Now What? A Graduating Senior Reflects on Finishing College

by Savannah Lawrence

It’s a Tuesday night and I’m relaxing in my apartment—face mask on, hair tied up in a bun—while writing in my journal. Suddenly, anxiety about the future hits me. I am a graduating senior, and my commencement from Azusa Pacific University is in less than 70 days. Where did the time go? Why does it feel like I just recently moved into my freshman dorm? (Adams Hall forever!) Wasn’t Welcome Weekend only a few months ago?

In processing my thoughts and feelings about that impending day (aka graduation), I realized that I have been in this uncharted territory for a while. At the start of the school year, I noticed a steady increase in the number of times I was asked the question that so many of us dread: “What are you doing after college?” At first, the well-meaning queries didn’t faze me, but something has changed. When I picture life after college, I have a hard time truly visualizing what I will do. All I can think is, “Now what?”

If you’re having similar feelings, here are some important things to think about as graduation gets closer.

It’s Not the Finish Line—It’s Only the Beginning

Looking for jobs or different career options in your field of interest can feel intimidating, but remember that choosing one job doesn’t mean you’ll be locked in for the rest of your life. While continuing on to graduate school is not in my plans, for others the next steps are pretty clear, like a master’s degree program. Whether it’s a job or the next stage of your education, step confidently into the unknown—I believe that’s where the adventure begins.

Finding a New Normal

I’ve learned from friends who have graduated before me that one challenge of leaving college is the lack of structure. After years and years of schooling, the routine of going to class, going to work, and hanging out with friends is one we’ve known most of our lives. It’s normal to feel nervous about leaving this behind. Post-graduation is a time to find your new normal and establish practices that serve you best.

After-College Living Arrangements

Deciding where to live after college can be fraught with tension. For those planning to live with roommates or on your own, take time to plan out all the expenses. Do your research on how much it will take to sign a lease, pay rent, and maintain utilities. And, let’s be clear—moving home is not a shameful thing. If you decide to go that route, you’ll save money by living with your family or loved ones. I am grateful for the ability to go home after college and realize that this, too, is just another transition. That is the beauty of starting a new chapter in life.

Attacking Those Student Loans

College can be a big investment, but hopefully you found the experience to be priceless. For many, like me, taking out student loans was necessary. That means I have to plan how I’m going to pay them back. Rather than pretending like they don’t exist, get familiar with the terms of your loans and start chipping away sooner rather than later. (Your future self will thank you.)

Looking back on your time in college—every paper written, every midterm taken, every book read, every class completed—you’ll see just how far you’ve come and how ready you are for the next thing. Class of 2019, and future graduating classes, if you’re reading this, you’re almost there.