What College Seniors Are Really Thinking as Graduation Approaches

Seniors might be graduating, but that doesn't mean they're feeling ready to tackle the real world just yet. Mighty Mommy chatted with upcoming college grads to learn what's on their minds and help you, their parent, prepare them for life after college.

Cheryl Butler
8-minute read
Episode #529
"Hi Mom" college graduation cap

What was the most difficult part of attending college?

“Honestly? Picking a major. [Almost a third of first-time college students choose a major and then change it at least once within three years.] I was an AP student in high school and a three-sport athlete, so I set the bar high for myself in all areas of my life. As I was doing that throughout high school, I wasn’t really focused on what I wanted to study after I graduated. College, for me, was a given, and playing college baseball was also very important, but I honestly had no idea what my career emphasis would be. I focused on my favorite subjects, science and math, and my interests, physical fitness. I honed in on a biology major, but now, four years later, I’m not 100% sure I’ve made the right decision and am wondering whether graduate school is in the cards.”

How Parents Can Help

As the parent of eight kids, and two who really struggled to decide whether or not they wanted to attend college, I read a lot of books on how to encourage your kid’s career path. One that I found particularly helpful was Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers and Change Makers by Margot Bisnow.

Bisnow's advice was “Start by listening to your kids. Figure out what they love. If you encourage them to pursue it with all they’ve got, they will. They’ll work hard at it because they love it. They’ll become good at it because they’re working hard at it. And they’ll develop confidence because they’re becoming good at something they love, that they chose.”

What are you most afraid of now that you’re graduating?

I’m definitely looking forward to leaving the college scene and starting a career. On that same note, it’s really intimidating to think about stepping away from this campus cocoon we’ve been a part of for the past four years. After the investment my family and I made in my college career, I want to offer value to my future employer and really make a difference in life. I don’t want to let my family or myself down. Mostly, I don’t want to be without a good job for very long.”

It’s really intimidating to think about stepping away from this campus cocoon we’ve been a part of for the past four years.

How Parents Can Help

The majority of college grads who weighed in on this topic agreed that they hope their families will allow them time to explore a variety of job opportunities and not pressure them to accept a job (in or out of their chosen field) just for the sake of employment. Instead, guide them to investigate options carefully so they find the best fit.

This ties in with my last tip about helping your child find his career path. My oldest daughter started out in the field of education and took a turn towards the business world. She is now thriving in the world of retail. She still talks about how grateful she is that her father and I never discouraged her change in plans, because that was what helped her gather the courage to make such a big career shift.

What do you want your parents to know as you prepare to enter the workforce?

“I want them to know that I’ve tried very hard to achieve high standards in the classroom and on the field. I hope they are proud, and that they understand there were many struggles along the way. I appreciate their sacrifices and all the cheerleading they did from the sidelines. I hope they know I’ll do everything I can to be successful after college, but I'm really nervous and need their support.”

I hope [my parents] know I’ll do everything I can to be successful after college, but I'm really nervous and need their support.

How Parents Can Help

In a CNBC.com article about the "quarter-life crisis" today's graduates face, Satya Byock, a psychotherapist who primarily treats millennials, said that graduates can expect to navigate a lot of post-college confusion.

"College is explicitly about scholarships, academia, left-brain learning, and in large [part] it has nothing to do with life preparation, mental health, physical health, nutrition, or basic life skills," said Byock. In her opinion, "The notion that people wouldn't struggle after college is kind of silly."

With that in mind, one graduate said, “Encourage us! We need to work on self-confidence as we transition from our college routines to a real-life routine. We need to hear that we’re loved, and that you think we can handle a new career path. Most of all, be patient with us if we haven’t found a job yet."

Approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree. It takes the average college graduate three to six months to secure employment after graduation.

"If we have to choose a job as a stepping stone in order to gain experience or to acquire some type of income, please don’t criticize us," one graduate I interviewed said. "We need you now more than ever!”

See Also: 5 Ways to Be More Mindful of Negative Language


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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