There are a thousand things I’d love to say as you begin life in the post-college world. Things like:
Learn to live on a budget, and don’t go into (any more) debt.
Commit to a local church, even if the people there seem strange.
Do your work with integrity because your work matters, even on the days when you feel like your job is boring and pointless.
Get off the Internet and go somewhere—anywhere.
Stop eating ice cream alone from the carton because you feel like a loser on Friday nights now that all of your close friends live miles away (and the only people you can think to hang out with are twice your age. And they’re your parents).
I could go on, but more than advice, the best thing I can offer is a little help closing the gap between your expectations of life after college and the reality you may face. To that end, here are some things I’ve found to be true for most alumni. I hope these will help normalize your own experience, and remind you that you are not alone. There is life after college!
Life after college is weird.
In talking with a number of alums about post-college life, the most common word they use to describe the first year out is weird. It’s not like anything they’ve experienced prior to this time because everything seems to be altered; friendships, family, finances, and even opportunities for fun change after college.
Change in a few areas of our life at one time is generally okay; it’s easier to navigate when there are certain constants we can still count on. But when everything is different, as is often the case after graduation, it’s almost too much “newness” to take in at once. The unfamiliarity of it all can make us want to somehow escape, and we can feel lost, confused, alone, and unknown.
This unfamiliarity and confusion is tiring. You may have points post-college when, for the first time in your life, you’re not sure you can face the strangeness all over again the next day. But know that you are not alone. Many alumni have gone ahead of you, sharing in the same struggle.
The chaos you feel like you’re living in is a magnet for his Holy Spirit.
More than that, God is with you. He has gone before you in this transition, and he chases after you as well. God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33), and the chaos you feel like you’re living in is a magnet for his Holy Spirit. He longs to make order and form out of things that seem shapeless, void, and disorderly right now. He is your Creator and your constant in these changing times.
Life after college is hard.
When the entire structure of life is shifting, trials often arise. But if we allow these trials to become the testing ground for faith, they’ll force us to wrestle through the mess until we emerge with deeper, more real belief than before. Loss, pain, or confusion bring us to a crossroads where we get to choose: trust Christ or turn our backs on God?
For many alumni, choosing to trust God in these moments has launched them on a trajectory of life with Jesus that they’d never trade. And they’ve learned how to live in the face of adversity, an invaluable skill for years to come.
There will likely be some hard days in those first couple years out, but hard does not necessarily mean that you’ve made a mistake in taking that job offer or moving to that new town. Be patient in these times of trial, trusting that God is working out a greater good.
Life after college is good.
Even in the weirdness and hard times, these years are bursting with so much good! Life after college is packed with adventure, excitement, and possibility. Instead of lamenting the roller-coaster ride of ups and downs that occur in those first years out, embrace it. Give thanks for the variety of it all.
A recent alumna shared with me how overwhelmed she’s felt because in one week she’s experienced some of the lowest lows and highest highs she’s ever known. I encouraged her to enjoy the diversity, and reminded her that all the ups and downs indicate we’re alive. If we experienced no valleys or mountaintops, the cardiographs of our lives would be one flat line. So expect them, hold on tightly through them, and trust that God has good things in store.
Not only is God the same yesterday, today, and forever, but he is also the One who promises to bless you, keep you, and fulfill his good purposes through you. The same man, Abram, who was called to leave the comforts of everything familiar and go to an unknown place, received a promise that is as true today as it was for him centuries ago: God is building his kingdom through broken people, blessing those who choose him, and making them great in him (Genesis 12). This promise radically changed Abram. I promise it will change you too, if you choose to cling to a familiar, good God in these unfamiliar times. Enjoy the ride of life after college!
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk
Erica Young Reitz helps college seniors and recent graduates navigate the complex transition to postcollege life. Drawing on best practices and research on senior preparedness, this practical guide addresses the top issues graduates face: making decisions, finding friends, managing money, discerning your calling and much more.