Graduating College Soon? How to Prep for What’s Next

College graduation is approaching!! You did it! You may feel so proud of yourself (as you should) AND you may feel completely overwhelmed by the thought of WHAT.COMES.NEXT.

It’s a lot, right?

It’s a freakin’ lot to think about what the “real world” will look like after leaving the cocoon of college. Whether you had the best time ever or felt it was a struggle, it’s common to feel a sense of safety in college and the transition to full-time work can feel daunting.

So, how can you prepare? What can you do now to get ready for the next steps?

Whether you have your first job on lock, are still searching, or applying to grad school, check out my top 5 tips for how to prep for graduation and enter the next chapter of your life.

#1 Normalize the struggle.

Change is hard. Say it with me: Change is hard. Most of us struggle with change of any kind, and graduating college and figuring out next steps is a HUGE change.

It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to feel confused. These feelings are totally normal.

This is a great starting point. Normalize those feelings which looks like saying, “I feel scared. It makes sense that I feel this way because everything is new and I don’t even have a clue if I’ll like this job that I’m starting 6 days after graduation.” AHHH.

Repeat and repeat again. This feels hard because it IS hard.

#2 Let go of the need to have everything figured out.

News flash: No one has IT ALL figured out. We’re all just figuring it out as we go.

Story time: I went to college at UCSD, graduated with a degree in Psychology. I didn’t love a lot of my classes and felt like psychology wasn’t what I thought it would be. So I pivoted after college, worked for my parents’ financial planning company, then applied to LAW SCHOOL. Whyyyy? I had no clue. I just did it.

I went to law school, graduated, passed the bar, and then hunted for a job. I wound up in Securities Litigation was as boring as it sounds. I did it for three years before throwing in the towel and deciding I was going to follow my passion for writing.

I wrote several novels in the next couple of years, went through the worst break-up of my life (seriously, it was so awful), and then booked a one-way ticket to Bali (highly recommend, btw). I was there for several months and then came home, confused as ever about what was next. Keep in mind: I was 30 years old at this point.

I spent the next year continuing to write, almost landing an agent for one of my manuscripts but falling just short. I also applied to, no joke, about 100 jobs, trying to figure out a way to make money while also continuing to write. When nothing panned out, I decided to pivot again and set aside my interest in writing novels full-time.

After lots of reflection, I applied to ONE graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy and was accepted. All signs pointed that I should go. I wavered, cried, and freaked out to my mom right before paying the tuition.

Years later, here I am, with my own therapy practice that I love. Wow, what a journey, and no, I still don’t have it all figured out – whatever IT ALL is.

I tell you this so that you understand that I get it. Life is not linear, and you don’t have to know exactly where you’ll end up post-graduation. Maybe you’ll end up in the field that you majored in in college or maybe you’ll do something very different.

The point is that you don’t have to know exactly where you’ll end up, you just have to make a decision and take a step forward. Almost no step you take is final. You can ALWAYS pivot.

#3 Find your people who get it.

Some of your college friends might seem like they have their plan alllll laid out. That’s great for them. But it also might make you feel like something is wrong with you because you don’t know what’s next or you may be unsure if the next step is the “right” step.

Instead, spend time with the friends who get the struggle. They are going to be the one’s who make you feel seen and remind you that you are not alone in wondering and worrying about what’s coming next. They are the ones who will validate the struggle and reassure you that you’ll figure it out and they’re here for you in the meantime.

#4 Remind yourself that you probably know more than you think.

Even if it doesn’t seem like it, you actually know yourself really well. You know which classes you skipped because they were boring and which ones you were excited to attend. You know if you like living close to or away from home. You know if you thrive in a structured setting or prefer having the autonomy to choose your own schedule. You know if you are a rule follower or a trailblazer.

This is data! This is valuable information for you to take with you ask you navigate what’s next. You actually know a lot about what you like and want and need. Now, that doesn’t mean you have all the answers to “what’s next” but it does mean that you have helpful information that can support you as you make decisions about what’s next.

#5 Your parents might have helpful guidance, but they are not you.

As you figure out what’s next, you might find yourself leaning on your parents for support and guidance. Parents can be incredible sounding boards and offer perspectives that you haven’t considered.

At the same time, keep in mind that your parents aren’t you, and they have different wants and goals for you, as well as they are bringing their own personal life experiences into their perspective (because how can they not? Those experiences made them who they are).

Try to balance advice from others (whether your parents or anyone else) with what YOU want and what YOUR goals are. It’s great and actually really helpful to have people you trust as a sounding board, but not at the expense of making decisions for YOU.

This is YOUR life, and at the end of the day, it’s YOUR decision what comes next.

Cheers to your achievement and to your beautiful future that lies ahead!


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