How to Cope With College Post Graduation Stress
Graduating college is a huge accomplishment to be proud of. You just spent 4 (or 5+) years studying, writing papers, staying up all night, and eating too much top ramen in order to achieve this amazing milestone. You should be extremely proud. So what happens after all the congratulations, gifts, hugs and Instagram photos of your new degree? People rarely talk about the stress that comes with graduating college. I’m referring to post graduation stress.
For most people, the truth is that behind all the smiling faces and hashtagging cute captions like “hotter by one degree”, people are freaking out about the job market, student loan debt, moving back home, taking a job outside their major, the idea of graduate school, loss of the comfort bubble, weight gain, and so much more!
I wish I had someone to warn me about the stress I would face once I graduated. I automatically assumed things would work out exactly how I planned it, which spoiler: nothing turned out how I planned it.
In this article, I’m going to get real with you about the realities of graduating college and the stress that comes with it. It’s not meant to freak you out, but to prepare you for the future.
This is the most soul-crushing part. How many times have you asked someone what their major was in college just to find out that they are working in a field that has nothing to do with their major? According to statistics, only about 27% of people actually have jobs that are related to their major. 27%.
We all know that it’s hard enough to get a job without a bachelor’s degree, that’s why we go to college. What’s hard to accept is that many companies don’t care what you get your degree in, so long as you have one.
The reason this is soul crushing is that many of us don’t end up utilizing our talents or skills how we envisioned. Take me for example. My major was in Communications, Public Relations. I currently work as an Administrative Secretary for a University. This has nothing to do with Communications.
What is the reason behind so many people working in jobs unrelated to their field of work? The job market. Essentially, it’s hard to find the job you want.
Once you graduate from college, you may find that you are applying unsuccessfully for a job in your field of work. After a few months of that, desperation sets in and you just need to find a job, any job.
How should you prepare for this?
– First, have a professional resume ready. The key word here is professional. Trust me, I see a lot of resumes come across my desk and most of them look like some cute, Pinterest hipster resume. Those get easily skipped. Make a professional resume.
– Apply to jobs in and out of your field of work. If you end up having to take a job outside of your field of work in the meantime, that’s fine. But, keep applying to your ‘dream’ job until you get it!
– Practice your interview skills. If you are fortunate enough to land an interview at some place you really want to work you don’t want to blow the interview. Be prepared with a list of questions they may ask and prepare a thought out way to respond.
If you end up getting a job that’s not in your field of work, it’s the not end of the world. Just make sure you don’t settle and end up retiring from there 40 years later.
Student Loan Debt
The idea of student loans is probably in the back of your head. You’re most likely aware that your education wasn’t free and that you owe thousands of dollars to the government or other private loan companies.
You might be thinking that since you don’t get your student loan bill for 6 months after graduation, you have plenty of time.
In reality, student loan debt may be the biggest culprit of post graduation stress. Did you know that you’re being charged interest every single day?
Just because you get your loan in 6 months doesn’t mean you aren’t being charged. In fact, when I got my bill in the mail exactly 6 months after I graduated, I had already accumulated over $1,000 of interest.
I wish I would have been aware of that so I could start my payments sooner and saved money down the line. That’s why it’s crucial to start researching and putting together a game plan for how to tackle your loans.
Here are some important aspects to consider regarding your student loans:
Many financial advisors and school counselors will urge you to consolidate your loans. You’ll see lots of advertisements for companies who specialize in loan consolidation. Here’s my personal opinion on consolidation. Don’t. Do. It.
The only reason I was able to pay off my student loan debt in 2 years was because I focused on my individual loans and paid them off.
I started with the loans that had the highest interest rate and finished with loans that had the lowest. By consolidating your loan debt, your interest becomes one.
That means your monthly payments go to your interest first and if there is money left over, then it goes to the principle.
This is why it takes people 10 years to pay off loans.
By leaving your loans as individuals, like I did for my 7 loans, I was able to pay down one loan at a time while still making my monthly minimum payment.
Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized Loans
Did you know that if you have a subsidized loan, you don’t start paying interest until you get your bill? That makes subsidized loans great to have because of that aspect.
On the other hand, unsubsidized loans charge you interest from the moment you take it out. That means if you took your unsubsidized loan out freshman year, you have been charged interest every single day and will continue to be charged interest until you pay that loan off in full.
I’m sure you know what interest rates are so I won’t get into details on that here. What you may not know is that you have a different interest rate per loan you take out. My loan interest rates varied from 3.4% to over 10%.
Since I decided to not consolidate my loans and instead just pay off my individual loans (while still paying my monthly dues), I saved up to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first.
Once I had enough money to pay off that loan, I began my saving process all over again by paying off the loan with the next highest interest rate.
Each time I paid off a loan, my monthly payment decreased and so did the interest. This was better on my savings and helped me not have to spend so much on my monthly payment, which began at almost $500 a month.
