I couldn’t start this off without a little celebration right here in this corner of the internet. So, CONGRATULATIONS! This is me throwing confetti via words. Yellow streamers of joy, purple streamers of honor, red streamers of pride. You’ve made an incredible accomplishment. You have conquered a wild, roller coaster ride of a senior year. Be proud of yourself!
May 9th was my one year mark of being out of college. Technically, the semester ended a couple weeks prior and I never did walk that day (cheers to the class of quarantine), but I still see it as “the day.”
There are a lot of mixed emotions around graduating. The eagerness to be done with school. The excitement to walk into a completely new season. The overwhelm of saying goodbye to people, places, practices. The anxiety of finding a job. The confusion of adulting. On top of hearing a bunch of people both congratulate you in the now and advise you for the future.
Are you freaking out yet? Deep breath. You’re not alone.
Before I dive into my Top 5 Tips to Graduating Well, I want to share context for how my brain works and what approaching graduation looked like for me. One, I’m a big creative. I’ve never felt like myself in a school setting. Tie that with being future-minded, and you’ve got a gal who’s been ready to check-out since day one. I’m also a deep thinker and processor. I need structure and space to think through things or my brain is on fire, fighting the fear of the unknown.
In terms of my graduation experience, my last semester ended about a month and half earlier than it was supposed to. And funny enough, I unknowingly skipped my last day of school (it was my birthday week), so I honestly can’t remember what my final interactions were at college. Thanks to COVID, I had zero closure, no big summer trip to celebrate, and a lot of anxiety toward what my “plan” was going to be in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Welcome to adulthood! No pressure. ;)
Whether you are graduating this year or perhaps you did last year and you’re still looking for how to move forward, I decided to share what has helped me in the last year. Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Tips to Graduating Well.
1. Define what success looks like for you.
I am a big words of affirmation person, but I didn’t realize how much school really impacted my view of success. Not only was I used to receiving letter grades and percentages on assignments, as a Communication major I was also used to professor feedback on my presentations. That said, it was important for me to pause and write down what my values are when it comes to success.
Here are some questions that may help:
What’s my definition of success?
What are my top 5 values?
How do I plan to achieve success?
When I accomplish my goals, how will I celebrate?
As you reflect, ask yourself these questions:
Was I true to myself?
Did I do my best?
Did I achieve what I set out to do?
Did I exhaust everything that went well before I criticized my work?
2. Write down the gains & losses of graduating college.
Because I need structure, my entire world took a spin when the routine of school completely dissipated. Not only that, I realized there was a dent in my sense of identity as well. Like you, up until that point in life, I had always been a student. If I wasn’t in school anymore and I wasn’t a student, what was I? What was I supposed to do with my free time if I wasn’t studying? I had spent so much time meddling with the idea of being out of school that I underestimated what I would miss.
I highly recommend writing down the gains and losses of graduating. You don’t have to equivalate the pros and cons, and it is completely okay if one side is longer than the other.
I also realized that identifying some of my losses helped me see the areas I can build on. An example of this could be structure. You may not have a school schedule anymore, but you can make one for yourself… which is even better because it’s one that you actually like!
3. Set goals for the year ahead.
If you can, I highly recommend taking a couple months off of work before you jump into a new job. That’s one good thing that quarantine gave me. Despite not being fully at rest because there was so much uncertainty, the time off helped me decompress.
Even if you don’t have a gig lined up, setting up goals will help you stay on track. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a future-minded person. And I found it was really beneficial for me to still dream up my future, regardless of what my reality looked like in the moment.
How long do you want to take off before working again?
What’s your ideal month to have a job by?
How often do you want to have dinner with a friend?
When would you like to buy a new car?
What hobbies do you want to try?
There’s so much you can come up with! This season of being out of college has been some of the greatest months to fully focus on myself. It’s given me time to reflect and re-evaluate my spiritual, mental, and physical health.
4. Remain relational.
I am 100% a task-oriented human being. I can easily go into work mode and be a happy little Sawyer. But one thing I’m constantly reminded of is that life is all about people. Odds are, there will always be some kind of work to do. But I won’t always have time with my friends and family. Some lives are tragically short and time is so valuable.
When graduating, I think it’s easy to sink into life’s to-do list of “I need to find a job,” “I need to work on finding a place to live,” “I need to focus on saving money,” that we deprive our relationships of what they need. I encourage you to find a balance. There is a time to work and a time to play. Both are important.
5. Feel the feelings.
Real talk: I'm grieving the loss of school. There are days where I drive up to school, park the car, and cry in the parking lot. Do I want to go back? Heck to the no! But do I still have days that I miss it? Yes.
One of the most valuable things I’ve turned my attention to this past year is learning to identify and feel my feelings. I’m not a big feeler naturally. Emotions make me feel dramatic and like I’m losing a sense of control. But you know what? Suppressing them is a thousand times worse. I specifically remember talking to my counselor about anger one day and she told me that suppressed anger can lead to depression and/or high blood pressure. WELL, in that case, let’s learn how to scream shall we?
Seriously though, did you know that the intensity of an emotion only lasts a maximum of about 90 seconds? That’s not to say there won’t be multiple 90-second periods of feeling intense emotions, but a shift happens after that initial period.
You are not weak for crying. You are not psycho for needing to scream or hit your steering wheel. You are a human gifted with a magnificent ability to feel deeply. Just like the answer no is just as valuable as a yes, a solid cry is just as valuable as a good laugh.
What you don’t feel you don’t heal. 💕
Remember, each person's journey is different. How you feel about graduation and the way you choose to process it might be different from the rest of your class. As the saying goes… you do you, boo. And at the end of the day, I genuinely hope you find peace and celebration in this accomplishment. This is just the beginning!
Welcome to the post-grab club, everyone.
Fun things for your socials: