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Graduation Means Growing Anxiety About Life After College



A large crowd of college graduates with black suits on throw all of their black graduation hats in the air in the blue sky.
Source: Poseidon | Pixabay

College is hard and that’s a fact.

Everyone knows that tough times await once you enter the university life, but there’s a whole wide world waiting for you after graduation, and that can be just as terrifying.

Senior year, the reality of leaving undergrad begins to set in, and there’s nothing to slow down the progression into full-blown adulthood.

One way or another, everyone has to move on and learn what life is like outside of structured academia.

It might not have official certification from the American Psychological Association, but post-graduation depression is an increasingly prevalent problem for Millennials, and it’s catching the attention of many.

Senior students in college are facing a post-grad life riddled with unstable economic conditions, volatile job opportunities, and a “go big or go home” mentality that enforces advancement at a breakneck pace or bust.

But how much of these stressors are real concerns for graduates, and how many are just carry-over from what we’ve been taught to expect by the last generation?

A girl with dark hair with her back turned with a decorated black hat saying, "I feel like such a BA with these degrees", while standing outside in the crowd.
Source: Glen Belts | Flickr

Student Loan Debt

Okay, so this one is very real. So real, in fact, that the average accumulation of student debt between public and private universities lands around a whopping $30,000.

Student loan horror stories are incredibly prevalent in today’s society and have lead students to believe that they’re facing six years of debt following their graduation.

Realistically, and unfortunately, they’re actually staring down the barrel of 20 years to pay off a typical student loan balance.

Joyceline Fekete, a fourth year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, admits that impending payments have been weighing heavily on her mind since the start of this school year.

“I know I should be living in the present moment,” she says, “but it’s just in the back of my head, like, ‘You should be saving up, student loans are right around the corner.’”

The solution to student loan debt could be a good job that pays away the post-grad depression, but that is just another sore spot that scares the life out of most students leaving college.


The recent unemployment rate for college graduates hovers around 3.8%, which proportionally seems pretty encouraging. However, post-grad anxiety tends to center around underemployment, not unemployment.

Landing a job isn’t always the problem: it’s landing a good job, or a job that is relevant to one’s degree, and that can be the biggest source of stress.

This brings up another issue, not of unemployment, but of underemployment, where overqualified students are graduating college and being put to work in jobs that have no relevance to their studies.

There are two ways to look at this: it’s entirely possible that four years working toward a specific degree aren’t going to manifest what they were meant to, or that a college major does not limit post-grad possibilities.

The latter is more appealing. In fact, graduates are seeking jobs they’re passionate about and following creative pursuits over “safe” jobs now more than ever.

The unemployment scare tactics that used to push college students toward traditionally stable, high-paying jobs have weakened in favor of a penchant for enjoyable careers.

All in all, things for recent college graduates really seem to be looking up–on paper, at least.

But all the research and statistics in the world can’t change the way it feels to be standing on the edge of graduation. Knowing what we know about post-grad trends doesn’t make leaving college any less daunting.

Fear of the Unknown

A bunch of college graduates with black suits on and black hats on standing up and waiting for their degrees.
Source: KitAy | Flickr

“I’m really nervous, just because I don’t know what to expect,” said Joyceline Fekete.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance, Fekete is one of the students pursuing the artistic paths that can be the most frightening in terms of reliability.

“I can say ‘I want to do this,’ but I don’t know if it’s going to pan out, and I think it’s that unknown that really scares me. But I’m also excited because I want to see what I can do.”

The University of Southern California senior, Sabrina Chugh, has just these kinds of mixed feelings about her upcoming graduation in the spring.

“I’m really excited to start a new chapter of my life,” she says, “but I’m nervous because I still don’t know exactly what that chapter will entail.”

It’s the uncertainty that proves the biggest hurdle on the way to post-grad life, but even in that uncertainty, there’s still room for optimism and hope.

“I know a huge percentage of the world and people my age will never have the amazing opportunity to get a college education,” says Chugh, “so I’m more blessed than anything else, and know that I’ve been well equipped to take on whatever comes my way.”

Overall, students of this generation can take heart in the knowledge that although we may be the most afraid of post-grad life and with good reason, we are also likely the most prepared anyone has ever been to face the world that is growing and changing around us.

By: Jordan Curiel

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