How to Help a College Grad Adjust

Tips to help your college grad adjust to life as an adult

How to help a college grad adjust illustration

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

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Graduating high school and going to college is a major milestone for many teens. And while the transition is not always smooth, college students have an abundance of services available to meet their every need.

But when your child graduates from college, the support of an advisor, professor, or dorm RA suddenly disappears, and mom and dad, or another loved one, become the “go-to” for adjusting to adult life. Which means, you will be working with your graduate to help them make decisions about applying to jobs, adopting a healthy routine, earning and spending money, and transitioning to life after college — all while getting used to them living under your roof as an adult.

Adjusting to this new life often takes time, flexibility, compromise, and a whole lot of patience. Making this transition a bit easier on both of you requires an honest conversation about expectations and timelines.

Post Graduate Life

There’s no denying that the post-grad life your child is learning to adjust to is drastically different than the one you faced. If your graduate is moving back home without a job to go to, there’s a good chance that both of you will experience some anxiety and stress about their plans for the future. One way to bring some calm and normalcy to their life is to ask them to write out a tentative schedule with a few short-term goals and steps for achieving those goals.

During this process, you must allow them space to share their ideas, concerns, frustrations, and hopes. While their version of what they should be doing every day might differ from yours, it’s important to find a middle ground that empowers them to take charge, while you provide guidance and support.

“The parenting relationship will evolve, and this is an opportunity to get to know your son or daughter even better,” explains Nicole Bryan, Associate Dean at Fordham School of Professional and Continuing Studies. You are a valuable lifeline to them, and not just financially, but also as a voice of reason. 

This is also the ideal time to create an exit plan. You will need to partner with your child on establishing a timeline for finding a job and moving out. Encourage them to take the lead with this activity, but be there to provide realistic advice and feedback.

Establishing an exit plan early in the transition period is critical for both you and your graduate. Not only does it serve as a goal to work towards, but it also gives them a sense of purpose. It also serves as a reference point when discussing progress, or lack thereof, with your child.

The Job Search

Most parents and graduates can agree that entering the workforce after graduation is the primary goal. That said, moving from college to career is not always an easy transition. One of the best ways to help your child maneuver the job search process is to be a support person, not a dictator. This doesn't mean that you can't provide guidance and listen to their concerns and frustrations, but it does mean that ultimately, they need to do the work. The following tips from Bryan can serve as a reminder of your role in this process.

  • Teach them how to maintain a routine, especially during job hunting. At this stage in their life, having a plan or trying to work on a plan will positively impact motivation and keep college grads goal-oriented.
  • Your child needs to be strategic about the jobs to which they submit a resume, which means they shouldn’t apply to every job online. And when they do apply, they also need to remember to customize their resume for each position. Their resume should be more than just a listing of tasks completed in each position. Remind them to highlight accomplishments, as well and how they contributed to their role.
  • If a job opportunity comes their way that might not be exactly what they were hoping for, do not discount it. It could be a stepping-stone to something better.
  • Remind your child that their first job will be one of many that they will likely have in their career. Embrace opportunities to learn, and identify what they like, and do not like. Remind them to always put their best effort forward. 

Encourage them to network and keep in touch with college friends and professors. You never know when one of those connections could produce a job opportunity. 

Establishing Healthy Routines

One of the best things you can do for them early on is to help them adopt healthy routines that include quality sleep, exercise, nutrition, goal setting, and networking. While this may seem like common sense to you, some of these daily tasks and routines are likely new to your recent graduate. That’s why your advice, encouragement, and modeling is so important.

  • Model healthy sleep habits. Regardless of what your college grad may think, the days of staying up late and binge-watching Netflix are gone. In order for them to be productive and continue moving forward, they need to adopt a healthy routine that includes getting adequate sleep.
  • Encourage goal setting activities. This is a great time to teach them about goal setting, both short-term and long-term. Bryan says a recent graduate should always have something to work towards. 
  • Stress the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. Making healthy choices about how to care for their body is an essential part of moving from college to adult life. Grocery shopping, cooking, eating at regular intervals, and participating in physical activity most days of the week can help your child stay positive while maneuvering the ups and downs of post-college life. 
  • Help them network. Bryan recommends networking as a way to establish routines and make connections. Encourage your college grad to join a professional organization in their field and make an effort to attend one event every other month. 
  • Teach them to be financially savvy. If your graduate is facing a mountain of student loan debt, then educating them on finances is a top priority. The bottom line? They need to get a job. Generating income, even if it’s from their previous place of employment, helps your child build up their savings, begins to pay off debt, and stay focused on the big picture. 
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By Sara Lindberg
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed., is a freelance writer focusing on health, fitness, nutrition, parenting, and mental health.