Providing Support After Graduation

They Graduated—Now What?

Congratulations to both your student and you! Graduating from college is a major accomplishment for the entire family–and especially meaningful for students who are the first in their family to graduate. However, what comes next can be daunting for students and parents, too.
Now that your student has graduated, there may be some uncertainty as to what their future holds. Some students are quick to find a job, some know they are going to graduate school, and some have other plans for their future. But what if your student is having a hard time finding a job, is not accepted to graduate school, or just doesn’t really know what they want to do? It happens. It may be frustrating, but these are all normal experiences. After college, the real world sets in and your student must become a responsible adult. Finding their way through this transition can sometimes be tricky. Before they graduate, encourage them to seek out available campus resources, like the career development center or pre-professional advising.

What Do All These Changes Mean?

During this transition period, your student may experience anxiety, excitement, or any number of other emotions. As a caregiver, you may have varied emotions as well. One of the best things parents can do is support their children but know when to give them space and let them take charge. Some students may have a clear direction and may not need too much support. Others may have a general idea of what they want to do but need to decide on a more specific plan of action. And some students do not know what they are doing to do. The career services at their institution can provide help, and you can be available to talk things over or discuss plans with your student if they want to bounce their ideas off of you or ask for your advice. Let them know that you’ll support them no matter what, whether it’s a listening ear or the opportunity to check in. You may not be able to do everything for your student, but knowing they have your support can go a long way!

If Your Student Is Moving Back Home

According to a recent study, more 18-34 year olds are living with their parents than ever before. If this is the plan for you and your college graduate, start out by discussing what each of you expects and perhaps setting some ground rules before your student moves back home. They are surely used to freedoms and being on their own, while you have gotten used to having your empty nest or having fewer people in your house. Now it is time to strike a balance.

  • Determine and define the rules of the house. This may include conducting a family meeting for all parties to establish expectations and have a say.
  • Clearly establish and communicate the rules to your college graduate.
  • Allow for an adjustment period.
  • Recognize that your student is an adult, and they may have changed a lot since leaving for college.
  • Recognize their independence and validate their feelings and thoughts.
  • Have a plan for a move-out date or goals to achieve that will keep your college graduate on track.

If your college graduate is living at home, encourage them to get out and try new things—meet new people, explore their hometown, volunteer, or get involved in a local organization. This can help them grow their network and find new opportunities.

When Your Student Gets a Job

If your college grad gets a full-time job after college, then they are like approximately 58% of other graduates in the United States, according to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Getting a full-time job can mean lots of changes. They will likely have a regular schedule to follow that may involve getting up early and may not be as flexible as their college schedule. Reiterate for them to pay attention to their workplace culture and learn the ins and outs in order to thrive in their job. Other tips for success in coping with the change to full-time employment include may be found here.

When Your Student Is Headed to Graduate School

Almost 18% of college graduates in 2017 decided to go to graduate school after college, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Your graduate student may be able to continue to take advantage of the resources of a college campus—the meal plans, facilities, and other student services.

Because graduate school can be stressful, it’s important to check in with your grad student and offer support. You may not know exactly how to help them, and that’s okay! But you likely know how to support your student—offering an ear to listen or even sending a care package (you’re never too old for a care package!). Help your college grad figure out what they need to be successful with the transition to graduate school.

When Your Student Is Doing Something Else

There are many other things someone can do post-graduation besides getting a job or going to graduate school. Some options your college grad might consider are traveling, joining the Peace Corps or other service organization, taking a gap year before professional school, or more. Your college grad may also find that they don’t yet have a full-time position after graduation and may need to work part-time while they search for full-time employment. Learn more about supporting your student here.

When to Know if Your Student Should Talk to a Professional

If you find that your college grad is having a hard time adjusting to life post-college, you can encourage them to talk to a mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist. A mental health professional can help identify new coping techniques and brainstorm ways to manage the changes. If your college grad has health insurance, their plan might cover mental health services. If not, there may be community resources available.