Intellectual Health Isabela Collins Mental Health Occupational Health Social Health

Transitioning to Life Outside of College

By Isabela Collins

College can be some of the best years of your life.  You are creating lifelong memories with friends along with finding a career path you are passionate about, all while living it up—young and carefree. It can be tough letting that go to start in the “real world”. As kids we envy and long to soon be adults, not knowing how scary and unknown it truly can be. I would compare adulthood and real life to improv; making it up as you go.

I experienced this first hand. Receiving my degree felt new and exciting as I finally headed out into adulthood. I didn’t even think there was going to be a transition. I thought I would make friends right off the bat at my new job, in a new city, while still keeping in touch with my college buddies like nothing has changed. Well, girl was I wrong!  The real world smacked me right in the face and I had no clue how to deal. From going out almost every night and skipping class whenever you chose, to now waking up at the crack of dawn and heading to the less than perfect entry level job, you really take those 4 years for granted. Now that I am a couple years post graduation, I have found myself settling in pretty nicely. The following are some tips I used after I passed my denial stage and saw myself starting to thrive. I hope they benefit you as well during your adaptation to this new world. 

Some things to keep in mind while you start your transition:

Acknowledge the transition. Be honest with yourself and others about the challenges you are having. You have to accept that things are changing. It may be scary but nothing can stay the same forever.  

Realize that the future and “real world” is unpredictable. You may not know what the future holds for you and you will never have all the answers. There will be uncertainty, and that is OK!

You are not alone. More people are struggling with this transition than you think. 

Trying to maintain relationships, juggling a new, full time job and whatever else you have going on in life can be difficult. You are used to being around a great college community and friends, so it’s natural that you may feel a little alone now. Being aware that there are others who are going through these same difficulties may help comfort you with this process. Find support groups and reach out to others in your new job.  You might possibly even make a friend! 

Erase expectations on what you think others think you should do. There is so much pressure to figure out what is next after you graduate. The stress of finding a job you enjoy, that pays well is much harder than others realize. Most undergraduates are in their early 20’s, with plenty of time to figure out what is next. Whether you decide to start your career, travel the world or just lay low back at your parents house, do not feel pressured to follow the status quo, when in reality that is hard to come by.

Do not compare your journey to others. As happy as you may be for others, it can be discouraging to see them grow into the next part of their life while you feel stuck. Do not let that unmotivate you. Everyone has a different timeline and there is no rush. It is best to take the time to figure out what you really want in life, rather than getting into something that makes you unhappy. Being in our 20s is the time to figure out ourselves and what we want. 

Create and maintain healthy relationships. It makes a difference to have a good support group. Keep in touch with old college friends while branching out to new people that you didn’t attend school with. This will help you step out of that college bubble.

Find healthy hobbies that you enjoy. Learn how to cook a real meal other than ramen, start exercising, pick up meditating; whatever you find interesting. Hobbies can be a great way to give someone a purpose in life. Many feel hopeless during this transition because they think they’re trapped doing the same routine of wake up, work, eat, sleep and repeat. I have found some guided meditation apps such as Calm to be a great resource. Meditating helps me unplug and decompress while I am able to sit with my thoughts to really get to know myself on a deeper level and help me think more clearly. Do not be afraid to start something new. It is also a great way to meet new people.

Embrace any fear you have during this journey. Use it to learn and grow from this experience. You will appreciate yourself more when it is over. 

You won’t have the rest of your life figured out, just enjoy the experience and look forward to what is next, whatever life has planned for you. Use this as a foundation and take it as it comes, one step at a time.