I graduated recently. Instead of feeling elated, I feel odd. Unsettled. So, I had to ask myself, am I experiencing post-college depression?
[Note: A lot of my readers are British, I’m not. Here, we say college as a colloquial thing, I guess because saying university sounds pretentious. So, there’s been times I’ve talked about this, and been asked if I’m going to “uni.” I have a BA from a university. The next step up for me would be a masters.]
What Is Post College Depression?
Post-college depression, also known as post grad/post graduation depression, is considered to be a depression, lack of motivation, and restlessness that people experience after finishing third level education.
Post-college depression may not actually be a clinical illness, but depression absolutely is, and requires help and treatment.
Life After Graduation
I graduated recently so this topic has been on my mind a lot.
I’ve noticed it’s a topic seldom seen spoken about, but the fear before leaving college, and not feeling ready for “the real world”, is something that’s very common. A lot of people end up doing a masters to put off leaving the education system for another year, because they don’t feel like enough of a grown up yet. Personally, I have no idea where the money to spontaneously do said masters come’s from but that’s none of my business.
For someone who didn’t enjoy university, or any part of the education system for that matter, I was adamant I would only experience elation upon finishing college. I am really happy to be finished, because college was just a terrible environment for me. My anxiety is definitely much lower not being there, but I’m not euphoric.
I’m not experiencing Post-College Depression, I’m experiencing something I’ve coined as Post-College Frustration.
I’m sick of people constantly asking what my plan is, do I have a “real job” yet, does my boyfriend have a “real job” yet, did I apply for x, y, and z job openings, did I get anything back from the job application I sent etc. etc. etc.
Choosing The Right Path
I’ve just finished 19 – yes that’s right, nineteen years in the education system. As I’ve said, it was far from being the best years of my life. I’m pretty adamant about not doing something that will make me hate the rest of my life. I also think it’s reasonable for me to want to relax for a little bit.
My siblings, having both studied business, had “real” jobs lined up before they even graduated, and I didn’t. I work in retail.
A lot of people in my course already have jobs and internships, and that’s wonderful for them. Some literally landed their dream jobs and have never been happier, and I’m happy for them.
What’s odd is I feel a bit of resentment, even though I actually didn’t apply for anything they got, I just know right now my life would be easier if I was starting my career or an internship tomorrow. I didn’t apply for those jobs, because I didn’t want them.
If I was willing to move to another part of the country and wanted a full time job I’m pretty confident I’d already have one. I’m not ready to run into a career, nor do I really want to use my degree in it’s conventional way. The idea of walking right into a big career immediately just feels overwhelming for me.
I really enjoyed working in magazines and newspapers during college, but I know my myself well enough to know that in the long term, the precariousness and stress within that industry is not good for me – hence why work from home jobs, or freelancing would be ideal for right now. I am frustrated at how those aren’t working out so far, but as I said, I have a part-time job so I can save up and get by.
For the next year or so, I just need to bide my time, because I’m going to be my own boss, and that’s going to take a long time to establish, but it will be worth it when the day comes. Until then, I just have to look like the family failure.
If you are experiencing post-college depression here’s what you can do:
- Stop checking social media – everyone’s life looks much better than it really is on social media, if seeing your classmates sharing news of their new job upsets you, then it’s time to log off for awhile. The mute button exists for a reason. I find Pinterest is the only website that doesn’t piss me off.
- Don’t make fun of other people. A lot of people resort to acting like it’s a competition and making fun of their former classmates to make themselves feel better. A job is a job. Don’t make fun of someone working in retail or the service industry in their 20s and older. There’s nothing wrong with those jobs. You don’t know their story. Not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder, or they just want a job they don’t detest that funds their lifestyle. Either way, root for them.
- You’re not confided to one thing. You don’t have to have the same job or career forever. I find the people who career hop have such interesting lives!
- Go easy on yourself – getting though college is a huge accomplishment, be proud of that.
- You’re still young – it feels like we have to fit all our life into our 20’s before we have to start a family by 30 and then live the next 18+ years for your kids. It doesn’t have to be that way. 20 is so young, you have all the time in the world to “get your shit together”. Recently anyone who had kids from 28-30 have actually started admitting to me that they’d have preferred to have been a bit older when they had their kids, so this whole “I had to meet my soul mate yesterday, to get married by 27 and have kids before 30” thing doesn’t seem to be all it was cracked up to be.
- Do what you want – as happy as certain paths would make your parents, remind yourself that you’re the one living this life, you’re the one who’s gonna see your life flash before you eyes or have a mid-life crisis, so make sure you spend it doing what fulfils you. A job is a job, it’s okay to find pride, joy and fulfilment elsewhere in your life.
