Jun 05, 2014


5 Things Seniors Should Know as They Transition Out of College

Erica Young Reitz shares five things seniors should know about their life after college.

Whether you are a graduating senior or you work with students who anticipate that walk across the commencement stage, it’s crucial to consider what it takes to prepare for life right after college.

In the scurry of résumé prep and job searching, it’s easy to reduce preparedness to a laundry list of a few key items. But college seniors need more than a diploma and job offer (important as those are). In addition to practical tools (in areas like budgeting, finding a church, making biblical decisions, etc.), seniors need perspective.

Here are five realities seniors should know as they transition out of college:

  1. Life right out of college is strange. In that first year out, graduates may feel like they are stumbling through a fog because so much changes at once. Simultaneous change in a few areas of life is generally okay; we can navigate because there are certain constants we can still count on. But when everything shifts at once (finances, friendships, family dynamics, opportunities for fun, future career, role, etc.), it’s almost too much “newness” to take in. The unfamiliarity of it all can make us want to escape, and we can feel lost, confused, and alone. Seniors need to know that this is a normal part of the transition, and it doesn’t stay that way forever.
  1. Expectations may not match reality. In many ways, our culture (and often upbringing and education) has taught millennials that they can be anything and have everything – and that it should all come instantly and easily. The reality: we can’t have it all and we don’t need it all. After college, life is no longer set up around us or for us; skills like making friends, adjusting to the workplace, and living on a budget require patience and intentionality. When seniors’ picture of life after college doesn’t match reality, they need to be prepared to choose acceptance and alter expectations, instead of sinking into disappointment.
  1. Challenging stretches do not mean a mistake has been made. When life is hard, as is often the case right after graduation, it’s tempting to wonder, “Did I just make a mistake in moving here or taking this job offer or marrying this person?” Recent graduates should be wary of the voice that says there’s an easier, sexier, less mundane path. Just because something is hard or uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. In fact, if it feels like the “crap just hit the fan,” there’s a good chance they’re in the exact place God wants them to be.
  1. You don’t always get to be the blue iris. In her poem “Blue Iris” Mary Oliver offers a ringing refrain about how our hearts long to be like that flower – beautiful, strong, and shining. But we don’t always get to be the bright star – especially not right after college. Seniors need to know that we often don’t come out of the gate great. Significant contributions are born in small steps of faithfulness. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to pay dues. The twenties are for training – for letting go of pride, practicing humility, and learning it’s not about me.
  1. There is deep hope for the journey ahead. Though millennials have been dubbed the “screwed generation,” Christ-followers have a greater reality. The hope for recent graduates is not in a job offer or a romantic relationship, in personal wealth or peace, but in the fact that the God of the universe sustains and carries them. He is the constant for all of us in every dynamic time – the anchor for our soul and the solid rock to plant our feet when we feel like we can’t find our footing. In a year that may ask more questions than give answers, God promises that He is “not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33a). Seniors need to know that when they can’t find a place to plant their stake, that the stake is already in the ground and has been for over 2000 years – the cross of Christ.

As you prepare for life after college – or help college seniors do so – my prayer is that you continue to point to the cross and to the person of Christ—the greatest reality and deepest hope for the journey ahead.

about the author

Erica Young Reitz

After 14 years of college ministry experience working for the CCO, Erica is now teaching and consulting. Her passion for equipping graduating seniors to prepare for life after college continues. Erica is available to speak and consult – she loves connecting with students and 20-somethings as well as with practitioners who work with them. Currently, she serves as an adjunct faculty for Geneva College’s Master’s in Higher Education Program. She is the author of After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationship and Faith (InterVarsity Press). www.aftercollegetransition.com