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York College offers a supportive community for post-graduation anxiety

May 16, 2023
Isabel Cox signing the rock after Commencement.
Isabel Cox '23 signing the rock

As uncertainty looms beyond graduation, York College of Pennsylvania aims to prepare students for their next steps—and the anxiety that goes with them.

While the end of college marks the beginning of a new chapter for York College of Pennsylvania students, a feeling of unease and anxiety often overshadows excitement for some of those graduates. As the transition into their future looms, the thought of leaving the comfort of academic life and entering the world of careers or graduate school can be overwhelming.

Randi Shedlosky-Shoemaker, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology and General Education Assistant Director of Disciplinary Perspectives at York College, says that uncertainty tends to be the main reason for post-graduation anxiety.

“If they’re heading into the world of work, this could be a new space for them,” she says. “It could be their first professional job of their career.”

Anxiety as opportunity

To mitigate post-graduation anxiety, York College offers various resources, including Counseling Services, which provides professionals who guide students through the stress that comes with any life change. The Career Development Center also offers services like résumé reviews and mock interviews, providing students with opportunities to practice their skills.

One way of working through anxiety over the future, Dr. Shedlosky-Shoemaker says, is staying in the moment and appreciating the present instead of worrying about the future.

Another key is to establish a good support system. Being surrounded by those who will listen and walk through the anxiety alongside a student can help graduates navigate their new reality. She encourages students to maintain social connections by checking in with peers and providing social support to those who might be struggling to adjust.

A third tip, Dr. Shedlosky-Shoemaker says, is to look at challenges not as obstacles but as opportunities. For example, many graduates faced an unprecedented challenge during the pandemic. Instead of being overwhelmed, though, students sharpened their resilience and learned new skills. They grew in their ability to demonstrate compassion and empathy. Dr. Shedlosky-Shoemaker emphasizes the importance of looking at challenges as opportunities to discover one's strengths.

Planning ahead while staying in the moment

York College’s dedication to student success, even in stressful situations, stems from the faculty’s commitment to empowering students. Isabel Cox ’23, a Psychology major with a Business Administration minor, began feeling the strain of post-graduation anxiety as she entered her junior year. She called her parents and closest friends, pouring out how stressed she was about the future. Through these conversations, she realized that graduate school was the next step.  

Cox knew early on that she wanted to pursue a career in organizational development and leadership. As she wrapped up her undergraduate studies, she focused on her future to alleviate some of the post-graduation anxiety she felt. For her, that meant researching, visiting, and applying to grad schools. She also explored what her costs would be both for school and for living before applying for programs and jobs to help make those next steps a reality.

“Trust yourself and know what path you want to be on,” Cox advises. “Don’t compare yourself to others.”

Karim Caicedo Reynolds ’23, a Psychology major, also experienced post-graduation anxiety as he approached the end of his undergraduate studies. “I’ve been in school my entire life,” he says. “Now it’s time to be an adult and do adulting things.”

He has been asked a lot of questions about what he plans to do next, which has put a lot of pressure on him to figure out his future. Facing the unknown and leaving behind great friends have fed the anxiety.

To cope, he focuses on taking it all one day at a time while also planning ahead. He feels his diverse course load has prepared him to deal with the next chapter of his life. From business and literature classes to his Psychology courses, York College has help him develop into a more well-rounded and prepared adult. His professors have helped him, too, notably working with him to hone his résumés and cover letters. “They’ve set us up to be our own advocates and set our best face forward,” he says.

Appreciating the journey

Kaylah Gant ’23, also a Psychology major, has been preparing herself to face post-graduation anxiety head-on. Being in the foster care system during her later teenage years has given her the desire to advocate for kids and pursue the path of a school psychologist. With that ambition, Gant knew she would need to pursue a graduate degree after her undergraduate studies were complete.

Throughout her final year at York College, she experienced a mix of excitement and anxiety. Social support, self-care, and hard work have been the keys to working through her more anxious moments. “Everyone’s path looks different,” she says, “so I'm just trying to be appreciative of the journey.”

Post-graduation anxiety is common among undergraduate students, but with the resources and support provided by York College and the community surrounding each student, students can prepare for success.

“Change is a given in life,” Dr. Shedlosky-Shoemaker says. “Change—even when exciting—can be scary, and it's okay to be scared. But we don't need to face change alone. Leaning on those around us can be just what we need to bravely venture into the unknown.”