- Life doesn’t pan out how you thought. In your late teenage years, you have all sorts of notions on how you thought your life would be. You don’t have the life experience to know if you’ll actually enjoy it when the day comes, or if it’s a feasible option. You’re not a loser if you’re not living the life a 17 year old imagined.
If you’ve graduated too, how did you feel afterwards?
23 thoughts on “Am I experiencing post-college depression?”
This is all so true. I felt alone when at graduation I was the only one without a real job. But then as the months went by I found that most people who worked in journalism ended up leaving. I felt like doing a journalism degree was a waste of time, but I did learn something. I never want to work in that vicious, heartless, ruthless, cutthroat industry. I like writing, but on my own terms, writing about topics I find interesting in the classic rock world.
It was 4th year and how exploitative the industry is that made me realise I do not want those people to be my bosses. I actually enjoyed stuff like An Focal and my co-op, but
from now on I’m gonna be working & writing on my own terms. I’m starting a nutrition course so I’m gonna launch a vegan anti-diet culture & ED recovery website in January and go self-hosted on this blog too (and freelance for cool publications) and work for myself.
All of my course mates at uni were so excited for graduation but I was dreading it (they’re not my thing) and it also signified it all being over. I didn’t find a job easily and am still not in a job I want to be forever but I keep reminding myself that these things take time and I have the rest of my life to find my way. Definitely a good tip to not compare yourself to others!
Best of luck with the job hunt, exactly three things just take awhile
Such an important topic which I’m sure many face. It takes courage and I wish you the best of luck in your new career!
Loans, that’s how they do Masters programs lol. Loans were how I got through college. People who have scholarships and grants are very lucky.
I experienced this frustration, and then some when I realized I didn’t want to work in the field I got my degree in. At least not as a primary means of income.
Yes, yes, yes, to all of this. There’s so much pressure on people these days – move out, get married, have kids, have a fabulous career. It’s all so unrealistic. You’re absolutely right, finishing college is an achievement in itself, you’re right to be proud of yourself 🙂 Lisa x
Great post. I didn’t go to university so obviously I will never have experienced this but it totally makes sense why people do. I think whether you’ve been to uni or not, sometimes scrolling through social media and seeing other people who you went to school will so much “further along” so to speak can really get you down. I experience that a lot x
Avoiding social media is a great tip, it is too easy to get caught up with comparing our lives to others
I am in the EXACT same situation! I was definitely wondering if post-university depression was something that I has but I think you nailed it when you called it post-uni-frustration! I’m yet to find myself a job but that’s because I’m not willing to do something that I won’t enjoy. Great post! x
I hope you find something you love one day, go you for sticking to what you want to do!
I don`t know if working in your field of expertise is for everyone. I loved what I studied at Uni, but I quickly realised that I`d hate it if I got a job related to what I studied. I know it sounds weird, but that was my case. So I got a retail job, became manager and realized that I enjoy that more than a regular 9-5 office job.
I’m happy you found something you like! It’s so common for people to graduate and not want a job in their field
People reinvent / start over their careers in their later years anyway so you could easily jump straight in to something and find you change your mind in five or ten years. There’s no rush or timeline to do anything. Just enjoy life, there’s more to it than just work 🙂
I’m not a fan of people basing their whole life and identity on their career, there’s more important things. Thanks!
Leaving college is so hard it feels like you have spent all this time wrapped up in education and then it suddenly spits you out into the real world with lots of questions, confusions and anxieties. One thing I learnt is that everyone has their own life timeline and I didn’t have to follow my friends timeline I had to stop comparing and just take things at my own pace. Life has a funny way of working out in the long run, the frustration will pass. Be proud that you are following your own path at your own pace 🙂
Thank you, the pressure to live at everyone else’s pace is so unhealthy
I spent most of my 20s feeling insufficient because I didn’t do uni in the traditional way – I went part time; and when I was fired at 25 and I didn’t have a degree, a steady boyfriend, or a career then I felt like I was off the path of all my friends who were settling down or climbing the career ladder.
I’m still trying to get over the feeling that I’ve failed as I’m heading towards my 30th and still not better and back on my feet.
I’m sorry to hear that, I think everyone’s life path is different but unfortunately there’s so much pressure to be successful by 30
I hope it gets better!
I did retail on and off for a few years instead of completing college. It gave me new skills and experience that helped on my CV but I definitely don’t think its the career for me in the long term. It’s a trying job but no one should shame you for that, it takes a lot of strength and patience to work in retail I believe. Good post, I like how you write, I’m sorry you’re struggling atm and I hope you’re able to achieve your dream when you’re ready 💕