After Graduation: Here's How to Fight the Jitters

Graduating from college marks an exciting next chapter for a lot of people -- but it also can leave some new graduates feeling a bit lost, especially those who return home.

Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Karen Lawson offers her tips on how to successfully transition to a postcollege life.

“This is a time of flux because many people are coming out of a college setting where many things were taken care of, they had a huge circle of friends and they might have been a part of the Greek system where they had an active social life. That changes after college because many people disperse and often move back home. Returning to one’s hometown, even if you are supporting yourself, can be difficult,” said Lawson, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Lawson said that because of this, many new graduates immediately feel lost and experience a sense of longing for those years that just ended. Most young people eventually find their way, although it may take a few years, she said.

To help ease the transition, Lawson recommends that parents and graduates who plan on living at home sit down together and map out an idea of what expectations they have for each other. It is important for parents to understand that this is a time of indecision for many young people, she said.

“It may not reflect not wanting to move on or laziness or anything negative. It’s just a time where many recent college graduates do not know what they want to do next and so parents have to have some understanding and patience with the process,” Lawson said.

Lawson also offered a few tips that new graduates can follow to help them take the next step forward. These include:

Taking a career placement class or test. She said that the process takes people step-by-step through dozens of potential career directions and helps people sort out what they like and what they don’t like.

Networking is a good way to find out about different career options. Looking at professional programs or additional certificates or enrolling in small degree programs that will not take years to complete also are an option.

“Picking a direction that you might want to work in for five years doesn’t necessarily have to be the one that you end up in for 40 years,” Lawson said. “However, it is a direction to go in, it might satisfy a need, it might be a current curiosity but it is also okay to change careers throughout ones path and not worry that you have to stay forever.”

Follow up on friendships you had before college, while also maintaining the ones you’ve made during college. Lawson cautions that graduates also can have a hard time transiting socially.

“With identifying of interests, good planning, some temporary work to pay the bills and patience, new grads should be able to transition smoothly into the next phase of life,” Lawson said.

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