Although most kids leave the nest after high school and live on their own during college, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to jump from campus life directly into adulthood the moment they graduate. Finding employment, acclimating to a new schedule, and cultivating new social spheres are just a few obstacles new college graduates often face, so it’s important to start preparing long before donning that cap and gown.
Embarking on a career long before nabbing a job
While new graduates today face a much healthier economy than those who graduated in 2009/2010, the job market is still competitive enough that sliding right into a choice position is rare. So what can students still in college do to get a leg up? Excellent grades and extracurricular activities are great, but employers aren’t interested in accomplishments beyond the actual degree—and even then, only because it meets the job’s basic requirements. Work experience related to a degree is much more valuable, so it’s important to take advantage of every work-study or internship opportunity possible, even unpaid positions.
You should also prepare your expectations to meet the reality of entry-level positions. Disappointment can be avoided if you accept your temporary place at the bottom of the totem pole and the job duties that some with it.
Managing the stress of new social situations
Throughout college, student life is organized around peer interaction, but once you enter the workforce, you might find it difficult to understand generational differences between you and older co-workers. Making friends in this respect may also prove challenging, as you’ll be in a different stage of life than co-workers who have families and little time to socialize outside of the office.
In addition to freshman orientations, senior “re-orientations” are an excellent resource provided by some schools. They offer outgoing students programs and courses that address the social, psychological, and emotional complications of embarking on adulthood. If your college doesn’t offer such programs, try reaching out to alumni, especially those with the same major or career concentration. Most colleges should be able to facilitate these connections, but social media searches can help as well.
Consider a “gap year”
Although this requires thinking way ahead, high school seniors should consider taking a “gap year” between graduation and the first year of college. Popular in Europe, gap years are a chance for you to work, travel, or explore eventual career paths before settling into your rigorous college studies. Aside from the direct benefit of new and exciting experiences, gap years can even help prepare you for your post-college life by increasing freshman year confidence, decreasing interest in party culture, and clarifying college goals. Many students aren’t sure about their career path—let alone their major—until later in college, but gap years can provide a jump-start on preparation.
We can help
At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we understand that the transition from student to fully self-sufficient adult isn’t easy, but if you’re finding it difficult to navigate these changes, it might be worth speaking with a mental health professional to see if there’s any way we can help. We offer a wide variety of inpatient and outpatient programs and services. For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, fill out the contact form on our website or give us a call today.