Congratulations! You graduated from college! All the studying, cramming, stressing, writing and test taking is over! You’ve worn the cap and gown, and you listened to the famous commencement speaker.
You’ve taken the pictures with family and friends, and you have that piece of paper that should be made of solid gold since it cost that much to hold in your hands.
Which leaves the “Now what?” question lingering in the air (as well as every conversation you have with family and friends). As if that question has not repeated in your mind over and over and over again…
But wait, what if you inverted those two words and asked, “What now?” instead? Instead of fearfully questioning the future, what if you chose to embrace the mystery of the unknown?
Tips for Transitioning from College
Let me give you some Graduating From College 101 tips to help you.
I’m not talking about interview skills or networking ideas. I’m talking about practical ideas on how to grow in relationship with God and others while leaving the safety net of college.
So break out the highlighter one more time for some honest ways to embrace the future God has for you!
Find a Church and Get Involved
If you were lucky enough to have a solid Campus Ministry at your university or campus, you were blessed to have a campus ministry staff and priest preach directly to what you were going through during some of the most formative adult years of your life. Well guess, what? Those days are over.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you now have to find a parish community that is not catering to your age demographic. Finding a parish that has a young adult community can be difficult but not impossible. I know in my post college years, I started a young adult community since we didn’t have one at my parish. That group rooted me in Christ and helped me discover a deep hunger for truth.
In order to keep growing in your faith, you need to root yourself somewhere, not wander aimlessly. If you haven’t read John 15 in a while, I want to encourage you to open your Bible and reflect on the need to be attached to the Vine. I see so many young adults jumping from parish to parish searching, but not rooting themselves anywhere.
How do you expect to bear fruit when you are not attached to a vine?
Most young adults shop for a parish till they find one that feeds them spiritually.
One of our devotions writers found such a parish. When she did, she scheduled a meeting with her pastor to see where her gifts could be used and what ministries the parish had to offer. I would encourage you to do the same. This requires that you know the spiritual gifts you have in the first place, which leads to my next tip…
Assess Your Spiritual Gifts
I know what you’re thinking and it is the humble thing to say. You either don’t know what your spiritual gifts are or you don’t think I have any spiritual gifts?
Well, there is no room for false humility in this blog post, sisters. Sure, for the past few years you have been so hyper-focused on studying, internships, work, and some sort of social life, you have had little time to think about your faith life. Now, you have time to really uncover your spiritual gifts and see how they can be used to glorify God.
Nell O’Leary did a fabulous Spiritual Gifts Workshop that is worth your time to watch. Once you have completed the workshop, you will be able to have an honest conversation with your pastor or spiritual director about various ministries, non-profits, or other service organizations you can get involved in.
Who knows, God might be calling you to start something new at your parish, with a group of women, or in your city or state. But there is one thing for certain, it starts with assessing your spiritual gifts.
Find Your Tribe
One of the hardest parts of leaving a university, especially if you went away for school, is the sudden loss of friends. In college, your friends become your family and once everyone moves away to find work or return home, you feel a little lost. Many of the relationships you had in college will sink similarly to the friendships you once had in high school. Some will float to the surface and be there like a lifesaver throughout your adult life.
Regardless if they sink or float, don’t sit around and drown in loneliness. Get out there and find your tribe!
Host a Blessed Brunch at your apartment or home or attend one in your city.
Get involved in a young adult ministry in your diocese or parish.
Host weekly Wednesday night dinners where everyone brings a pot luck item and you have non-surface conversations where you talk about what is actually going on your life and where everyone is in their relationship with God.
Get out of the house, call people to get coffee, go to the gym, go to a happy hour after work with co-workers, serve in a ministry at your parish, or go to daily Mass and pray for the tribe God has for you.
Put effort into forming new relationships and work to keep them alive.
Don’t Believe the Lies and Don’t Give into Fear
I hate to break it to you, but it is hard to find work once you get out of college. That dream job does not come easily and you might continue to work at Starbucks or Red Robin longer than you planned. You might even move back home with your parents. But this doesn’t mean you are less than anyone else who got that full time job with benefits the second they moved the tassel.
There are a lot of lies we hear when things are not going according to our plans. There are also a lot fears that rise up when bills and student loans pile up.
In one of my favorite books, Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacque Philip. He breaks fear down into two main categories: fear of God’s provision or fear of suffering. Most of the lies we hear come from one of these two beliefs. Let me give you an example.
You hear in your minds that you will never meet the man of your dreams. Guess what? You fear God’s provision and timing as well as suffering loneliness.
You are going through serious financial problems and can barely make rent. You are giving into the lie that God won’t provide for you. The thing is that He often provides when we put our pride aside and ask for help and lean into the community He has given us. Sometimes what we need isn’t just money, we need trust in the Lord and all He provides us.
Leaving the comfort of college and the safety student loans and grant money provide is not easy, and neither is trusting God when we haven’t really given that surrender thing a try before.
Find a Spiritual Mentor or Director
One of the greatest gifts in my young adult life was my spiritual director and mentor. Having someone to help discern major and minor decisions, moments of desolation and consolation, and someone who helped me grow in my faith walk helped me more than I can put to words. My spiritual director helped me strive for balance while finding my worth and value not in my career or job title, but in being God’s beloved daughter.
I can’t imagine where I would be if it weren’t for my family, church community, and spiritual director. I would never have taken the leap of faith into youth ministry and that leap opened me to a life I could never have ever imagined. So do yourself a favor and find someone who has a deep relationship with God and a spirituality that you desire and seek their mentorship.
Finally, celebrate! You did it and what you just completed deserves praise. You will find work, you will find community, and you will find your vocation all in God’s time. Have some fun and celebrate what God has done and will do in your life. He is celebrating you and is proud of your accomplishments.