4 Things I Wish I Knew After Graduating College
The summer and fall after you graduate from college can be a very weird time in any young adult's life. You are high off of the excitement of finally being a college grad, but eventually, the excitement fades as you are faced with life after college and all that it entails.
The summer after I graduated from college was filled with job searching, landing a job, and then moving 4 hours from my home to a new place and new community. As I started working at my proper 40 hour a week job, it didn’t set in for me that I wasn’t going back to college until I started to see my undergraduate friends post photos of themselves on the first day of school.
It all felt so surreal, continuing to work at an office job, long after the leaves start to change color and temperature drops. I remember thinking that if I packed my bags and moved to college right then, it wouldn’t feel like anything has changed at all. For me, and for many of you who have just graduated from college, school is still what you consider to be your normal.
So, if today you are struggling with where you fit into the world post-college or just need some encouragement that there is beauty in the real world, these tips are for you. These are pieces of advice I wished I had heard when I had just graduated from college and was transitioning into the real world.
God has a plan for where you are, even if you have to Google how to get to the grocery store
When I first moved to Lancaster, I had to Google how to get everywhere: the grocery store, the new gym I had joined, my office, the churches I was trying out, etc. As someone who grew up and went to college in the area near my home, it was disjointing to have to do things like find a new doctor and a new hairdresser. It was hard to feel like I belonged when I couldn’t even remember how to get to the closest gas station.
Life after college can feel a lot like this even if you end up staying in your hometown. It can feel like we are on a path where we don’t know our destination. That we have forgotten how to do the most basic things like drive to the grocery store. Just remember that even though you have no idea where you are going, God does. He has a plan and purpose for us in all seasons of transition. Many of which is to lead us closer to His presence.
I heard a quote the other day that resonated with me that said, “ I didn’t get the answer I wanted, but I got the presence I needed.”
That is exactly how I felt after college. There were a lot of prayers that went unanswered for me the last year of school or into the early months of post-grad life, but God’s presence was always there even if I had to search to feel it.
Just because you are in new surroundings doesn’t mean that God is new. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). I have never felt more comforted by that fact than when I was in a new town surrounded by people I didn’t know. Everything around me was changing after college, but God was the one thing that didn't. You can count on Him too.
No one's life is as put together as it appears online
One of the hardest parts of post-grad life is social media. While it’s a great tool to keep in touch and to communicate with friends that live far away, it can also make us feel terrible if we aren’t careful. I remember when I was jobless and single my senior year of college, looking at the posts of people getting jobs or getting engaged and thinking about what I would give to have either of those two things.
I remember talking to God and saying, “It’s officially too late for me to hope to be engaged in college, so that means I really need You to come through on the whole job thing. You see it’s not really fair that people out there are getting both, thanks.”
It can be hard when people are constantly posting their highlight reels and you feel that you don’t have much of anything to contribute. Maybe it’s time to step back or take a break. You know that girl that you were always secretly jealous of in college who always had it all together, maybe it’s time to unfollow her or mute her. Unfollow that ex-boyfriend or guy you liked who just got into a new relationship. News flash: we don't have to follow the people that make us feel bad or insecure about ourselves.
The world wants us to believe that everything is the way it is presented on social media. Perfectly touched up. But just because someone is portraying themselves as having it all together online, doesn’t mean they do.
You don’t know that the girl who got that job you wanted had to move there all alone and is super lonely. You don’t know that the girl who got engaged isn’t stressed out of her mind about planning her wedding and feeling distant from her man who is in a new city. We don’t know what other people are going through. So, the next time you see that perfectly touched up photo of someone looking like they are slaying the adulting game, take a second to read into it. Things are never as they seem, and we don’t know what someone had to go through to get that one perfect image.
You have to put effort into making new community, but it is so worth it
Community is by far the hardest part of graduating from college. For the last four years, we have poured our time and effort into the people within the small bubble of our college campus. They have laughed with us, cried with us, and grown up with us. Those relationships will always be precious, but unless you are surrounded by your friends from college, you’re most likely looking at making new friends post-grad.
As a pretty outgoing person, I want to stress to you how hard it is to find a good community. Finding your people doesn’t just happen overnight or over one cup of coffee. It comes from intentionality, vulnerability, and not just asking people what their favorite shows to watch on Netflix are. Sometimes people think that just because someone is extroverted they have an easier time making friends. That isn’t true. I felt plenty of panic attending young adult groups by myself or asking someone to get coffee. It took me almost a year before I felt like I had a community of people I could go to with tough needs. And guess what? I am still growing and striving to make more friends.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
So, don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t be afraid to ask the girl you think is cool to get coffee. Put yourself out there and go to social events with other people. No one ever made friends staying in and watching TV every day of the week and weekend. Be patient and know that if you pray for great friends, God will provide in amazing ways. Take this time as the opportunity to work on yourself and how you want to be a friend to other people.
Take time to rediscover what you love and who you are outside the bubble of college
I love to read. Not in an “oh occasionally if I have the time” way, but in a real voracious, give me more kind of way. I have a list on my phone of the books I have read so far this year just so I can keep track of how many I read. It’s as lame as it sounds. However, I wasn’t able to do a lot of reading in college that wasn’t directly related to my courses.
That is the beauty of post-college life. Rediscovering and discovering new activities or hobbies you like to do for fun. In college, we have a limited ability and budget to do the things we want. You may love to dance, but not have the opportunity to take any classes while at school. You may love to paint and draw, but paying college bills came before buying new art supplies.
Think about the things that set your soul on fire, that make you happy, that makes you feel closer to God. These can be with people, with yourself, something new or old. Now that you have more free time, use it discovering what you like now that you are a post-college person. You may be surprised to find the types of things you love now that the community that has been influencing your decisions for the past four years is gone. So, sign up for a new class, pick up the paintbrush, or go for a hike. You never know when something new is going to turn into your next favorite thing.
I hope that these few tips can help you as you prepare to take on your first fall without college textbooks or dorm life. Transitioning to the real world can be tough, but pretty soon, you’ll get into a routine that feels just as inescapable as the time you spent at your alma mater.
How has your experience been transitioning into a new phase of life after college?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel resides in Lancaster, Pa where she is a Digital Marketing Specialist. A recent graduate from Grove City College, Rachel hopes that her articles can help girls through hard times in college and also as they transition into the real world. In her spare time, you can find Rachel reading, hanging with her small group, exploring cute cafes, and longing for the ocean. You can find more of her writing at christiangirlcode.org