, known, loved, and celebrated, whether you were a leader or not. Ask your campus minister or leader to sit down with you and help you reflect on God’s activity in your life over these past years. In this conversation, you should have the opportunity to decide how you’d like to continue to be involved and pour back into your college ministry. Perhaps you’d like to give financially to your chapter, pray for them regularly, or volunteer to help in some way.
Your future self will be grateful you took the time to reflect with others. It will help to bring a sense of closure and help define your relationship in this next season.
2. Use Alumni Resources
If you were involved in campus ministry, you, and probably others close to you, likely spent intentional time thinking through your discipleship journey. Maybe you were in a small group that focused on a biblical theme like justice or a Gospel focusing on Jesus’ lordship. Maybe you were a part of a ministry community that was developing your leadership skills.
Now that you’re graduating, you’ll need to think through your discipleship even more intentionally. The InterVarsity Alumni Relations Team has worked on a number of resources to help you in your efforts. For example, you can subscribe to the “After IV” Podcast to hear stories of other alumni in the process of transition. Or you could use your lifetime 40 percent discount on InterVarsity Press books to help you plan out what your discipleship will look like in this next season. Our research indicates that alumni who read even one Christian book the year they graduated were better able to make the post college transition than those who didn’t.
3. Join a Church in Mission
Alumni who connect with a church community where they can serve in mission usually have an easier transition from college –– especially if there are other InterVarsity alumni there! When you visit churches in your new community, ask questions like:
How do young people serve the poor in this community?
What forms of outreach ministry or small group ministries are connecting young adults?
Ask if there are others in the church with an InterVarsity background.
When you find a church with other alumni, ask how they’ve been able to connect, serve, and grow.
4. Connect with Other Alumni
As you leave college, the temptation will be to only focus on your college ministry days and miss the relationships you had. Instead, why not also look forward toward new connections and relationships with others who may have had similar college ministry experiences? We need others who can encourage us in the way.
For example, last year in San Diego, a graduating student connected with an InterVarsity alumna she’d never met before. They had a few conversations. When the older alumna heard that the recent graduate was looking for a job in her field, she forwarded her resume to someone in her company’s HR department. The new alumna was hired a few weeks later. This was all possible because the graduating student thought about her connection to campus ministry as an opportunity to build new relationships.
I’m so proud of you. I’m grateful for what God has done in you and through you during this last season and am thrilled for what’s in store. Whatever this next season holds, remember that InterVarsity is cheering you on! These four tips can help you navigate the transition and remember the way.
"To be human is to be lonely," writes InterVarsity staff leader Jason Gaboury, repeating the words from his spiritual director that set him on a surprising journey with God. This book is a gift to all of us in this time of extreme disruption, prolonged uncertainty, and, yes, intensified loneliness.
Psalm 131 invites us out of life as a tug-of-war with God into one where his desires, wants, longings for us (and the world) are not competing against ours but are grander, better, simply more. There is indeed a desire asymmetry between us and God, but not like we think — we can’t out-want God.