Graduating Angst? Fear not!

Graduates in caps and gowns
Image credit: Student Communications Services

Graduating this term? Feeling a bit anxious about it?

If you’re graduating this term you may be experiencing an unusual mix of feelings right now: you’re excited about being done with your degree and just ready for it to be finished. On top of that, there’s an uncertainty about what’s coming next. You’ve done your degree requirements and signed up for graduation. Now what?

Even if you have something planned – you have a job lined up or you’ve been accepted to grad school – this time may still feel unsettling, partially because of just how unfamiliar it is.

Figuring out what’s next

We’ve been going to school for most of our lives. For most of us, we haven’t had more than a summer long break from school for around 18 years. And now, as graduation is nearing, it feels like the life for which we’ve been educating ourselves for almost two decades is finally here and asking us, “What’s next?” There’s a certain freedom in that question, since your answer can be “Whatever I want.” But it can also be a paralyzing question if you’re immediate thought is “I have no idea.”

Finding the middle ground between those two responses, a place where you have ideas about what you want to do and have a plan about how to pursue them, will help make this next stage in life seem exciting and perhaps not as daunting. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you love working hard at?

Is there something you’ve found that, even though the work is time-consuming and challenging, you feel incredibly happy doing? That’s a feeling that shouldn’t be ignored.

Take time to reflect honestly about what defines your passion: what is it about a particular task, project, or outcome that you really enjoy? Explore the different angles of the process, and find out ways in which you can gain more experience.

Who is doing something that you could see yourself doing?

Ask that person how they got there. If you find yourself saying, “I wish I could do what X does” find out how X got started. Use the research skills you’ve been honing these past few years to find out what they did during or after university. Make use of the abundance of social networking tools and reach out. Read and comment on the person’s blog, follow and interact with the person on Twitter, and email the person directly with honest, specific questions.

Taking time to reflect, and connecting with resources.

Dedicating some time to reflect on these questions may not remove all of your graduating angst, but it will give you a more solid ground from which to start your post-undergraduate life. For more resources on planning your next steps, stop by Career Services or your faculty’s academic advising offices.

And remember – experiencing some anxiety as you approach graduation is normal; however, if you’re having trouble managing your anxiety, consider talking with counselor at Counselling Services.


Article written by Sarah Eden

2 Replies to “Graduating Angst? Fear not!”

  1. I personally found it really helpful to go see a private career counsellor who had the time and expertise to really get to know me and offered tailored advice as to how I could fit in the world of work. I tried going to UBC Career Services and they can be quite helpful with telling you how to look for a job or write your resume, but rather useless when you’re uncertain as to what field/type of career you want to pursue. Their Robson Square location does testing and career counselling, but it would have cost $400 to do the tests and would have come with merely one hour of actual discussion on results interpretation and future steps. Sauder students get excellent services at the BCC, but the rest of UBC students aren’t offered all that much on the career advising front (message-step it up a notch UBC please!).

    If you’re hesitating to go see a private career counsellor, I hope I might be encouraging by sharing that I found the $1100 I paid to see one well worth the price. Good luck UBC graduates! Amazing things ahead!

  2. I found this article and the resouces referenced very helpful. After pushing so hard for one goal – graduation – it is confusing to be at the end of the tunnel blinking in the bright light and not quite sure what to do next.

    Thanks to the author and the wellness center!

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