Planning for Life After the Graduation Cap Toss

People like certainty. Unfortunately, many graduating seniors are faced with the sting of uncertainty as their final semesters are ending. Having to pick between joining the workforce or going to graduate school is a challenge almost all of us graduating are currently facing. The pressure to make a decision before we toss our graduation caps up places a heavy weight on our shoulders. Rather than feeling anxious about what comes after graduation, here is a game plan I made up and followed to map out life after graduation.

  1. 1. Make a list of goals you have.

    The only way to squash any feelings of uncertainty is by sitting down alone and assessing your goals. Some things to consider are educational goals, desired living/working/studying location, finances, and budgeting. Maybe you want to get a higher education or technical degree. Maybe you just want to join the workforce. Maybe you want to experience living in a different city. Whatever the situation may be, you should make a list of every goal you want to meet.

  2. 2. Work on a plan.

    Next, you’re going to go through the list of goals you just made. Make a rough timeline for everything. Something practical might look like going into graduate studies as soon as you graduate. Other timelines could include working for a few years to save for traveling or joining the military. Once you can visualize your plan, you can start working on reaching your goals.

  3. 3. Make an appointment at your local career center.

    Some people might already know exactly what their next step is to get to their first goal. More commonly, people don’t have a clue about what to do next. Career centers offer many resources to help you figure out your next steps, whether it be by helping your job search efforts or looking for funding options to attend a post-graduate program. When you have your appointment, keep that plan you worked on in mind. Mention it to your counselor—more often than not, they’ll share advice they have about your plans and goals. Even if their advice doesn’t help, it might help give you other options.

  4. 4. Keep applying.

    Rejections are extremely common everywhere you look. Graduate school is notoriously difficult to get into and expensive, too. Finding an entry-level job with the benefits and salary you need is just as tricky, with some applicants not finding a job that matches their degree for months or years after graduating. The most important thing to recognize is that every rejection offers a whole new set of advice on perfecting your next application. It feels awful to receive a rejection, but it makes the acceptances all the more worthwhile. So long as you keep your head up, look at rejections constructively, and continue to work with your counselor at the career center, acceptances will come to you.

Finally, keep your head up and enjoy what you have right now. As a person who struggles with anxiety, I know what it is like to feel terrified about the uncertain future. What I learned through my struggles is that anxiety is either going to inhibit you or it is going to motivate you to move forward. Knowing and having a visual representation of what you want in life will help make your future all the more concrete, so no matter what, keep your head up and keep positive. Opportunities will come to those who keep an eye out for them.