Freedom, Structure and the Transition to Post-College Life
by John Kyle
The first months after college can be exciting and challenging. They can be filled with adventure and the sense of a fresh start. It’s a season that often involves a new city, a new job, a new place to live, new routines, and new expectations.
In spite of these great things, it can also be a time of life marked by loneliness, doubt, anxiety, and disappointment. Several studies have indicated that loneliness peaks before 30, and can be especially intense during the first year or two after college. The physical space of the college campus can make friendships easier to find and maintain. Campus ministry provides walkable access to worship and spiritual connections. All of this can be much harder after college.
Freedom and Structure in College
In these and other ways, the transition from life in college to life after college can be challenging. Freedom and structure are two aspects of life that are impacted by this transition and are worth considering.
Most students are busy in college. There are books to read, papers to write, projects to complete, and lectures to attend. Many students are also involved in clubs or other organizations that require time and commitment. And yet, most college students have a tremendous amount of freedom. To a large degree, they can choose when they want to study – morning, afternoon, evening. They can choose to visit with friends during the day or well into the night. They can scroll through social media or watch Netflix until 2:00am.
At the same time, the main measures of success and performance in college are highly structured. When you choose a major, the university tells you the specific list of core courses and general ed courses you have to take. When you arrive in class, the first thing you receive is a syllabus from the professor that outlines all that must be done to get an A – papers, readings, classroom participation. The terms of engagement and expectations for success are clear and well-defined in advance by the professor.
Freedom and Structure after College
College is marked by high freedom and high structure. Once a student leaves the university and enters their career, the situation changes radically. The change can be sudden and unsettling.
In the working world, for the most part, we are expected to be busy at an early hour of the morning. Depending on our industry and the work culture of our city, we might be working until early evening or later. If we work with international clients or colleagues, we might find ourselves in 4:00am and 9pm meetings to accommodate time zone differences. This aspect of post-college life can make us feel that our freedom has been ripped from us. Until we find our stride and cadence, this new pace can seem confining. We can no longer meet friends for mid-afternoon coffee or stay out late at night.
The situation with structure is no better. When we start in that first job, we are often surprised by the fact that we are expected to figure out most things on our own. It’s easy to be disappointed by the lack of time and investment the boss makes in us. In most jobs, no one passes out a syllabus on the first day that explains how to be successful. For these and other reasons, the lack of structure in the workplace can lead to frustration and doubt about our sense of vocation.
What Can You Do?
If you are new in your post-college career, you may be experiencing some of the pains of the college to post-college transition. I encourage you to do three things:
Work on your perspective. God made us to work and, through our work, contribute to flourishing and the common good. But, our sin and selfishness lead us to focus on ourselves and our own circumstances rather than the bigger picture of God’s unfolding plan and the people we are called to serve.
Find a Christian community in which you can talk about these things in light of God’s Word. God has called us to live in community together. He invites us to serve one another and build one another up in the faith, both of which require that we know and are vulnerable with one another.
Find a mentor. Invite a person that is at least one life-stage ahead of you to walk with you through this season of your life. You will benefit from their counsel and prayers. Don’t expect your mentor to do the work of your relationship. Instead, help them to mentor you by having your own plan for growth and learning.
If you are a college senior, I encourage you to think about joining a fellows program in The Fellows Initiative (TFI) network. Each fellows program is a cohort of 6-16 recent graduates who learn and grow together in faith and community. There are nearly 300 fellows this year and close to 2,400 alumni. Fellows programs are an amazing way to start your career. They help you make the transition to post-college life by helping you find a job, providing a place to live, a cohort of learning, a mentor, a church community that is committed to walking with you, and more.
Join a Fellows Program
We are accepting fellows applications for all of the programs in the TFI network. If you are a college senior, recent graduate, or knows someone that is, please take a look at the TFI Common Application. You can apply to three programs at once with no application fee.
Being a fellow is an amazing way to launch your career after college! As a fellow you will have a paid job in your field of interest. You will take graduate courses in bible, theology, leadership, and cultural engagement. You will have many opportunities to use your gifts serving in the church and city. You will have a personal mentor.
We are now in the rolling admissions season. Since many programs fill up quickly, we encourage you to apply soon! Click here to apply today!
Not sure which program to join? You can learn more about the 30 fellows programs in our network by clicking here.
Join TFI as a Financial Partner!
TFI is working with churches across the country to inspire and equip emerging leaders for the church, workplace and society. We are 30 programs strong with 280 fellows each year and 2,400 alumni!
If you have been blessed by a fellows program or simply want to see this Kingdom ministry expand, please consider making a recurring donation or a one-time gift to TFI.
CLICK HERE to donate online. To give by check, please mail it to:
The Fellows Initiative
20130 Lakeview Center Plaza, Suite 400
Ashburn, Virginia 20147
Thank you! TFI is a donor supported 501c3 nonprofit.