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Navigating the Transition from College Graduation to Adulthood: A Guide

Apr 18, 2024 | Featured, Resource Blog

There is a lot of advice about how to transition from high school to college. People tell you how to make friends, excel in classes, and handle living with roommates. The transition from college into the next chapter of life is also full of challenges, and there is less information about how to handle these changes.

Independant Lifestyle

The transition into post-grad life is complicated by saying goodbye to friends and the college lifestyle, and figuring out how to excel in the real world. Oftentimes, this time of your life was the first opportunity to live on your own and manage your own life. After a few years you are used to experiencing more independence than ever before and surrounded by new people with new perspectives. Your days are less structured and your coursework expectations are much different than high school. This time period is a time of immense personal growth and learning. Many people describe their time in college as the best years of their lives.

Taking Your Own Path

Even if college is not the best time of your life, it is still challenging to transition from college into full-blown adulthood. After graduation, you are going on a path that often looks different from your friends and different from anything you have ever done before. Saying goodbye to friends and your college campus can be daunting. Having secure expectations for what this looks like, and what life beyond college looks like can make the transition easier.

Find a New Schedule

The first aspect to consider is the transition from school to work. College marks the end of full-time education for the majority of individuals. Instead of spending time in a classroom writing papers and studying for tests, more time will be spent in a work atmosphere. This transition can be difficult because it is a completely different expectation for productivity. Beyond this, college courses often are incredibly flexible, and the structure of days is rarely full 9-5 work days. Switching to working full 8-hour days 5 days a week can make it seem like you completely lost your free time and flexibility. This new working structure could be beneficial for your social life. While you may have less flexibility during working hours, you will always know when you are free from work. You may find it easier to switch from working to personal time, and can even develop healthy boundaries about the free time you do have.

Make Time for Friends

Friendships are another difficult aspect of life post-college. Many people say that the friendships they develop in college are the ones that they keep for the rest of their lives. It can be challenging to navigate friendships when you go from seeing them every day to moving to different places or experiencing different life stages. Friendships do not have to end just because you and your friends no longer have the same schedules and live in the same town. Hanging out for hours every day may change to weekly phone calls and the somewhat frequent coffee or dinner plan, but the closeness and enjoyment you gain from that other person does not change. It may seem especially difficult to continue friendships that were based entirely on typical college behaviors. When reflecting back on friendships you had during college, consider whether or not those friendships still add value to your life. Beyond this, some friends may be going to graduate school while other friends are transitioning to full-time employment. Either way, busy schedules and demanding priorities often make it difficult to hold the same amount of closeness with friends.

Transitions Can Be Tricky

Whether friendships and work are what you find challenging about the transition from college to adulthood to something else, this transition can be tricky for anyone. Have grace with yourself as you try to balance the old and the new parts of life. Remember all the growth you have had up until this point and all the challenges you have overcome. No one has their life figured out in their early twenties. Mistakes are an essential part of every stage of life. Be gentle to yourself and those around you. Learning how to be an adult is something that is challenging. Lean on your friendships and support systems, and reach out to others if you are struggling. Counseling is a great way to work through your feelings during this life stage. Contact us to schedule support with one of our licensed therapists or to learn about group therapy opportunities.

Beth Orns, owner and licensed therapist at Better Together Mental Health.
Rachel Sabulsky is a therapist at Better Together Mental Health.
Anna Cox, licensed therapist in Columbia, Missouri.

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