STARTING OUT
What To Expect When Leaving College

Leaving college is a plunge into the unknown. For the past four years, or more, most of your energy has been spent on passing college classes, most of your free time spent hanging out with college friends, and most of your decorating efforts gone to creating an awesome college dorm. In fact, most people spend so much time and effort just getting through college that they don’t really think about what comes after. Everything seems to be just working up to that big day, to walking in the ceremony and throwing your hate in the air…but then what? It’s a question many students don’t know how to answer at the end of their time in college. Not only are they going to face a lot of new experiences for the first time – sometimes experiences they didn’t even know were coming – but they are new people. After spending four years in college, you are most definitely a different person when you leave then you were when you got in. You are a new person in a new world. Because so much is new and unknown, and because the lifestyle they have know for four years is suddenly gone, after graduation many students find themselves feeling suddenly adrift.

This feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing quite where you belong, is normal. For most people, it is a trial period that helps them to know and understand themselves better, and helps them to feel out a place where they fit in the world. There’s no way to completely get rid of the uncertainty involved in making the transition from one part of your life to another. However, not having any idea at all what to expect can lead to negative emotions and trouble adjusting. Some young men and women, after leaving college, find themselves feeling lonely and depressed without all their college friends. Some people feel restless and have a lot of excess energy. Some people just feel lost, and don’t quite know where to start on their lives.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prepare yourself for leaving college. Again, nothing can completely eliminate the transition period – after all, you are really ending an entire part of your life and beginning another, and this takes time to get used to – but you can make the change more smoothly if you know what to expect.

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES - what to expect when leaving college

Of course it is impossible to predict every new situation you are going to encounter as you begin life on your own. Everyone’s experience is going to be different, and everyone will handle that experience in a unique. Something that you adjust to easily might be a problem for another ex-college student, and vice versa. However, there are certain general areas of life where almost everyone has to make some kind of adjustments. Not all the changes will be ones you will like - in the beginning at least, college life will probably seem a lot easier than living independently! However, by anticipating the larger changes, you can get through this period will less stress, less emotional upheaval, and a high level of confidence. By looking at the six areas below, knowing where you stand now, and knowing what you can expect to happen when you leave college, you can better prepare yourself for the transitions.

Friends - what to expect when leaving college
This process may be similar to what you went through after leaving high school to go to college, or it may not, depending on how much you’ve kept in touch with your hometown friends. However, even if you’ve had the experience before, it can be rough if you approach it the wrong way. The fact is that being at college makes it easy to maintain friendships there. You can see your friends at college nearly every day, in class and out, and there are plenty of different things you can do together. But when you no longer have college to share between you, especially if you move away from the area, some of your friendships will fade. There’s nothing wrong with this; people’s interests change as their lives change, and they just drift apart. If it feels like this is the natural way your relationship is heading, don’t beat yourself up trying to force it to stay intact. It’s much healthier to accept it, and concentrate on the friendships you do keep. Many of the friendships you have in college will stay together, and that’s a good thing. Maintaining some of those college friendships can really make you a lot more comfortable as you move into a new part of your life, because you will have people to talk to who are going through the same experience.

Family - what to expect when leaving college
Whether you end up moving back in with them or not, chances are you will have a much different relationship with your family, your parents in particular, when you get out of college. By all practical measures, you are now an adult. Even though your parents will always be your parents, you may find that your interactions with them are no longer those of an adult with a teenager, but of one adult to another. To some degree, you will probably become more distant with your parents; you might not come home as often or talk as much. This may seem sad, but it’s really a good thing. It means your parents have started to see you as a responsible adult, with your own life to lead, and have accepted the fact that you can take care of yourself. Some young people have difficult with this, and tend to cling to their families. Other people are so tired of relying on family for financial support that they “run away,” and intentionally distance themselves. You need to strike a balance. It is a good thing to keep in touch with family, and you shouldn’t resent the relationship you have shared in the past, but you also need to understand that they can’t manage your life anymore or live for you.

Work - what to expect when leaving college
This can be very difficult for students who leave college expecting to find their ideal career right away. There’s a good chance that your first several months or even your first years out of college will be spent working at an entry level job, working at a job you may not like, or working at a retail or food-service job while you look for the right career. This is normal. Very, very rarely does a young graduate just starting out have an ideal job fall into his or her lap. The fact is, you have to work your way up, and you just have to keep plugging away until something that really fits you comes along. Have reasonable expectations for beginning your professional life, and be willing to settle for a job that isn’t at the top of your list while you look for something better.

Free Time - what to expect when leaving college
A college campus has almost endless possibilities for things to do, all within walking distance. In addition, many college students go to college, work a part-time job, and are involved in extracurricular clubs, sports, or organizations. Because of this, grads have more free time and fewer activities readily available to fill it. They may have difficulty knowing what to do with their spare time, and feel bored or restless. Not having enough to do, especially in a period of your life that can already be a little rough, is a bad idea. Make sure you have something to occupy yourself! Keep in touch with some of your friends from college, and try to get together. Join a gym, or just get a bicycle or rollerblades and get outside around your neighborhood. Join a pick-up sports team, or a bowling league. Take art classes, or learn to cook. Have things to do at home, such as talking on online forums, reading, or even playing videogames. Finding yourself home alone with nothing to do can often make the transition period more difficult, so don’t let it happen to you.

Living Accommodations - what to expect when leaving college
After being used to the busy hustle and bustle of dorm life, living anywhere else can be a big change. Compared to a dorm, almost anywhere else is private, quiet, and much less crowded. That adjustment is more than enough without getting stuck living somewhere you don’t like because you didn’t plan ahead. Know where you want to live after college. Do you plan to move back home until you get a job? Would you like to get an apartment with friends? Rent a place by yourself? Cost and locations are obviously a factor, but remember that you have to consider yourself as well, and what kind of environment is most beneficial to you. Home usually offers comfort and security but can be stifling, and living alone can make your new place feel empty and lonely. Often, the best choice is to get an apartment with a roommate or roommates. This way you will have a good combination of company and privacy. However, the most important thing is to give it some thought beforehand so that you end up living with people you are compatible with in a comfortable environment.

Finance - what to expect when leaving college
This may be new for many recent grads, but once you’re on your own it becomes a large responsibility to balance your own checkbook. Even if you are used to paying bills, there are lots of payments that only begin after you graduate, such as student loan repayments and personal insurance when you are no longer covered under a parent’s policy. The first step is to be organized – keep your checkbook balanced, hang on to receipts, pay stubs, and bill records, and draw up a budget for yourself. The second step is to plan for the budget you actually have – not the budget you want. Don’t assume that you will get a salaried position straight out of college. It’s fine to just have a low-level or part-time job when you are first starting out, but plan your finances accordingly. This may mean opening a savings account, cutting back on your personal expenses, or even just watching your money more carefully, but whatever it takes, make sure that you are responsible and mature with your money. Running out of cash at college means you call your parents. Running out of cash while you live on your own can have considerably more serious consequences.

A NEW LIFE - what to expect when leaving college

Living on your own, while it can be difficult starting out, is a wonderful learning and growing experience that shapes us into the people we are as adults. Many things about it are unpredictable, and dealing with the unexpected is a large part of being a responsible adult. However, it doesn’t all have to be a surprise. By knowing what to expect as you leave college and being prepared accordingly, you can adjust more easily to independent living and remain happy, balanced, and ready for the future.