The post-university slump is real; yet few know of it, and I think those who do fear discussing it.
My analogy to describe university and subsequently life after university is this: The years at university are like climbing a mountain, with your graduation the equivalent of reaching the peak. In an ideal world, post-university life should resemble slowly walking back down the mountain after a tough climb up. But for some, the reality is actually tumbling off the mountain peak and coming back down to ground fast and hard. It’s the post-university slump.
The post-university slump is real; yet few know of it, and I think those who do, fear discussing it. For the majority, days after graduating are filled with sadness, mourning the loss of the student identity, and there is a longing, a unique nostalgia, for university life. Perhaps, at the back of your mind, you might ponder that one of the greatest periods of your life is over. Post-university depression, however, is much more severe; it’s an empty feeling, a sensation challenging to define.
In some ways, the end of university is the end of having the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want. Suddenly, gone are the days of spontaneous weekday nights out, or ordering a takeaway at what ever time you please. At university, you can live life on your terms yet, it’s still incredibly structured and you’re sheltered in the safety net of education. Lectures and essays are all timetabled, and the norm is housing with friends, who become your support network, the ones you trust, love, and rely on. It’s incredibly safe without restrictions.
In addition, university is constantly fulfilling. You write an essay, you get a mark back; there’s constant guidance and support. Entering the post-university world is not at all like this. Feedback is not given so frequently, nor do you receive the same level of gratification in the workplace. And friends? You no longer have access to a pool of people that are in exactly the same situation as you. The easiness of making friends has been stolen, plus no one warns you just how challenging it can be to bond with people outside of education. The transition can be incredibly harsh and unsettling.
For some graduates, including myself, experiencing post-uni blues may have something to do with regression. Lapsing into your pre-uni life, living back at home, working a non-graduate job, and returning to school friends who might not understand your humongous university journey. However, the slump is not exclusive to this group of graduates. I’ve spoken to some graduates who achieved a job they were excited about or who didn’t return to their pre-uni life, and still experienced the plummet.
A personal musing might be that graduates experience these blues because there’s a lack of focus on workplace life and the ‘real’ world during studying. Another could be due to the intense life change that happens overnight. One minute you’re a student, thinking like a student, and the next everyone is expecting you to have things figured out and take on all these responsibilities. I definitely think the expectation of graduate life is never the reality, no matter what job you get, or where you end up.
It is difficult to transition from university to the ‘real’ world, and it’s a struggle that’s infrequently acknowledged. I wish I’d spoken out about the strange feelings I had rather than privately suffer. University is a wonderful period of your life, and experiencing gloom, possibly depression, regarding its finale can and should be spoken about. So I’m voting to open up the conversation here.
This blog was originally published in October 2017.