5 Tips for the Anxious Graduate

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It is great to be graduating and getting your degree, but for some students, it can also be a time of anxiety. Many well-meaning friends and relatives will be asking: “What’s your plan?” as though you are expected to have it all figured out as soon as you get your diploma. If you do have it all figured out, good for you, but most people are still pondering their future on graduation day.

Ways to cope with your graduation anxiety

Below are some ideas for both managing those annoying questions from others about what you are doing after you graduate and for managing your own anxiety about your post-graduation life.

Have a planned response

Come up with a clever pat answer to disarm the intrusive “What are you doing after graduation?” question. Some possible answers are:
Taking a nap.

  • Taking a gap year.
  • I have a job lined up (even if it’s Starbucks–then quickly change the subject).
  • If you are a creative–I’m working on my portfolio.
  • To inject some humor, try something like: Stay tuned. It’s a secret!
  • Actually, I’m still planning the next 50 years of my life. Can I get back to you in a minute?
  • I haven’t decided, What do YOU think I should do?

Think of how far you’ve come

It can be scary to think about your whole future ahead of you. Instead, think about how far you have come. How much more do you know now compared to when you were a freshman both socially and academically?

Remember you’re not alone

Others may appear confident about their futures after graduation but the truth is everyone is worried about the transition from college to work. People’s, public face or persona (social mask) does not necessarily reflect their inner feelings. It may be helpful to confide in trusted friends about your qualms. They can probably relate.

Have faith in your accomplishments

You have earned your degree. Try to trust that you have been given what you need to know to start in your chosen field. Employers don’t expect perfection from their 21-year-old new hires (and if they do–you might be in a toxic workplace). Everyone had to start someplace and your boss was an entry-level employee at some point.

Wade through self-doubt

Imposter syndrome is real. Watch out for this unwarranted self-doubt. Imposter syndrome can affect your job search. It can keep you from applying for the job you deserve. Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of doubt in your talents and accomplishments. It’s a fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It can be easy to fall into thinking this way when you haven’t had much job experience. Once you land that great new job, imposter syndrome might make you feel that you somehow tricked your new employer into hiring you because you’re not actually able to do the job. It’s important to remember that your bosses are smart people who saw you as capable enough to do the job, so trust them. Sometimes, it can help to pick a mantra or affirmation. You can repeat in your head when those imposter/fraud thoughts appear. Something like “I have a lot to contribute,” or “I can do this.”

The media portrays graduating from college as a time for unbridled joy and feelings of success. But, of course, it is not that simple. Graduation is an exciting time but for most people, it is also a time of uncertainty and uneasiness. You are not alone in these complicated feelings. So stand tall, square your shoulders, and don’t forget to breathe. That diploma is yours