How to Support Your College Graduate

Kim Sullivan

June 6, 2016

My family has the distinction of celebrating two college graduates this year. I have become acutely aware of the emotional roller coaster that an impending graduation can cause these students. College graduation brings a mixture of excitement, dread, fear, over-optimism and equal pessimism. The truth is that your college graduate has been primarily a student their whole life. Now they are expected to put wings to their education and do something about it. That can be scary stuff! Here are some ways that you can be supportive and encouraging to them on their road to independence. 

Depending on your child and their circumstances, a certain amount of anxiety about the future is a perfectly normal response to completing an education. There is actually a psychological term called post commencement stress disorder (PCSD). According to Psychology Today, common indicators of this disorder can be:

Feelings of helplessness or being out of control

Up until this point your student has had a pretty rigid schedule planned by others. They are now suddenly completely in control which ultimately makes them feel out of control because complete responsibility in life is a huge transition for them.

Feeling a lack of support

During the college years, there are teachers, faculty, deans, youth pastors, roommates and parents to form a support system. Now, every one of these relationships will be in transition, which can cause a lot of anxiety. For those students who have lived on campus, the additional anxiety of either finding a place of their own or moving back with parents is upon them. They are literally uprooting themselves from a supportive, safe environment—an environment where they have begun to spread their adult wings.           

Feelings of failure

If they don’t land a job in their field immediately, students can often feel that all of their education has been in vain. For years, your student has been focused on a particular line of work, training and preparing for it. When a job in that field doesn’t immediately open for them, feelings of disappointment, discouragement and even depression can overwhelm them.                             

Strange sleep & eating patterns

Let’s face it. The sleeping and eating patterns of a college student are not “real life” habits!  You can’t skip work because you pulled an all-nighter, and you certainly can’t survive the rest of your days on ramen noodles and pizza puffs! College disciplines can be very different from career disciplines and this can take a toll on the body as it struggles to adjust.

One of the greatest things you can do for your college graduate during this time of transition is to let them know that you are proud of them and that you are excited about their journey. Emphasizing the journey over the destination is very important because few graduates land “destination” employment after college. Here are a few biblical promises that you can share with your graduate to remind him or her of God's faithfulness in the process:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
  • Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
  • Isaiah 43:2 - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
  • Psalm 20:4 - May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1 - For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 - And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
  • Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Proverbs 16:3 - Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Above all, you can be supportive to your college graduate by being understanding and patient. The habits and confidence to walk out their new life will come in stages, not overnight. Be available to give godly counsel, but don’t push advice down their throat. God has prepared work for each of us before we were even born! Make it a matter of prayer that each of your children will experience the fulfillment that only comes from submitting to God’s will for our lives both professionally and in daily disciplines.

About the author — Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is a writer with a background in everything from homeschooling to nonprofit management. She has raised three children each of whom are successful in their own unique way. Recently, Kim has done the most radical and risky thing she has ever done…she moved 700 miles from her suburban Chicago home and everything familiar to her and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is working on a brand-new website and blogs at Journey to Epiphany. She is also writing a book about her adventures in following Jesus.

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