Finishing university is a bittersweet moment.

When you’ve worked so hard towards a goal, a target which you’ve held above your head for over 3 years, it’s hard not to feel a sense of relief when you’ve achieved it.

The weight of pressure lifts like an early morning fog, as though you’re then expecting to see life’s path miraculously appear, snaking off into the horizon and towards the promise of a £60k+ a year dream job.

What reality presents is almost the opposite. Finishing university means that the fog gets thicker, as the defined structure of the last three years dissipates. The path behind you has now disappeared into the drunken haze that it was, and the one in front of you is not as clear as you’d hoped, which can be tough.

As humans, we’re always looking forward, which is a good and a bad thing. The next holiday, the next goal, the next stage in life. If you focus on the present, look at yourself, and the footstep immediately in front of you, you can make the most of this weird and wonderful journey after finishing university. 

It certainly beats letting life pass you by while you stand still just gazing at the horizon.

 

Some opportunities will arise, while some disappear

A group of friends sat in a park near New York.
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Some may build towards securing their perfect graduate job, only to fall short with their marks.

They then begrudgingly take a different job, which turns out to be the catalyst in their career, propelling them into a position they love. Others may not work for months, yet after a brief discussion with a friend about how life isn’t what they expected, they book a trip to the other side of the planet and it changes their life.

Whether you believe in it or not, the Universe works in mysterious ways, so don’t be upset if what you wanted doesn’t come to fruition; something even better will be around the corner.

 

Life will not follow the linear pattern you expect  (and that’s good)

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The number of people that, upon finishing university, find their dream role and stay in it ‘happily ever after’ will be less than 1%.

Life isn’t a straight line on an upward trajectory. It may curve up, then shoot down, and begin slowly climbing back up. These climbs are new opportunities, and how you learn from the dips will shape your approach in the future.

Make the most of the fact that life is uncertain.

 

University is a bubble away from the real world

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University an enigma.

It’s so far removed from real life and the world, yet at the same time, you’ll learn so much about the world (and your view of it) whilst here. You are cocooned away from the reality of work and the everyday pressures that come with it. You have a level of pressure on you to succeed, but this is faint preparation for pressure “out there”.

You’re in a comfort bubble with many others, all experiencing the same as what you are, so there’s a support structure which can be hard to find elsewhere.

Plus, if a random “Thirsty Thursday” from midday doesn’t scream “not the real world”, I don’t know what will.

 

You’ll feel the expectation of society

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The linear route of school, sixth form, university, job, family, house and retire is deeply engrained in our society.

It’s so embedded that some adhere to it without even meaning to. Expectation is a pull to drag you along a path which you haven’t agreed on.

Every time you hear “time to get a real job then!” or “playtime is over, time to settle down!”, it’s a (no doubt accidental) subconscious enforcing of today’s society. The more freeing thing to do is whatever you want. You’re still learning and growing and that doesn’t stop when finishing university.

Search, explore, and develop at your pace, not society’s.

 

People will drift apart

A group of friends at sunset.
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The friendship groups that you make during university will live with you forever.

Flatmates, society groups and course mates all become close friends, which on graduation you’ll vow to have reunions and keep in touch. But life has a habit of getting in the way.

Travels and real-world realisations mean that, before you know it, a year (or two, or three) can go without a single catch up drink. It’s important to keep in touch, each of you played an important part during an influential time in your lives and that means a lot. Yes, you may drift, but even the odd WhatsApp message reconnecting can mean the world.

The catch up when you finally do meet will be worth it.

 

What you want and value will change based on experience

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As you evolve and grow as a person, your interests and values can shift.

It’s a sign that you’re living and learning. The three years you’re in university are a long three years, as you go through a lot of “growing up”.

What may have been your dream before starting may not be the same after the three years of experience you’ve had. It doesn’t mean you have to know specifically; you might just know what you don’t want.

Embrace the fact it’s an unknown and use it as an adventure to find out.

 

Your 20s are for mistakes and your 30s are for learning from them

A man backpackig and sat on a mountain, overlooking a forest.
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Touching on the previous point about societal expectations, I had formed my own warped view on what was “expected” of me.

As I started to find my own way, I realised it makes absolutely no difference what the standard route is. We’re all individuals, as is the route we take in life. As soon as you start progressing in the right direction, you’ll realise it’s the right way to go.

You have the rest of your life to achieve other life goals, so your 20 and 30s are the time to explore. They’re the time to grow. They’re the time to make mistakes. All this gives you a breadth of experience in life that you need to help figure out where to go.

Take your time.

 

You’ll spend some time wishing you were back in university

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They were the best days of your life. It’s normal.

 

You’ll go through the full range of emotions throughout your degree, as you will upon finishing university.

It’s important to remember that no one has it fully figured out, but regardless, it’s about you. Explore, enjoy, and engage with life. It’s not an overnight process and that’s the fun of it.

Whatever route you end up taking on finishing university, it’ll be the one you’re meant to take in the end.

 

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