The transition from high school to college is tough. First-time independence takes some students by surprise. But with the whirlwind of classes, parties, social events, and new responsibilities, the pace of life tends to keep the typical college student busy enough to adapt easily.
Many students think that once they’ve gotten used to college, they’re set for life. However, once the degree is earned and the dorms have been emptied, they face another transition, this one into what’s commonly known as “the real world.”
For some, this transition is actually harder than the original one from high school. Routines are changed, responsibilities become bigger, and focuses are redirected. All in all, it can be overwhelming and more than a little scary. Here is a list of things an upcoming graduate can expect after college and tips for how to survive the transition.
1.Schedules change – College students, while having a say in the classes they take and the work they do, are bound by the basic structure of the university. Class and exam schedules, as well as on-campus jobs and extracurricular meetings, dictate much of where a student needs to be and what they need to be doing at any given time. Free time is often spent studying. While a job might be necessary, it usually takes second place to academics. Yet in the real world, students find that their schedule changes dramatically. A full time job is likely to be more demanding than a class schedule in many ways. Those who enjoyed afternoon classes might have a difficult time adjusting to a day job where they have to be up early in the morning. On the flipside, those who were used to have a set schedule may have to get used to a job where the schedule changes constantly if they go that route.
HOW TO ADAPT: Keeping an appointment book can be helpful in the transition period. Something as simple as writing down a daily work schedule or small reminder lists of household and shopping duties will get your psyche around the changes in your everyday routine. The days of all night study sessions and weekend long frat parties are gone. Getting to bed and waking up at the same time every day will also help establish a sense of normalcy in the real world.
2.Priorities take a different order – After graduation, it’s no longer about getting good grades. It’s about taking the next step, which means different things to different people. Students moving on to graduate school will find that masters studies follow a stricter regime than undergrad studies. Those opting to find a career will soon realize that while missing a class was usually a matter of a lower grade or extra study time, missing a day of work means a dent in the paycheck and a dissatisfied boss. Graduates quickly realize that sleeping in falls lower on the priority list than paying the electric bill.
HOW TO ADAPT: If adulthood didn’t seem like a reality before graduation, it is now. Make a budget for yourself. Start looking for jobs and be willing to take anything until you hook the one you want. Set some goals. Maybe you want to make a lot of money, start a family, or be a rockstar. College allowed you to coast on top of these goals. Now it’s up to you to make them a reality.
3.Everyone else is moving on too – College students go through most of their university life with few thoughts of the future. Yet once the books are closed, most people move to a different area to settle in. A graduate will have to get used to the fact that the people that have surrounded them for the past few years are no longer going to be part of their everyday world. Feelings of loneliness are normal after graduation, so be prepared to say many goodbyes and move on to embrace new circles of friends.
HOW TO ADAPT: Make sure to get email addresses and phone numbers so you can keep in contact with college friends. Then be open to making new ones. New jobs are great places to meet new people. If you happen to stay in the area, keep in touch with others who opted not to leave. Though everyone will be busy working on their futures, a standing weekly lunch date can help you feel connected and ease the stress of discovering the real world.
4.Favorite college hangouts lose their flair – There’s always that special place that breeds familiarity, good times, and great memories. While these places represent an important time in a student’s life, the truth is that once graduation is over, those places lose the flair that made them special. Be prepared. The hot spots where you caroused on weekends won’t always have that same feel. At some point, a revisit will show you a whole new generation making use of your favorite haunt while you decide to find a new – and more mature – place to hang out.
HOW TO ADAPT: Look around for new places to enjoy. Rather than the bar scene, attempt a coffeehouse or quiet restaurant to meet up with friends. If you’re not ready to give up the nightlife, try some of the less college oriented bars to meet people who share your own more mature views on life. Another option is learning to enjoy your at-home alone time in front of the TV or curled up with a good book. With the bills you’ll be facing, this option is also the most wallet friendly.
5.Social activities have a different flavor – Drama club, Greek organizations, and the campus newspaper are all groups that allow college students to express themselves, meet new people, and explore new interests. Colleges make joining scial groups easy. But when it’s time to transition into the real world, extracurricular activities don’t make themselves as readily available. Being timid won’t help you if you’re truly craving social interaction, but you don’t need to be aggressive. If you’re willing to look, you’ll likely find things to spark your interest.
HOW TO ADAPT: Check the classifieds for things like social groups and volunteer activities. Local libraries are usually looking for people to help with things like book sales and reading programs. Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a popular program that pairs adult men and women with young kids in need of mentoring. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Take a chance, make a call, and attend a meeting. You’ll find your social niche before you know it.
The real world doesn’t have to be scary. While many things will change after graduation, past skills will help you make the transition. Embrace life as you did out of high school and everything will fall into place.