How to Handle Graduation Anxiety

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It happens in the blink of an eye—wide-eyed and naive freshman you has somehow evolved into a soon-to-be graduating senior. Graduation is a milestone in life; it is a time to celebrate all your accomplishments and hard work throughout your past years of schooling.

However, something seldom spoken about is the intense anxiety that can come with graduation. Think about it: you are taken from your comforting mundane routine of school and homework and thrown into adulthood. It’s daunting, that’s for sure! Even if you have a set post-graduation plan, it is normal to feel anxious about graduating from your safe haven of school.

This doesn’t mean you have to wallow in your anxiety, though. Taking active steps in settling worries and preparing for your next steps in life are effective ways to combat graduation anxiety. Keep reading to learn more about common post-grad worries and how to handle them in a healthy way! 

 

Common Worries: 

As a high school/college graduate, it’s common to feel like although you have been educated and prepared in some sense, you are simply not ready for the “real world”. There are jobs, taxes, applications, interviews, living situations, and so much more waiting to be tackled by you, who has maybe never had to deal with such a large amount of responsibilities before. Some common worries that many recent graduates tend to ruminate about are:

1. Fearing that you will not get hired. For people who wish to move out of their childhood home and be financially independent, a job/career is crucial. However, it can sometimes feel impossible to even get an interview with a potential employer, especially with so many other people applying after graduation–the same time as you. This may cause feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and overall stress.

2. Starting freshman year at a college or university. For recent high school graduates, starting freshman year at a college or university can feel extremely intimidating. You’ll be away from home, your family, and high school friends, as well as in a brand new environment that will take time to get used to. Not to mention, college classes will most likely feel more difficult than high school ones. There’s a lot to think about, and it can feel very overwhelming.

3. Changes in Relationships. Whether you are graduating high school and moving to college away from your childhood friends, graduating from college and leaving behind the friends you have made over the past few years, or moving away from your family at home, there are bound to be many changes in your relationships as you transition from school life to post-graduation life. These impending changes may cause feelings of loss, depression, and discomfort.

4. Application/Interview Anxiety. Applying for graduate programs or jobs can be exceptionally stressful, especially if you get anxious during interviews. The thought of having to “sell yourself” to handfuls of employers or academic professionals can feel disconcerting, and the possibility of receiving rejection letters can be enough to make you avoid applying altogether.

5. Overall Uncertainty. For many, graduation anxiety isn’t caused by one thing in particular, but a combination of all the little uncertainties in life. Nobody likes to feel unsure about where they are going and what they will be doing next, and fear of the unknown gets the best of a lot of us because it is difficult to find a concrete solution for. 

How To Handle These Anxieties: 

I hope I didn’t make you even more anxious with the previous list. Although reading through it may have felt like all your deepest worries and insecurities regarding graduation were presented in front of you, its purpose was to show you that these worries are more than normal. Just about every recent graduate feels this way about some, or all, of the items on the list above.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to combat these concerns and even turn them into productive measures that will help you become more prepared and certain for your future. Here’s how to do it!

1. Organize potential jobs and keep an open mind. With the thousands of job postings floating around the internet, staring at all the possibilities on your computer screen can be very overstimulating.

– First, narrow down the possibilities by filtering your search results. For example, search for keywords of the job you wish to apply for, and narrow the results by applying filters on location, pay range, job level (if you are just graduating, this will probably be “entry-level”), time commitment (part-time, full-time, or internship), etc. Remember, if you are uncomfortable with traveling or with the pandemic, make sure you confirm that your potential jobs are Remote!

– After you’ve found a few jobs, enter the job title, company, link to apply, and any other essential information into your spreadsheet. Now, you have an organized list of all the jobs you wish to apply for, which you can use when you choose to sit down and take the time to apply. Keep in mind that you will most likely need to submit a cover letter for each application. I’d recommend creating your own cover letter template, which you can then alter and adjust to personalize to each specific position as you apply.

– Make sure to double-check applications for spelling and grammar errors, as well as make sure each application is geared directly towards the specific company and job description—no employers like generic applications, and errors will instantly disqualify you.

