You’re Graduating: Now What?

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Graduation is the inevitable end to your college career. You’ve studied, cried over your morning Starbucks, had breakups, made friends and maybe become someone entirely new than when you started. It can be hard to let go of college life and envision what lies ahead. The job hunt may be feeling hopeless or you may be ready to get the hell out of your tiny apartment and show the world what you’re made of. 

Either way, times of transition can be difficult and it’s important to be informed about the changes that lie ahead. According to Healthline, loneliness can increase after college. Instead of letting the existential dread of post-grad life consume you, VALLEY is here to offer some advice for this year’s soon-to-be alumni. 

Establish Goals 

Some people leave college with a fancy corporate job, a 401k and amazing benefits. Others are heading home to endure another year or two with their parents in a childhood bedroom or suffering through an unpaid internship. Either way, establishing personal and professional goals is imperative to hold yourself accountable in this new phase of life.

Start small by thinking about where you want to be in the next six months to a year. Maybe you want to secure a job, move somewhere new, buy a car or pay off your credit card balance. Possibly you’re not in the place to do any of that and you’re focused on making new friends, establishing a workout routine or traveling as much as possible. Align your goals with what will propel you forward in the direction you want to go. Forget about the invisible clock that you think everyone else wants you to be following and define your own terms. 

Create New Habits

Starting fresh after college doesn’t have to be a huge mountain to climb. Amid the difficulty, find time to create new habits that you want to carry into your adult life. Starting small is essential in building sustainable routines. Don’t try to go all-in right away. Instead, try habit stacking or anchoring — a method created by BJ Fogg, author of “Tiny Habits.” It works by tying together actions you already perform every day like drinking coffee or taking a shower before bed.

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James Clear repurposes the theory in his book “Atomic Habits” in which he gives examples of how you can implement habit stacking in your daily routine.

The habit stacking formula is:

After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

For example:
After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.
After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.
After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.
After I get into bed at night, I will give my partner a kiss.
After I put on my running shoes, I will text a friend or family member where I am running and how long it will take. 

Practice Self-Care
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Being a college student comes with a lot of benefits like taking advantage of campus resources. Mental health maintenance can be challenging to master on your own. Make sure you have people around you who can offer a listening ear when you’re overwhelmed and consider utilizing an online therapy service like BetterHelp or Cerebral. There is nothing wrong with seeking help from a therapist to talk through the new changes you’re experiencing.

Keep your body healthy by eating well, keeping yourself hydrated and staying active. Try out a new hobby or two that keeps you creative or just gives you something to do in your spare time. Whatever adventure you’re embarking on after graduation, take the time to practice self-care. 

Keep in Touch 

Chances are that over the last four years you’ve come to discover who your real friends are. The end of college doesn’t have to mean the end of your friendships. These people are worth keeping in touch with despite the distance you may have between you now. It’s easier than ever to see each other virtually through Zoom and FaceTime. Work to make the time for the people you love. They’re going through the same transition and there is power, and comfort, in numbers. If you can, schedule times to visit each other in person. The time you spend apart will make the time you have together even more valuable. 

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Reframe Your New Life

As much as you may want to live in the glory of your college years forever, grasping onto what used to be will hold you back from embracing the excitement that lies ahead. It’s okay to grieve the loss of your old life, but remember to acknowledge all the possibilities that you have open to you now. You’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to where you are today, and you should be proud of that. It’s okay not to have everything figured out. In fact, most people don’t.

You’re going to be great. 


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