Fear of the unknown: Life after graduation 


Mario Ortiz

Graduation Advising Sign in Student Services Center. Photo by Mario Ortiz Jr on Feb 13.

As the 2023 spring semesters progresses, I sit here unraveling the biggest fear I and many other seniors face … life after college and the unknown future that comes with getting older. 

If you were fortunate enough, college was the shallow end of the pool. While you were swimming in the “real world” you were not fully engulfed in the deep end. But now it’s time to dive into the deep end, and with this comes the fear of whether you’ll finish with your head above the water, or drown. 

Witnessing fellow friends and family members who lost their way after graduating only adds more anxiety, and can manufacture this sort of fear of growing old “FOGO.”

The unknown future after graduation can consume one in fear, as you try to grasp each moment and take advantage of the time you have left as a student.   

Other fears you hear when discussing with fellow future alumni at Riley’s, The Bear and every other bar here in Chico are, “What if my degree was a waste and I get an unsatisfactory job and do not use it?” While some “grind-set bros” or STEMlords will say this is your fault, I beg to differ.   

I see their point to an extent, picking a major is your responsibility, but the pressure of picking a major is real, and when you come from a high school like mine — where there are no real classes that give you an idea of what you want to be — you might need time to figure out what you want.  

A big fear that seems especially relevant right now is paying back student loans. The average graduate takes 20 years to pay back what they borrowed, and if you don’t have anything lined up after graduating, this might take even more time. 

Some people I have run into in Chico at house parties or local concerts, don’t think about it at all. They would rather try to live in the moment. It’s an idea and a way of life I try to achieve, but it’s hard when you realize the moment is gone and that this experience  will one day be over and become just another memory.  

In fact, all these experiences with people who I barely know will just be memories one day.   

Realistically, very few of us will achieve the success we desire right out the gate. There will be dark times. 

Psychotherapist Bernard Luskin calls this feeling Post Commencement Stress Disorder, and is best described as,anxiety and stress resulting from “experiencing a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown.”  

Dr. Luskins suggests that one way to overcome PCSD is to “confront the future” by creating and reaching goals that help you succeed after graduation every day. This can be done by reaching out to some professors in your department who might have connections in your job field, or trying to find an internship that can give you experience and open the door for you.

Luckily, we are not alone, most if not all of us have felt some kind of emotion that is in this ballpark. Plus, we are living in a society that is open to discussing mental health. There are many resources that can assist you if you need help. 

A great way to relieve stress and start thinking about the future is to talk to fellow alumni in your department. They understand the stress you are under and can be good mentors, but only if you are willing to reach out to them. 

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get your dream job right away. Most of our favorite heroes did not get their dream job right after they were done with school. A prime example of this is writer Stephen King, who wasn’t a successful horror writer straight after graduating from the University of Maine. 

It is a rigorous grind to get to where you want to be. 

We must try to enjoy this post-graduation journey, and live in the moment but at the same time try to build a foundation that we can look back on and be proud of. 

Staying positive, hopeful and having faith in yourself might not fill the hole these emotions create, but they can make the days easier.   

Mario Ortiz can be reached at [email protected] or @realnameismario on Twitter.