How to Mentally Prepare for Life After College

The years spent in college are a time of personal growth, invaluable education, and a plethora of new experiences. We live, we learn, we discover. The awesome part is that this process continues beyond these four years-- it's lifelong.
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You're coming close to wrapping up your college career (or perhaps you already have). But what's next?

The years spent in college are a time of personal growth, invaluable education and a plethora of new experiences. We live, we learn, we discover. The awesome part is that this process continues beyond these four years -- it's lifelong.

We've heard the cliché saying that says something about how a student's life begins after college graduation. And while there's a touch of truth, the greater truth is your life has already begun (literally -- it began when you were born). Graduation simply marks your next phase of growth.

So beyond polishing your resume and LinkedIn profile, reconnecting with your network and building those final college memories, how else can one prepare for graduation? Here are some tips on mentally preparing yourself for the college grande finale and all to come after.


On having it all figured out

There is a pressure to have your ducks in all a row by graduation. Try not to let this get to you (though it inevitably will at times). It's okay to have some ducks slightly askance.

When most students graduate from college, they're still in their early twenties. In other words, they haven't even lived a third of their lives yet. To have the details figured out (What jobs will I work throughout my career? When will I figure out my greater purpose? When will I "settle down?") is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Life is constantly in flux.

Consider an approach that embraces this likelihood of change, and observe that over which you have control and that over which you don't. Opportunities and setbacks alike present themselves in unexpected forms, and have a ripple-effect of change. Rather than place your energy towards acquiring a specific job, focus that energy on acquiring the skills and growing existing talents to steer you in the desired direction. While you have considerable control over what skills and talents you foster, you have less control over when opportunities arise and what types are available (unless you decide to create your own).

Each day presents new challenges, opportunities and insight into who we are as individuals. Our goals get adjusted accordingly -- what we dreamt for yesterday may well change tomorrow, we may need to pivot unexpected or take a road less traveled, and that's okay. It's all part of the growth process.

On time and giving yourself space

As members of the youth, we have a resource that our parents don't and many of the top leaders have run out of -- time.

Time is one of the most valuable resources we have as individuals.

Given our youth, we have an opportunity to try ideas, new industries and hustle with a lower opportunity cost (meaning less dire consequences) should our efforts "fail" (though failure is arguably in the eye of the beholder). At risk of sounding overly romantic about the benefits of taking risks, the lessons learned through each "failure" directly apply to the buildup of success. Success, contrary to popular belief, is seldom "overnight."

Success happens as a result of discipline, tenacity and the application of lessons learned -- often over a span of years. Each new nugget of knowledge, be it from an error or a small win, ladders up to the ultimate fruition. Give yourself room to learn, and consider taking chances -- be it to taking some time to travel, to start your own business, to explore a craft/industry that's piqued your curiosity. When considering what opportunities to pursue and dedicate your valuable time, try the five/ten year test. Ask yourself, 'if I don't give this a shot, will I regret it in five years? In ten?' And you'll have your answer.

On the power of visualization

The next phase of your life is 'round the bend. Even if you're not feeling so confident -- have faith that you'll find a way.

Believe in the power of visualization. Mentally sculpt the type of person you'd like to become (or jot down notes, sketch it out), and begin to define what success means to you. After all, what mass media and consumerism press upon us as the blingy image of success may not line up with what you envision -- and that's okay.

In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg shares how Olympian Michael Phelps' coach taught him to 'play the tape' each night before bed, and every morning upon rising. This 'tape' was in fact a mental visualization of every detail of the perfect race, ending in victory. Twice a day, Phelps visualized his pathway to success, from dive to finish, and with each real-life race his time got better. The practice of visualizing the beginning, how you will cope with setbacks and where you'd like to end up is a powerful tool.

The next phase of your life is beginning. As you find your force, hone your voice and solidify your vision, what tape will you play? Share with us in the comments so we can root for you!


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