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Now What? Life After Graduation


You have just received a passing grade on the last assignment of the last course of your degree program. You’ve been living for this day for months –years even. You finally have the time to reconnect with your family and friends and tell everyone you know that you’ve accomplished your goal. How do you feel?

Many of you probably assume you will relieved, excited, even euphoric. However, accomplishing a long-term goal can lead to a wide range of emotions.

“People often experience mixed feelings at the end of a rigorous process,” explains Darren Adamson (Ph.D.), associate professor for NCU’s School of Marriage and Family Sciences and director of curriculum development for the MFT programs. “These feelings can range from exhilaration to disappointment. Some individuals may feel guilty and anxious while others are proud of their accomplishment and feel satisfaction.”

According to Adamson, many factors can lead to these different emotions, including:

  • Accomplishment of a long-term goal or task
  • Meeting your own and others’ expectations
  • Overcoming the different challenges within your goal or task
  • Changes in your formerly predictable schedule
  • Failing to acknowledge an uncertain future
  • Questioning the reality of your accomplishment

If you find yourself feeling differently than you expected post–graduation, the first thing to remind yourself of is that it’s completely normal! While your feelings may be confusing, they are actually quite predictable. Take advantage of the wisdom learned by those who have gone before you and try some of these tips to help you manage your emotions.

  1. Let your feelings be what they are and do not worry about them—just feel them.
  2. Celebrate your accomplishment with family, friends and other graduates. If possible, attend your commencement.
  3. Accept praise from others—it may feel unreal at first, but many of them saw how hard you worked and know what you sacrificed for this achievement.
  4. Compare where you were when you started your program and where you are now. Accept and own the changes.
  5. Be deliberate in your planning for a career change or advancement. It won’t happen without you!
  6. Access all the support resources available to you in your efforts to use your degree to your career advantage.

Most of all, remember that you’re not alone.

Just because you graduated, that doesn’t mean your connection with your school has to end. Get involved in NCU’s alumni association and network with others who have similar career interests. You may find that staying connected is the best reality check for remembering and celebrating everything you’ve accomplished.

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

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