If you cannot find a job within the 6 months or you choose to continue on with your education, you qualify for loan deferment. This means that you will not have to start paying on your loans until you either get a job or you’re done with school.
If you do qualify for a deferment, don’t put your student loans out of sight, out of mind. Save for them so that you can pay them off as soon as possible and live a debt free life.
I am very passionate about student loan debt and I have been asked by numerous people on my process and success of paying off my $30,000 in two years. Keep an eye out for more blog posts dedicated to loan repayment.
Moving Back Home
Did you move to another state or city to attend college? If you did, chances are you have to move back home after graduation. This can be great because it means more time with your family. This can also be tough.
If you are used to living on your own, being thrust back under your parent’s roof can be difficult and lead to post graduation stress.
Some parents require their kids to start paying rent if this happens or pitching in for things like groceries. Sometimes, the room you thought you were moving back to has been changed into a workout room or a TV room leaving you feeling out of place.
Sometimes it can be stressful in general to go from not having rules back to having to follow your parent’s rules.
How do you prepare for this? Have a serious conversation early on with your family to establish a comfortable way for you to live there as stress-free as possible.
Besides, living at home tends to save you tons of money and it allows for you to establish a mature relationship with your parents that you didn’t get to do in high school.
If moving back home isn’t an option, you have to live somewhere. If you are used to living in the dorms, then the idea of paying rent and having to suddenly cook all your food is foreign to you.
Either way, you’ll most likely end up getting an apartment or renting a room from someone. Rent is a huge topic right now because often times it’s cheaper to pay a mortgage than it is to pay rent. Depending on where you live, you might even have to pay a lot for just a little, which seriously sucks.
Additionally, if you can’t afford to live on your own, you’ll have to get roommates. While there are positives to living with roommates, it can be hard to feel like an adult when you cram three or four people into a tiny apartment.
Having roommates can also be tricky when it comes to the lease, gathering payments, and getting along. This is why I always suggest that people move back home if that’s an option. It’s a lot easier to have Mom and Dad as your roommates over three other girls/boys who are just as broke as you.
This one really shocked me when I graduated college. Once I got my full-time job, I fell into a routine that felt draining. I wasn’t very happy and I started to despise my journey.
The reason a routine can be stressful is that we just spent 4 years working toward our fun and exciting future. We don’t expect to graduate and then find ourselves in a routine of getting up at 6:30 am, commuting to work, working from 8-5, commuting home, making dinner, watching one hour of TV, going to bed, and then repeating for the rest of our lives.
I hated the routine and I think it stressed me out the most because I could feel how miserable I was.
So, how do you fix this?
Start a side hustle, get a hobby, chase your dreams in your spare time, something!
Once I started working on my writing career again, my routine got more exciting. A few years later I added in two side hustles that really mixed things up and now I’m never, ever bored.
If you start to feel like you are in a routine that is causing post graduation stress or unhappiness, evaluate what it is that brings you joy and figure out how to turn that into your ultimate hobby or a side business.
Ah, relationships. Marriage, children, two dogs, white picket fence. Sounds great except for the fact that most of us are single and hardly have enough money to take care of just ourselves.
While it may seem like all of your friends are getting married and having children, do your best to not let that stress you out. Trust me, I know it can be tough to see everyone starting their lives while you’re working a job you don’t love and making not enough money.
But, we don’t know everyone’s story. While someone may seem Instagram happy, that could all be a front.
I know people who got married right out of college who are already divorced. So, don’t let your relationship status stress you out. Timing is everything and it shouldn’t be rushed.
On the other hand, if you are in a relationship with someone you can’t see a future with, end it! I mean it. There is nothing worse than wasting time with the wrong person just to feel secure.
It may seem like you need to be in a relationship because you’re a college grad, but if it’s not right, don’t continue to hang onto the stress.
Realize It’s Just a Phase
It gets better. Trust me. Post graduation stress does go away and life smoothes out. Obviously, if you realize the trials you may face and plan for them, the better off you’ll be.
Just like you got through the phase of junior high and high school, this post graduation stress will come to an end. You won’t be prepared for everything, but at least you can plan for your future and recognize that this too shall pass.
If I could give you only one piece of advice it’s to pay off your student loans as soon as possible. Don’t buy into the concept that it’s ‘good debt’ because at the end of the day it’s debt and it’s costing you more and more each day.
I can’t describe to you how free I felt the day I paid off my debt. Being debt free from my student loans allowed for me to save enough money to start two businesses with extra money in the bank for a wedding and a downpayment on a house for the future, all within just four years.
I really wish you the best of luck on your post graduation journey and I hope that it is way less stressful for you than it was for me. Remember, you graduated college which is a huge success and something to be extremely proud of! You’ll make it through this small phase of post graduation stress in no time.