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Why It’s Normal To Struggle With Life After University

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We work so hard to get to the end of a degree and can’t wait to feel that sense of relief as we hand in our final assignment. But what about after that? Life may not be what we expected. Filled with uncertainty, a sense of loss, and many forms of adjustment, it can be a difficult time for the best of us, but that’s okay.

BOOM. You’ve graduated. What a relief. What an achievement. But then… what now? I was so focused on getting to the end of my degree that I barely thought about how I’d feel afterward. I was proud of the hard work I’d put in, but I felt slightly underwhelmed with it all coming to an end, especially with no graduation ceremony to mark the occasion.
Reality kicked in, and I kept asking myself: Do You Know What You’re Doing After University? I didn’t know what to do next and then the underwhelming feeling was met with a feeling of serious apprehension about the future.

I felt like I’d lost my purpose and wasn’t sure when I would regain it. During this time, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how to adjust. Bringing a sense of understanding to my situation helped me regain control and tackle how I was feeling.

Here are 6 things that have helped me understand why life after graduation might be a little difficult - I wished I had known that it is completely normal to feel the graduation blues. 

Adjusting To Moving Back Home

Some of us stay in our university towns, some move to a new city, but a lot of us face moving back home after finishing university. Back to our childhood bedrooms, cramming our personal belongings that have multiplied at least 3 times over the past few years, and adjusting to being around family again. While I’m lucky enough to get along with my family, I know for others it can be really difficult moving home. It’s easy to feel stuck, lonely, and frustrated, especially when there is friction. Losing your independence can be hard, especially when you don’t know when you’ll be able to get it back.

For me, once I accepted my current situation, started to count things to be grateful for while living at home (saving money for one!), and reminded myself that it won’t be forever, I started to feel a lot more positive.

Life Gets Busy

Moving back home can be even harder when you’re also adjusting to leaving university friends and may find that many of your home friends have also moved away. As life after university gets busier, and people start to get jobs and are on different schedules it can be really hard to see friends and spend quality time with them.

It can feel pretty lonely, but once I realised that it was completely normal to be in a situation like this, I stopped panicking and came to terms with the fact that it is just part of adjusting to adult life. Reminding myself that new friendships don’t stop after university was helpful, and it may just take some time to figure out how that looks for you.

September, Who?

I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t until I’d graduated that I realised how ingrained September was as a milestone in my life. It’s a bit of a comfort blanket, giving a sense of security and a reset.

You’re following a well-practiced script that tells you how to do well in essays etc. but suddenly this no longer applies. This can feel quite daunting, but I think most of us are in the same boat when it comes to life after university.

It takes time to adjust to September not signifying much anymore. I constantly have to remind myself of this as I catch myself feeling the pressure of September. Of course, it’s good to set goals for the future, but once you let go of the September milestone and the certainty that it gave you, it gives you more freedom to make your own schedule.

Rejection, Setbacks, and Moments Of Standstill

You’ll come to learn that rejection and disappointment are part of being a graduate.  Getting a job isn’t as easy as we’d like to believe: you’re completing endless applications like it’s a full-time job. There’s so much pressure, and the setbacks leave you questioning the value of all you’ve just achieved.

I’ve found that these feelings link to our desire to want everything to fall into place, to get the perfect job, to move out, to be ‘thriving’, and so on. When these things don’t happen the way we anticipated, it can make us feel like our lives are at a standstill.

A friend of mine coined this perfectly saying, ‘I feel stuck between chapters of my life’, and that’s exactly it. We want to move forward quicker than we are, and it can be quite frustrating. But sometimes we have to embrace moments of standstill and things not working out as planned. I would recommend speaking to anyone 5-10 years post-graduation, I’m sure they would tell you their path was not simple and linear. 

Falling Into Comparison Traps

Social media makes it easy to look at how others are doing and compare ourselves with their progress. Sometimes it seems like everyone around you is securing amazing jobs, moving out to exciting new cities, ultimately having more ‘wins’ than you are and it’s so easy to put pressure on yourself to do the same.

The key here is to remember that everyone’s life out of university is going to look different. There is no point in comparing yourself to others because some people will get off the mark quicker and some may not, and both are okay. Try to focus on your own goals for life after university. Ask yourself what’s the rush?

Society makes us graduates feel like we need to get it together and rush to get into careers. It’s okay if you take smaller steps or take longer than others. Trust that your own journey is right for you.  

Losing Your Student Status

I’m not talking about losing student discounts (although that is quite sad). I am talking about losing the ability to label ourselves as a ‘student’. Losing this title brings a lot of pressure and expectation to figure out what’s next. Being a student gives you the freedom to not worry about anything else because you’re already committed to doing a degree. After that, it’s a lot harder, and you feel like you need to rediscover your identity with a job title or a plan.

It can be difficult navigating How To Stay Positive After Graduation, but the reality is, it will take time to rediscover who you are out of university - that’s the fun part. You don’t need to have it all figured out straight away. It can be a new and exciting chapter that you can write. Give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved and remember to celebrate all the small wins along the way. Even though it can be hard at times, enjoy life after university as much as you can, and stop comparing yourself to someone’s Instagram feed.

Enjoy reading this? Why not try Don't Have A Grad Scheme? Don't Panic!

Georgia is currently working in public health at Wiltshire Council after finishing her MA in Public Policy and Public Management at the University of East Anglia in September 2021. She’s hoping to continue pursuing a career in the public sector.

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