Life,  Medium

College Doesn’t Prepare You for the Post-Graduation Slump

But that doesn’t mean you won’t survive it.

When I graduated college, I was on top of the world. I’d worked long and hard to finish my degree — late nights, insufferable classes, long hours at work and school — it was all worth it. I had a degree, and I had a job lined up after graduation. Everything worked out just like I had hoped it would.

But after graduation, I was surprised to find that life wasn’t as fun or as glamorous as I had hoped. I had a job, but for the first time in my life, that meant that I was doing the same thing five days a week for eight hours straight. I didn’t have homework or essays looming over my head whenever I tried to take some time for myself, but I was exhausted. I had more free time than ever, but my friends had moved back home or weren’t free at the same time I was.

While college had prepared me to graduate and to get a job, it hadn’t prepared me for the post-graduation slump.

What is the “post-graduation slump?”

I’ve talked to many friends who fell into a similar post-graduation slump (I may have coined the term, though don’t quote me on that.) It’s when you have put so much time, energy, and commitment into graduating college that when graduation day finally comes and goes, what comes next is less than what you’d hoped for.

We put so much effort into getting through college and getting that glorious degree that once commencement comes and goes and we step into the real world, life seems like a bit of a letdown. It’s that period where you transition from your dynamic, ever-changing college life to the monotony of a day job and the responsibilities that come along with it. Things get better, but it takes time to adjust. Time that no one really warns you about.

When does the post-graduation slump happen?

Well, the obvious answer is after graduation, but it doesn’t always seem to occur at the same time for everyone. For me, the slump started in the fall. I had begun my full-time job, and, at least initially, things were going great. I was used to working long days and more hours per week during the summer, so in some regards, things weren’t so different (other than the job itself being new, of course.) But when fall rolled around and some of my friends were preparing to go back to school while I soldiered on at my 9 to 5, the real slump started to occur.

I wasn’t used to doing the same thing every day with no end in sight. I was used to having two classes on Monday, one on Thursday night and one first thing on Friday. I was used to fitting in work in the cracks in between when I was on campus — two hours here, six hours there, four hours Friday morning before my weekend kicked in. It was weird having the same schedule day in and day out when I had become so used to shaking things up every other day. It was hard trying to find times when I could meet up with my friends — some who were still in school and therefore only available when I wasn’t, and some who were still working non-traditional jobs after graduation. August and September of the year I graduated college were some of the most confusing months as I ran into the post-graduation slump.

How can you overcome the post-graduation slump?

When that slump hits for you — whether it’s the day after graduation or a year after graduation — you’ll find yourself wishing you were back in college for the random hangouts and varyingly scheduled days. But for most of us, that’s not an option. You might find yourself feeling ready to shake things up after dealing with the mundane-ness of your week.

Or maybe you’re exhausted by it all, even though your mind is telling you everything should be easier now that you don’t have assignments due every day and a hectic schedule to remember.

Either way, you’ll probably get to a point where you’re tired of your new life. The post-graduation slump isn’t fun, and no one wants to stay there for long.

So how do you get out of it?

1. Try something new

When you’re in school, there’s a constant cycle of new things that come your way; new classes each semester, new events to try, new clubs to get involved in, and new people to meet. College is set up to provide you with experiences, so after college, it’s up to you to create that environment for yourself.

Go ahead and bite the bullet; try that new cooking class you’ve been thinking about, join a Meetup and finally try that new hike you’ve heard about or try joining a Zoom hangout you’ve debated joining but never found the time for.

The options are endless if you put your mind to it and try.

2. Meet new people

Another thing college is great for is meeting new people, but how do you do that out in the post-graduation world when your college friends are a state away?

Trying something new is a great place to start, but there are other ways to meet friends, too. Try Bumble BFF to make a new friend. Ask one of your new coworkers to happy hour. There are tons of unconventional ways to meet friends, too. I made a new friend (or two) through a Facebook group associated with a podcast I listen to. The possibilities are out there if you’re willing to put in the effort.

3. Find ways to make each day a little bit special

Post-college life can be monotonous, with your day to day schedule largely the same five days a week. If you’re feeling the slump in this regard, figure out ways to make each day slightly out of the ordinary.

This could be scheduling something small into your day or shaking up the workweek by taking the occasional vacation day for yourself. Maybe take time to do a hobby you’d long forgotten about when all of your free time was spent writing essays. Take time to read for fun at the end of each day. Whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and work it into your new schedule.

4. Embrace where you’re at

Adjusting to life after college is just that — an adjustment. Give yourself grace as you navigate this new territory. The post-graduation slump won’t last forever, but it’s okay if you embrace the slump for a little while as you come to terms with your new reality. Embrace where you’re at and find things to love about your life right here and now. Maybe your job isn’t all you thought it could be, but what are some things you’re doing right now that you love? Maybe you’re missing your best friend who moved back home; how can you keep in touch and plan to see each other again now that you’re no longer roommates? Figure out the good things you still have in life, even if those things no longer revolve around school.

5. Remain hopeful for the future

This may seem contradictory to the last point, but you can embrace where you’re at and remain hopeful for your future. Life post-graduation is all about taking baby steps to get to where you want to be.

That could be working diligently at your new job so that one day you earn that promotion you’ve been dreaming of. It could be pushing yourself outside your comfort zone now for the rewards that it’ll reap down the road. You could simply be hopeful that your plans with a new acquaintance this weekend will be the start of a new life-long friendship. The post-graduation slump won’t last forever, so find ways to lift your spirits now and in the future.

No, college doesn’t prepare you for the slump

But you can overcome it and build a life for yourself after college that is everything you hoped it would be.

Don’t let the changes coming your way after graduation make you forget that you accomplished something amazing. You graduated. And you still have lots of years left to establish yourself in your career, make new friends, build relationships, and be the best version of yourself you can be.

Previously published in the Post Grad Survival Guide

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