– For you perfectionists, keep in mind that these tasks don’t have to all happen in one day. Find a good rhythm that works for you and take your time! Even if you try your best and stay organized, you must accept that you may not receive interviews for your jobs of choice. It is sadly just a part of the process, but don’t give up! Sometimes, the best positions for you come up after time and hard work.

– Additionally, keep an open mind to all job possibilities. If you don’t get any of your dream job interviews, don’t immediately rule out looking for an unpaid internship so you can gain experience and later get your dream job. Unpaid work is never ideal, but it can add so much experience and value to your resume. In the meantime or while doing an unpaid internship, you can always get a paid job working in retail or serving.

2. Prepare ahead of time and be confident. Freshman year of college is a difficult time for just about everyone. However, preparation can help ease worries tremendously.

– Make a packing list and make sure you have everything you need before moving in. Join Facebook groups for your college/university and get to know some other freshmen before the school year starts (who knows? You may even find your new best friend!) Reach out to professors and introduce yourself, and get textbooks early. Schedule facetime dates with your friends and family at home to reduce homesickness.Attend social events during the first week of college and keep an open mind to meeting new people. Map out your classes and make sure you know how to get around campus before your first day of classes.

– Most importantly, remember that if all other freshmen can do this, you can too!

3. Accept change and make future plans. Try to accept that relationships can change at any time, for any reason. This may sound scary, but in a way, it directs the cause of change away from the event of graduating and simply towards life itself. Because change is so inevitable, there is no use in attempting to prevent it. Holding onto relationships too tight can actually cause them to break, as well as prevent you from letting new relationships into your life.

– However, it is always a good idea to make an effort to maintain the healthy relationships you currently have and enjoy. As mentioned before, make plans with your friends and family, even if these plans are simply facetime dates or phone calls. Keeping in contact with the people you care about will keep the relationship alive, even when you aren’t physically close. And, if a few relationships do fizzle out over time, it is most likely not due to any hard feelings or animosity. Life happens, and you may even rekindle these relationships later on when the timing is right!

4. Prepare for interviews and remain calm. So, you finally landed an interview with a potential employer or graduate program. First of all, congratulations! You should feel very proud of the work you put into your application to get to this spot. Secondly, even though you may be feeling anxious about the interview, remember that the interviewer would not have invited you to speak with them if they didn’t think you were qualified.

– Interviews are all about selling yourself professionally and creating a connection with the interviewer. Prepare the best you can for the interview by writing down some key points and reviewing them before the interview. For example, job interviews are likely to ask a few basic questions (“Why do you want to work here? Tell me about your past work experience. What are your strengths and weaknesses?”), so prepare your answers for them ahead of time so you aren’t left pondering answers during the actual interview.

– Although coming off professional is important, the interviewer also wants to see your personality shine through. So, make sure you are also coming off as personable and friendly—make eye contact, smile, and even ask questions to the interviewer! A few more words of advice for any interview: dress professionally, be prompt, bring a printed copy of your resume/transcript with you if the meeting is in person, and thank them by email afterward.

5. Stay calm and practice self-care. Although you may feel like an anxious mess right now, I promise you that you will be on track toward the life that was meant for you in time. In the meantime, practice self-care and try to stay calm in lieu of uncertainty.

– Remember to practice deep breathing, meditate, and stay present. Practicing mindfulness can help you immensely in remaining in the present moment and refrain from worrying about the future and the unknown.

– There are also plenty of books on adulting that will help you transition into this new stage in your life with ease. Soon, you’ll be adulting with ease—it just takes time and practice! 

Graduation anxiety and uncertainty is not a great feeling. It can lead us to become extremely avoidant, depressed, and anxious about the future. However, think about all the other life events you were once uncertain about but turned out to be lovely experiences. I’m sure you felt uncertain on the first day of your first job, on your first day of school, before traveling to a new place, and/or even before entering a new friendship or relationship.

A lot of the time, uncertainty can lead to the most rewarding experiences. At this point, all you can do is prepare and organize the best you can and put your best foot forward. Welcome change and uncertainty with open arms, and see where life takes you! 

 

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