It's May, also known as "mayhem" and if you are a recent grad or parent of one, you might be feeling every bit of it.
Entering into the "real world" can be exciting after +16 years of education but let's be honest, the REAL world can also feel REAL scary! And to those of us who graduated years ago, it's easy to forget what it's like to enter into a completely new phase of life without life segmented into semesters, directed classes to take coming from your advisor, and no grading system to measure success. The lack of clarity and direction can be enough for some students to daydream about being back in one of their least favorite classes.
Here's a bit of a PSA to all adults who are a few (or a lot of) years out from their own graduation. If you are attending or throwing a grad party, here are 3 things NOT to say and 3 things you can say instead to best celebrate those special grads in your life...
1. Don't Ask About What's Next!
These questions can often sound like, "Do you have a job lined up?", "Are you going to grad school?", "What are you going to do with your degree?"
Not everyone has a job waiting on them right after college and that is ok! Even though it's a natural filler question to ask, it can evoke panic in the new grad if they don't have something lined up.
REMEMBER: They JUST graduated!
I'm really proud of the progress you've made so far in life.
Sure, pre med school students, pre law, and other academic tracks are very clear cut but even if you know exactly what you want to do next, whether more school or a career, having a bit of a breather after being in school your entire life can be nice and actually quite useful. Many schools actually prefer and some require students having "real life" experience for 1-5 years before even being able to apply for the specific graduate program
It would be far better to say "I'm really proud of the progress you've made so far in life. I bet that you experienced some challenges throughout life to get to this point and I bet that you've leaned a lot in the process."
Let's let them enjoy the moment and celebrate this major accomplishment with them. Help them to be present in this moment (a skill we can probably all grow in) and let them bring up the job stuff on their own time. Focus on what they do know, what they did study and what they hopefully feel some sort of mastery over in the present time. That's far more motivating and empowering.
You aren't responsible to motive him/her but you can certainly support them, celebrate what they do know and give them the freedom to not know all the answers just yet. Trust me, they might be hitting you up soon for a job intro once they've figured out the endless hole also known as Linkedin!
2. Don't ask about thier performance, GPA, or if they were able to graduate with honors, etc.?
That's like asking a female how much they weigh! Unless you are at the doctors office, it's never an appropriate or welcomed question.
Hold off on interrogations unless the student or parent discloses that info to you first.
Here's the deal, you were invited to the party to celebrate the new grad so if he/she didn't get a 4.0 or graduate with honors, they will probably not feel super confident in the response. Hold off on interrogations unless the student or parent discloses that info to you first.
It would be better to ask about what passions he or she pursued in college, what friendships were made and what personal discoveries were found during the 4+ years of collegiate life.
If appropriate, share something you learned about yourself or about the friendships you've maintained since you got your degree. Sure, it's nice to graduate with honors but it's also important that we celebrate the intangibles like life lessons and character built during those foundational years.
3. Where are you going to live? / Are you moving home?
EEEKKKKK! That's the sound of a new grad's internal insecure and awkward moment alarm going off. NO ONE wants to move home if given another option. Ok, maybe 1 or 2 of you out there would have chosen to move home but VERY few of us would choose to go from freedom and independent living 24/7 to staying in your old room with that old paisley floral bedspread circa 5th grade or old baseball posters on your walls.
Having to figure out the weird family dynamics of being an adult child when the grad puts an emphasis on the adult part and the parents put an emphasis on the later....it's just messy! So, instead of asking about housing options, just let it be. I'm sure that you have far more interesting things to discuss than where they will live upon graduation unless they bring it up and are really excited about it. Then, by all means, chat away!
Go Adding Meaning To The Mayhem
Here's the thing..... it's human nature to focus on the "next" thing but if that's what we focus on, we are never going to be really present in the current moment.
All the hard work can have such a short shelf life when we talk about the next thing and it can feel just as unnerving when we don't know what that next thing might be, especially so early on in life.
Let's engage in more effective conversation topics to our new grads so they feel encouraged, celebrated and empowered to be the best versions of themselves possible. So rsvp to the party grab a killer gift (which to them, likely just $) and celebrate away!