How To Cope With Post-Graduation Depression


Every college student fantasizes about graduation day. After countless hours of work and thousands in tuition, graduating should feel like an accomplishment — but I was terrified.

The moment when college ends and life begins can feel scary, especially for people like me. Not only did I not have a job lined up on graduation day, I had a summer course to complete before I could even officially receive my degree. But listening to my feelings through major life transitions has made me realize that my path is unconventional.

In high school, I was aware that I couldn’t afford to attend a four-year university immediately, and I didn’t want to. I knew people looked down at community college, but I didn’t let the stigma bother me and went anyway. Then I transferred to UCLA, where I spent two years finishing up my bachelor’s degree in communications. While there, I didn’t live on campus to save money and was one of the few who commuted. This choice allowed me to feel productive, scheduling class two days a week and working retail the other days. I managed to tackle three internships while in college, building up a good resume. To add to my already odd college experience, I studied abroad my last quarter, returning home just one week before commencement.

My college experience wasn’t typical, but I loved it. I subscribe to the notion that humans thrive with structure and set goals. I rode the high of graduation for a couple months until my summer course ended in August. My friends went back to school or started entry-level positions and a wave of stress crashed over me. Why don’t I have a job yet? Where do I apply? What do I even want to do? It was the first time in my life I had no plan. The structured Virgo in me didn’t know how to handle it.

I felt a pressure to jump into a career immediately upon graduation. I think everyone does. Many of us have loans to pay, and with a degree, there shouldn’t be any barriers to a well-paying job, right? We deserve it.

But my struggle is, after five years of college, I’m still not sure what to do next. I’ve applied to countless jobs and received as many rejections. I’m overwhelmed by living so close to Los Angeles, where every imaginable opportunity exists, just miles away. But the prospect of endless opportunities somehow make job hunting feel even more daunting. I’ve broken down several times in this transition.  

Some days are great — I apply to some jobs, go to the gym, list items on Depop for some extra cash. Other days feel hopeless; I wake up at 11 a.m., get lost in my DVR, and question everything.

I’m still coming to terms with the fact that everyone has their own path. I know that life is short, but I’ve only been done with school a couple months and already my mind is arrested with the idea that I’m a failure. I’ve convinced myself that living at home without a steady income shortly after graduating is an unacceptable position to be in, even though I’m not alone in this reality. Finding ways to cope with feeling lost after graduation is a personal journey, but I find them in the little things.

A key for me is making small improvements. I try my best to work out, enhance my job skills, spend time with my friends regularly, remain positive, and show gratitude. Some of this may sound hokey, but it effectively keeps my glass half full. Your mind can turn on you in a moment, taking you to deep and dark depths, but I’ve learned that actively working to stay positive keeps you from succumbing to post-grad depression.

Growing up I believed that your job should be your passion. And many of my peers are living examples of this belief, fulfilling their dreams at elite companies like Gucci and IBM. But now, at 23, not only am I finding it difficult to pinpoint my passion, sometimes I’m just hoping to become financially comfortable. Money can’t buy happiness, but in this economy, it can definitely help a whole lot. 

As I’m writing this, I’m still unemployed, but I’m (somewhat) optimistic. My mind races every day when I look at jobs and reflect on how different life was a year ago. For now, I must remind myself of my victories thus far, big or small, and embrace comfort in the unknown.