Transition From the Student World to the Real World
Will Kiser, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Georgia in Athens, isn’t quite ready to graduate yet. An English major, he is now the variety editor for UGA’s student newspaper, the Red & Black. No stranger to the world of work, Kiser has put in time at various internships and taken on several free-lance writing assignments. Even so, he says he still gets a nervous knot in his stomach every time he thinks about leaving college. Kiser says he’s been in a vague state of denial about the reality of graduation, “but now that it’s coming up it’s nerve-wracking. Transition to working life. It’s a big step — it’s the real world.”
Kiser’s not alone in his pre-graduation angst. Fear and loathing is stalking seniors across UGA, just as it always runs rampant at campuses across the country as commencement looms near.
“I was really scared my whole senior year, especially in October when [I realized] that this time next year I’ll either be teaching my own classroom or unemployed — I knew that being unemployed wasn’t a choice,” says Beth Burton, a 1999 UGA graduate, echoing the feelings of many a four-year student.
Kiser’s biggest concern about graduation is leaving behind the comfort zone of college life.
“On the one hand, I’m excited about it because I’m ready to grow up and get out there, but on the other hand, I love being a student and I love Athens, friends, football, and hanging out downtown,” he says. “I think even if I had a job waiting for me I’d be nervous, because college is real comfortable.”
Many students deal with their dread by postponing graduation.
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of my friends are not graduating in four years,” says Kiser. One close friend is graduating this spring and doesn’t want to. “She wanted to put it off and she couldn’t put it off anymore,” he says.
Donna Crouch, the associate director of career services in the career planning and placement center at UGA, is in constant contact with students worried about making the transition from the student world to the adult world.
The source of this concern is the fear of the unknown, she says. “Usually what we hear from students is, ‘I’m not really sure what actual job I’m going to have upon graduation, I haven’t made all my contacts yet. I haven’t done anything in the job search to actually get something lined up right away.’ ”
Although Crouch admits that getting a job isn’t a cure-all for fear and loathing, she says it definitely helps, because so many other lifestyle factors depend on it.
“Your job determines where you’re going to live, how you’re going to live, and how well you’re going to live,” she says. “But even for persons who do have a job lined up, there’s still concerns and fears because it’s just different being out on your own.”
Crouch recommends students consider moving to an area where they already have some friends or family, “so you feel like you’re not alone in the world, everything is new and you’re having to start over all by yourself.”
Back to the Nest
Many recent college grads, like 22-year-old Burton, find themselves quite close to their families after graduation. They’re once again living with them.
Even though Burton already has the job of her dreams as a first-grade teacher, she says it doesn’t pay enough for her to live on her own. She moved back in with herimmediately after graduation to start saving some money, and she will probably stay with them for two or three more years.
“I didn’t come back home because I wanted to, but I knew it was a good decision,” says Burton.
Another recent UGA grad, 24-year-old Aurora Hauke, knew staying with her folks wasn’t an option. She moved home for two and a half months after graduation, quickly got a job and moved back out.
She’s opted to struggle on her own, even though she owes $40,000 in student loans.
“Sometimes making rent is hard,” she says. She’s moving in with her sister soon, because she can’t afford to live alone.
Yes, We Can Help
Seniors can conquer their fear of the real world by getting acquainted with it, according to Crouch. “The more experience students can get with part-time jobs,work, internships, and exposure to corporate culture in any form, the more comfortable they will be in the corporate environment,” she says. Your or two after graduation may not be your ultimate career destination. But try to make sure that every job you take contributes to your long-range goals.
Organizing your job search and mapping out awill alleviate a lot of your fear of the unknown.
The best people to talk to at first are career advisers. “Career advisers can help you discover career opportunities that you may not have know existed,” says Crouch.
Patricia Hoyt, program coordinator for the J.M. Tull School of Accounting in the Terry College of Business at UGA, says that even if you have put off the search until the last minute, there is still hope — you just need to get to work on finding a job.
Get busy and dig in. Start looking by taking advantage of the resources available such as JobTrak, your major’s department, faculty members,-writing seminars and mock interviews. “Even if it’s the day before graduation, something may come up,” Hoyt says.
Still, as Kiser knows, planning an effective job search is easier said than done. Actually, the first step he’s taking is to postpone graduation another semester. Kiser’s not slacking, though. He’s allowing himself the extra semester because he just became a full-time editor at the Red & Black.
“I’m here all day, every day, and I feel like it’s given me a lot of confidence, knowing that I’m an editor for a daily paper, and one of the best as far as college papers go,” he says. “It’s gotten rid of a lot of fear that I had.”
She is glad to be out of school and can barely remember why she was so frightened of “the real world” transition.