I’ve been a student my entire life – it’s something I know how to be. In fact, I’d even say I’m pretty darn great at it. Of course, like all students, every few years I was forced to pick up everything and move campuses:
Elementary school to middle school brought the fear of seven different periods with a host of teachers, classrooms and names to remember. Middle school to high school brought the fear of boys, parties and getting into a good college. And don’t get me started on my high school to college transition– moving across the country to attend a prestigious institution with a price tag rivaling my parents’ combined salaries.
Entering college, I was more than a little terrified. But I knew I was going to be okay. After all, while every transition brought a few “OH SH*T” moments with it, I was simply continuing the trend, moving from one set of classrooms to another. “How hard could that be?” I asked myself. “Pretty darn difficult, actually,” I’d reply now. But that’s nothing compared with what comes next.
With 17 years of studenting under my belt, I’m a heavyweight champion, always prepared to pull an all-nighter finishing a paper or just hanging out with my friends (leading to another all-nighter later to catch up on the work I procrastinated). But graduating and entering the “real world” felt like an entirely different transition. The fears I faced were entirely new, and I wasn’t at all prepared to handle them.
Now that I’ve survived the transition, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. “It’s two weeks from Graduation and I don’t have a job.”
I know this feeling all too well– I sent in dozens of job applications, dolled up for half a dozen job interviews, and was offered two jobs that were so out of my range of skills (seriously – business consulting? I’m a creative writing major!), which I turned down, assuming, “something that fits better will surely come my way.” But when that 14-day countdown starts it’s like watching the firing squad set up for your execution. I hadn’t even started packing, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, and if I did get a job I had no clue where I’d be living (did I mention that I was two weeks from being kicked out of my campus housing?). But here’s the best advice I can give you – BREATHE.
Like, deep freaking breaths. It’s going to be okay. Don’t give up on yourself – reformat your cover letter again, send it to a few more employers, and keep at it. If you applied to a job you really want, but never heard anything back, reach out. If you know someone working in the field you want to work in – send an email, make a call, offer to take them out for coffee. The point is, you don’t stop trying. I got my job thirteen days before my graduation date. Thirteen. And besides, worst case scenario? You get one final summer vacation back home? It might sound bad, but you’ll miss those once you’re in the world of 9 to 5s and no vacation time.
2. “When will I see my friends again?”
I don’t know a single college senior who isn’t haunted by this question. It was hard leaving your high school friends, at least, for those of you who went to college far from home like I did, but college is a different ballgame entirely. These are the friends you’ll keep for the rest of your life, right? So why are you worrying about when you’ll see them again? They stuck by you through the ugliest college experiences (hello, all those breakups she sat through and bought you ice cream during)–they’re not about to abandon you now. As a college graduate you’re mature enough to actually keep in touch with the people you care about. In a world of modern technology it’s easy to pick up a phone, send a text or Skype your friends, no matter where the graduation winds scatter you.
3. “The Last ________.”
Potentially the worst moments of college life are the ones where you realize that this _______ is the last _______ you’ll ever experience. The last coffee in the student union. The last cram session. The last How I Met Your Mother marathon. The last time the Student Association asks for a donation (just kidding, that will never end). The list goes on, and it only gets worse the closer you get to graduation. In the final days on campus every little moment becomes a last– “This is the last day I’ll live in this apartment” or “This is the last time my roommate and I will argue about which Game of Thrones character deserves to die next while watching the show together in the middle of the night.” Every second becomes a milestone, and that’s no small thing, but the best way to handle all the lasts is to think about all the firsts that are waiting for you. Your first day as a graduate. Your first night in your new apartment. Your first argument with your new roommate over where to hang all those GOT posters. Graduating is full of lasts, but being a graduate is chalk full of firsts.
The best advice my dad gave me before I graduated was this: “Remember, you aren’t the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. It’s scary, but all great things are. So breathe, hold your chin up high and don’t forget to ask for help. You’re graduating from a university with over 1300 seniors– you aren’t alone.”