15 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You About Life After College

15 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You About Life After College
Women wearing graduation cap and gown, ascending staircase, rear view
Women wearing graduation cap and gown, ascending staircase, rear view

Filing into the university football stadium, swimming in a sea of graduation gowns and struggling to keep swinging tassels out of their eyes, soon-to-be graduates experience a rush of mix emotions: Excitement that the last round of final exams is officially over. Melancholy over the likelihood that this is the last time they will have all of their best friends in one place. Terror of the unknown realities of adult world that is literally lurking around the corner.

Together they listen intently to the commencement speaker standing behind the podium, searching for a sense of hope, guidance and inspiration. However, oftentimes their sweeping statements don't necessarily prepare the new graduates to navigate the adult world they'll soon face.

Here are 15 important truths of post-college life that you probably won't hear from your commencement speaker.

Your life probably won't go according to plan, and that's okay.

You might end up on your parents' couch for a few months (or years) rather than jumping right into your dream job or moving to an exciting new city. You might even land that dream job and find that it's not at all what you envisioned. Take a deep breath, and trust -- as cliche as it sounds -- that everything happens for a reason. Your plan can and should change as you grow, and you'll find that things generally have a way of working out for the best. As the Dalai Lama once said, "Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."

You will feel lost, confused and alone, and these feelings will help you get to know yourself better.

fear of missing out

Leaving your friends and family behind to embark on your post-grad path solo can make you feel incredibly alone, and you might find yourself questioning every decision you face. New Voices Magazine associate editor Simi Lichtman explains this reaction as a part of the infamous quarter life crisis. When all your years are designed as a preparation for entering the real world, the real world will disappoint, she said, "Not because your expectations have been dashed or the world has been misrepresented, but because suddenly, there's nothing to prepare for anymore. You're done looking forward; now you have to look down."

This is the time to look deep within yourself, discover what you want out of life, and start seeking it.

Success is about more than money and power.

dollar sign

As you begin building your future, remember that life's best memories will not revolve around the hours you spend at work. Knowing yourself, surrounding yourself with loved ones, learning from life experiences, and giving back to others will be the moments that ultimately fill your eulogy -- not your job title nor the size of your paycheck.

Your GPA isn't as important as you think it is.

Despite what professors, advisors and parents may say, the grades you make throughout your four years in college do not determine the level of success you're capable of achieving in the future. Countless employers care far more about your experiences -- both professional and personal -- and the qualities you can bring to their table. It will ultimately be your passion and work ethic that drive you forward, not the numbers on your transcript. Both Cameron Diaz and Jon Stewart were both poor students, but that did not deter them from leading successful careers as entertainers and authors.

Your career path isn't limited by the scope of your major.

alnwick garden

If you discover your passion after college is over, worry not -- there's still plenty of time to explore, and if you choose, build a career around that passion. Advanced degrees, independent study and job exploration are just a few of the many ways you can delve into your interests and find a place for them within your post-grad life. Michael Lewis earned a bachelor's degree in art history and a master's degree in economics before completely abandoning his bond salesman career for the life of a financial journalist. In the end, you set your own limits.

You'll never feel so in control and out of control at the same time.


The years following college will undoubtedly be some of the most stressful of your life, simply because it is a time of transition. The anxiety of not knowing where you'll be a week, six months or a year from now can make you feel like you have far more questions than answers. HuffPost Women Editor Emma Gray, who describes herself a naturally stressed-out person, found this time of change and transition to be particularly difficult. However, taking the time to "just breathe," recognizing that some stress is actually positive, and accepting that you won't have control over everything helped her find her zen when she needed it most.

It will seem far harder to balance your schedule, despite having the most consistency you've experienced in four years.

Looking back on senior year, there were probably moments where you thought that life after college would feel easier simply because of its routine and consistency. A 9-to-5 job, no homework to do or papers to write at night, and fun-filled weekends to do with whatever you wish. However, balancing your "real person job" with errands, chores, sleep, exercise, friends and much-need down time will likely be the most challenging juggling you have yet to face. "You can say that working the same schedule every day is a 'routine,' but it's not anything compared to the routine I had in college," said HuffPost blogger Samantha Matt. "Everything is different every day. Life keeps throwing curveballs."

Your friend groups will evolve just like you will -- embrace the change.

college drinking

While it hurts to let go of friendships you've enjoyed since moving into the freshman dorms, friendships that are worth maintaining are the ones that survive the long haul -- thanks to effort from both parties involved. Sahaj Kohli, founder of A Quarter Life Crisis blog, warns, "Friendship is a two-way street. If someone isn't treating you the way you deserve/want, don't be afraid to let go. Having a lot of time invested into someone is an awful reason for keeping a toxic relationship."

Your interests will also continue to change. Let them.


Don't say "no" to trying new things out of fear of the unknown. Whether it's taking three months off to travel alone, moving across the country or embarking on an entirely new career path, taking risks in life will force you to look deep inside and learn more about yourself than anyone else could ever teach you. Simply listen to your inner compass and pursue the topics, activities and relationships that interest you most.

You'll be forced to grow up, but it's important to act like a kid sometimes.

Children have the astounding ability to pause and think about how they choose to react to something unexpected and even unpleasant. When they fall down, for example, they stop to assess how they feel and the reactions of those around them before bursting into tears. Channeling the younger version of yourself, and remembering to take pause when things happen and decide how you want to react to them will take you far in life. And of course, maintaining some of your child-like sense of wonder and play will serve you well in the often-stressful adult world.

You'll find a new appreciation for the little things.


As you move through your 20s, you'll learn that it's not just life's exciting moments that bring you happiness. While falling in love and impromptu road trips carry their fair share of feel-good emotions, a nice cup of coffee or the first day of spring can also bring just as bright of a smile to your face.

"There will be some days when you wake up and feel a renewed sense of purpose and energy," writes Syracuse alum Carine Umuhumuza in a HuffPost College blog. "My advice? Hold on to those days, and make that energy stretch as far as you can."

You'll develop a love-hate relationship with social media.

And you thought you needed social media during college. If you find yourself geographically separated from your friends and family after spreading those college grad wings of yours, chances are that you will rely on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat more than ever to maintain that "It's like your standing right next to me!" connection. Unfortunately, that connection can take you out of the present moment and make you feel tethered to your computer or smartphone, feeling incapable of unplugging, wrecking your sleep and preventing you from forging new friendships in your new life. Reduce that FOMO by calling or directly messaging the people who mater to you most, and then let your social networking sites fall by the wayside -- even if just for a few hours. Setting a limit on how much time you spend on social media each day and unplugging each night will help you balance connecting with others and your inner self.

Some of your most difficult days lie ahead...


...But so do some of your happiest ones.


It may feel like life is only going to go downhill from here, but new research shows that people tend to get happier as they get older. So enjoy this moment and savor your excitement for all the experiences to come.

You'll spend the rest of your life figuring out how you want to spend it. And that's how it should be.

Life is constant change and evolution. You never know exactly what you want until you find it, and as soon as you do, you're off searching for the next thing that will inspire, motivate and fulfill you. Don't sweat it. Don't rush it. Just live it.

Support HuffPost

Popular in the Community