What Happens After College: In Five Depressing Stages

By Danielle Ryan, Trinity College

Stage One: Elation.
You’re finally done. Free from assignments. Free from professors. Free from exams. Free to do whatever you please! Term paper induced all-nighters are a thing of the past. Next time you’re up until dawn it will be by choice. So things are looking pretty good.  You’ve got an impressive résumé for a 22 year-old. They couldn’t get enough of you at the school paper. And the debate team would have been lost without you. You’ve even got a few good references under your belt. You (confidently) begin to hand out your résumés, and confidence is key in Stage One. Hell, those résumés are so good you might as well chuck a few at passing strangers. Phew! It’s going to be one hell of a task choosing between all those job offers that are coming your way any day now. Slow down prospective employers, one at a time, please.

Stage Two: Onset of Reality.
Three months later. Your internship or work placement (or whatever it is you were doing to pass the time and further pad your résumé) is over. Done and dusted. You have sent in applications for about three hundred different positions. None of these jobs are ideal. In fact, half of them aren’t even in your desired field. And some of them would undoubtedly, slowly but surely, destroy your will to live. You start to wonder, is it just me, or do HR departments even acknowledge that they have received applications anymore?

Stage Three: Anger.
You’re just coming to terms with the fact that you didn’t get that one job that you really, really wanted. They never replied to even acknowledge the receipt of your application and you have spent the last three weeks slowly accepting that yes, they did receive it. It isn’t lost in cyberspace; they just didn’t care. And you’re actually even kind of over it. And then it arrives; Dear You, Thank you for your application. We regret to inform you that while you submitted a strong application, you did not make it to the interview stage on this occasion. We’ll be sure to keep your details on file.

It should be noted that Stage Three includes a sub-phase of denial – usually setting in right around the time you start getting those unnecessarily hostile emails from your college. You know the ones that say things like “your college account will expire on the above date. No access will be permitted on this date or thereafter”. You greet these emails in as equally hostile a spirit as the one in which they were sent and think, Jeez, can’t get rid of me fast enough can you? Did our time together mean nothing? Four years of my life I gave to you and that’s my farewell? You click ‘delete’ and continue to log into your college account every few days, trying to put off the moment you’re finally, officially, kicked out. This is anger-led denial.

Stage Four: Embarrassment.
The parental pride which launched you through the summer unscathed and fairly financially secure has slowly but surely faded away. It has been replaced with “I think you should consider just getting a part-time bar job again”. And a few weeks after that, the “I think you should consider” preface doesn’t even feature anymore. It has shortened considerably to four words: “just get a job”. Oh, okay Mom, if I had known that a job was what I needed, I would have found one months ago. Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately for most of us, the embarrassment stage continues on for quite some time

Step Five: Employment.
So, you’ve finally got a job. Now all you need to do is start hating it — and that doesn’t take long, because yes, you’re probably waiting tables again. Not that I’m referring to anyone in particular, of course, but you probably are. You now hate your job more than you hated being unemployed and those sad and financially rocky days are beginning to look more and more attractive as you slave away over tourists’ breakfast trays and try to imagine a life that doesn’t involve polishing about five hundred pieces of cutlery every morning. Twice. But you like your co-workers. You even kind of like that, cutlery notwithstanding, this job feels like a permanent treadmill workout — so at least there’s no need for a gym subscription.

This, however, does not keep you from longing for Stage Six – the elusive Stage Six. It has managed to escape you for much too long. It feels a world away, but it’s there, and it’s yours for the taking.




The New Student Union is an online magazine run by and for college students covering the issues we care about. Self-starters with great communication skills and a passion for writing should email to get involved. Official site will launch in late 2011.


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