5 tips for dealing with post-college shock

When high school students decide which college they want to attend, they go through an orientation process to get used to the new environment. Icebreaker games and informative events sponsored by campus clubs are geared toward creating more interaction between new students, giving them a structure for transitioning to their new life as a college student.

But after commencement, there’s no orientation for what’s about to commence: real life.

Friends and acquaintances immediately disperse to different jobs, graduate school opportunities, or even head back home to live with parents. While the road is different for each graduate, they all have something in common: their lives have all instantly changed.


The process of re-anchoring is daunting. It comes at a time when young adults are working to establish financial independence, which also brings a new set of worries and woes. To add to the challenge, recent graduates are often transient as they start new jobs and move to new geographic areas.

Much has been discussed about the transition from high school to college but very little is said about the transition from college to “real adulthood.”

In my teaching at Meredith College, I have seen numerous students transition from freshmen to alumnae. I don’t know if this is a new trend or if I’m just closer to the students as they go through the post-graduation phase, but over the past few years it seems to be a tougher transition than in years past. The change has compelled me to focus on the issue more closely and start collaborating with Kelsey Suttenfield, a current Meredith senior, to develop research on the issue.

Although the phase happens suddenly, there are ways that students and parents can prepare for re-anchoring. Below are five tips for dealing with the post-college shock.

1. It's really true --“the world is your oyster”

Getting involved in post-college life is easier said than done. It takes courage to let walls down and experience life. But getting involved with personally, professionally and community rewarding activities will help fuel one's spirit.

Graduates can find charities to assist, book clubs at their local libraries or in their communities.

A new workplace or community can offer activities that can help you stay connected and meeting new people.“Liking” a new city on Facebook can help identify activities that may be of interest. Getting involved will help ease this transition.

2. A call from home is the best medicine

Parents can help bridge the gap into adulthood, too. A regular phone call between parents and their kids can help give normalcy to a changing environment. Just because recent graduates are grown-ups does not mean they don't want to hear from home.

3. “The only way to have a friend is to be one” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

While life after college is different for everyone, maintaining friendships is an important part of feeling connected. It is important not to give up on your friends even though it may take a bit more effort to stay in touch. Facebook and other social media outlets can be a great way for recent graduates to stay connected. Arranging time to chat or Skype can also help friends stay connected.

4. Recent grads moving back home? Have “the talk”

For many recent graduates, moving back home is not their first choice.For most parents, it’s not their first choice either.

If young adults need to move back in with their parents it is important to establish ground rules and boundaries. Establishing shared expectations with regards to privacy, boundaries, and contributions to the household will make the transition much more harmonious.

5. Rejection is a part of life

Sometimes schedules just cannot mesh for new people. It is important for young people recognize that multiple attempts might need to be made to organize get-togethers. Even if you are turned down for coffee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a new acquaintance doesn’t want to spend time with you. Keep trying and don’t take things too personally.

It’s never easy going to a new environment. The stress of finding and securing a full-time job and living alone for the first time can destroy any chance of a healthy social life. But making a concerted effort to meet new people can reduce the pain.

And, for what it’s worth, it really does get better.

Cynthia Edwards is a professor of psychology at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.  Kelsey Suttenfield is a senior at Meredith College working on a research project studying emergent adulthood among young women.