ATHENS, GA – This year, give your grad the best gift possible: don’t ask what their post-graduation plans are. On May 13, between 4,500 and 5,000 students will receive their bachelor’s degrees from the University of Georgia. Whether it’s a friend, sibling, child or acquaintance, chances are that you know a graduate. What you may not know is that by asking that well-intentioned question, you put more pressure on your already anxious grad.
When asked what their least favorite question they’d received was, three graduates all replied with the simple question: “What are you doing after graduation?”
Angela Hendricks, a graduating Human Development & Family Science student from Jesup, Georgia, explains that she’s spent the semester applying for different positions, but that she won’t find out about most of them until mid-May.
“I’m waiting to hear back, but people are… bombarding me with questions and I don’t know the answer,” Hendricks says.
Jazmyn Wormely, a 2015 UGA alumna from Fayetteville, Georgia notes that even five months after graduation, questions about her future plans, especially about a full-time job, still weigh on her.
“I tell people all the time… I’m an intern. And they’re like, ‘Oh so how is your job?’ Or they’ll say ‘Are they offering you a full time position?’… I don’t have a job yet; please stop asking me that question. Kinda makes you feel bad.”
Wormely interns at BBDO, an advertising agency in Atlanta. Her internship was scheduled to end in early April, but was extended due to the lack of available full-time positions.
“…When your life’s out of your control, that’s when it’s stressful because… you’re basically depending on a company to open a position for you. And you can’t do anything about that,” she adds.
In addition to putting on pressure, asking their future plans also limits the graduate to a single track. Hendricks advises future grads to keep their options open, because the best things happen spontaneously.
Her advice comes from experience. Hendricks deferred a summer internship that would’ve completed her degree to study abroad in London. She earned four scholarships to fund her trip, got approval from her dean to postpone her internship back to the fall and will still be graduating on time.
“…Whatever plans you have, be willing and ready to throw them out the window. Just be open to the idea of throwing all your plans out the window and like pursuing something totally different. Not all of your plans, but new opportunities come up and different things arise… Just go for it,” says Hendricks.
Rachel Eubanks, a graduating photojournalism student from Marietta, Georgia, advises well-meaning inquirers to redirect their questions to the present.
“…My life doesn’t only start when I graduate; my life is right now… I think it’s silly to focus on… only on the future… For instance, right now I’m working on this photo project and that’s really exciting for me, and that’s what I have to focus on right now… It would alleviate my anxiety if people would do that too, if people would focus on like, the life you’re living in the present, rather than what’s coming up next.”