Graduation anxiety is OK

In mid-December, a new wave of UW Oshkosh graduates will embark on their adulthood journeys. Some consider this an exciting step toward bright futures, while others see it as stepping into a black abyss where everything is uncertain, except for student loan debt. Graduating college will be the most significant and life-changing event students have ever faced, which is both exciting and stressful. It marks the culmination of nearly two decades of time spent preparing for the next chapter of life, and for some, the next step after graduation can be a very uncertain one. What’s most important for students to keep in mind as they come closer to graduation is that they are not alone. There is an entire generation of people all facing the same challenges and the same uncertainties. Many students feel that if they don’t make the right move toward a solid career, their entire futures will be compromised. Entry level jobs are also exceedingly competitive, and qualified grads may find themselves floundering through fruitless job searches. A study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that only 27 percent of college graduates were employed in a field related to their major. This is a major source of anxiety for soon-to-be grads, who are hoping for futures not involving their parents’ basements and working the same part-time job they had throughout college. According to an article published in Vox Magazine, the pressure of finding a full-time job and living up to high expectations of parents and peers can seem daunting, especially to a generation that has been raised on competition and taught to value achievement. This, coupled with students’ hyper-attentiveness to others on social media, perpetuates feelings of inadequacy. According to the article, this generation is less equipped to overcome failure because it was raised to always be over-prepared for challenges. In the article, former president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Dan Jones said millennials aren’t used to not coming out on top and achieving the goals that they work towards. “This leads to college students feeling self-doubt at substantial levels,” the article stated. These feelings aren’t the consequence of being a connected and coddled generation. Studies have found that millennials face greater challenges upon graduation than previous graduates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the millennial generation will be the first generation in history expected to make lower salaries than their parents. The biggest stressor recent grads cite is about money. Many parents consider graduation as the time to pull out the financial safety net they placed for their children to fall back on. In addition to the average $28,400 of loan debt students graduate with, they must now account for their own living expenses. This can include rent, car payments, phone bills, insurance and other monthly costs that quickly add up. Luckily, college has taught students how to be frugal and find creative ways to save money. Whether it’s pawning off old textbooks or memorizing Main Street happy hour specials, there are endless ways to save money and cut down on monthly expenses, while still living relatively comfortably. As if being dirt poor and unemployed weren’t bad enough, suddenly college friends are gone because they had to move back home to save money or maybe managed to snag some kind of a job. Sure, they’re still a click away on Facebook, but the fact is many graduates will have to learn how to be happy on their own when friends are in short supply. This is another chance to get creative and find things to do in the community. With less social commitments and a more stable schedule, grads can focus on hobbies or interests they may not have had time for during school. Instead of wallowing in loneliness and loan payments, students can be proactive by reassessing their priorities and rediscovering activities they genuinely enjoy doing. Eventually new friends will be made, and although it’s discouraging when college friends spread in different directions, there will be plenty of new opportunities to meet new people and form friendships. Anxiety over graduation is completely normal. Even those with a job lined up that offers a 401k plan with full benefits are unsure of themselves. It’s important to take those feelings with a grain of salt and a sense of humor.