Fourth Year: The New Freshman Year

After so many years of dreaming, hoping, and planning, graduation day is just around the corner. So what’s next?

For many students, the year after graduation is reminiscent of freshman year. Students are often ambitious and energized, but they may also feel like they’re starting over. And in many ways, they are.

As a parent, you can support your student by reminding them that new beginnings are exciting, but that it’s also normal to feel a little anxious and nervous.

While many students work throughout college, taking on a full-time job in a new career is a completely different undertaking. After years of life revolving around school, students are now facing changes, and they are happening quickly. The learning curve at a new job can be steep, and your student may feel unsure about his or her abilities. Remind your student of what he or she has accomplished so far and note that he or she has successfully handled other times of uncertainty, such as starting college.

Your student can adjust to the workplace by using skills developed in college, such as doing research (on the company) and asking for guidance (from coworkers, rather than classmates). Finding a mentor, such as a boss or a colleague, can also help.

While your student may no longer have homework, a new work schedule may be less flexible than the college years. Expectations in the workplace may also be different, and employers won’t necessarily offer the same kind of feedback — or as often — that your student came to expect in college. Instead of a professor, your student now has a boss; instead of grades, your student is now earning a paycheck and hoping for a promotion.

Remind your student that the time spent at UW–Madison has helped prepare him or her to take on these new challenges. Your student learned concepts and skills through coursework, and developed ways to adapt to new circumstances and environments. As you listen to and acknowledge concerns, you can reassure your student that these feelings are normal by sharing your own life experiences you had along when finding your own career path.

After having graduation as a big goal for so long — and achieving it — your student may feel a lack of focus in the workplace. Your student may even question the path or career that he or she has chosen. News from peers may make your student wish for a higher salary, enrollment in graduate school, or taking time off to travel. This generation of college graduates is focused both on making a difference in the world and on having a successful career — and those goals may feel in conflict.

Encourage your student to demonstrate patience, noting that the first job out of college isn’t always a dream job, but that it’s an important step in a career path and one he or she will long remember and will later reminisce about.

While the time following graduation may feel a bit like freshman year, remind your student of the positive aspects, noting in particular that the opportunities for learning and growth are endless.

The Parent and Family Program is here for you.

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