I graduated from college two years ago, and yet as I begin to see the social media chatter of those who are finishing up themselves, the emotions I was feeling at that time feel close by. Even writing this, I can feel the excitement again–but mostly, the overwhelming uncertainty. From what I know now, if I could have given myself a letter that night, here’s what I would say.
Dear college graduate,
First of all, congrats! You made it! All that homework and studying and sleep lost has led up to this…a funny hat, a walk across a stage, and a pretty little piece of paper with your name on it.
Second, I’ll warn you right away: there aren’t any perfect words for a time like this. I could tell you to chase your dreams and to not let anything get you down, but those are vague, unhelpful sentiments. So let me tell you a few things I wish someone had told me.
- There is no shame in doing the smart but un-fun thing to help you get where you need to be. For me, it meant living with my parents for over a year after I graduated. It was fine, but it felt weird to be trying to be an adult while living in my childhood bedroom. But it was what had to happen at that time. Living where you need to or taking the job you have to in order to accomplish something can be the smartest thing you’ll do.
- Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.
- The transition from student to…something else…is a strange one. It takes time and the willingness to be okay with one chapter of your life being over. You might think that once you find the perfect job you’ll immediately fall into the new routine with contentment and glee, and there will likely be some of that, but it’s a very big adjustment. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s hard. Look for the wonderful, and be prepared for the hard.
- The season will change. I promise you. Whether you’re in elation or despair, it will not last forever.
- Now about that diploma. It’s nice, at first—it’s exciting to see your name there, declaring you have a “Bachelor of Science” or whatever your exact degree was. But there will come times when you will glare at that piece of paper, wondering if it was all worth it. The loans (if you have them) will come due, and you will wonder all the more. Someday you might get a job that will prove to you it was worth it, but maybe the proof won’t come in as tangible a form as a paycheck. Maybe it will be in the enduring relationships, the classes that have helped you look at the world slightly differently, the sense of accomplishment that though schoolwork does not come easily to you you graduated. “Worth it” comes in all shapes and sizes.
- Find something to enjoy about where you are. Whether it’s extra time to devote to a hobby because you’re un- or under-employed, free food because you live with your parents, or basking in the fact that you no longer have to do homework, there is something good about wherever you’re at right now. Find it. Relish it.
- Last, and possibly annoyingly, let me remind you that there is a plan here. You don’t always see it, you definitely don’t always feel it, but God has his hand on whatever it is you’re in right now. I’m not promising the plan will always feel like a plan or that the plan will always be good in the definition of good that you know, but it is there.
So there you have it. Welcome to the World After College. It’s a strange place here, and it might take some getting used to, but I hope you learn to enjoy it.
We’re glad you’re here.
p.s. What would you say in a letter to college graduates?