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Counseling & Psychological Services
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173180
Bozeman, MT 59717-3180

Tel: (406) 994-4531
Fax: (406) 994-2485
Location: 211 Swingle
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Counseling Services

I'm Finally Graduating-So Why Do I Feel So Miserable?

Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassarr
Counseling & Psychological Services

The last few months of one's college career can be very stressful and full of mixed emotions. It is common to feel joy, excitement, relief, anxiety, apprehension, grief, fear or sadness. When these emotions co-exist, one may think, "I shouldn't be feeling this way." However, it is completely normal to feel all of the above emotions in varying degrees, perhaps even at the same time.

Graduation is a transition, and it is normal to go through a mixed bag of emotions in the face of something new. In some ways, graduation is a loss that needs to be grieved; you are saying goodbye to what has been your life for the last four-plus years. The ties you feel to Bozeman/MSU, to your friends, and to your role as a student are also going through this transition, and feelings of grief or sadness are likely to follow. In order to aid in this transition, give yourself the necessary time to "say goodbye" to your life here. Visit your favorite haunts, eat at your favorite restaurant, have a farewell beverage at your favorite hang-out, and schedule meetings or parties with friends. Taking pictures or other mementos of friends and places can help give you something to take with you.

For many, graduation means moving to a new place to start a job or enter graduate school. The last few months here at school may involve completing your job search, polishing up your resume, and sharpening your interview skills. The Career Center is the ideal service to help you with this. Some lucky graduates have their job or graduate school plans laid out, and for them it's on to a new experience. Keep in mind that you are entering a new role, either as a new professional or as a graduate student, and be prepared to make the necessary transitions and adjustments from a "student life" to a "professional life."

Many new graduates move back home until their next step has been mapped out. Again, there may be mixed feelings of comfort and security coupled with regret or trepidation at the thought of returning home. There is no shame in returning home-many new college graduates do this until they know what's next. Moving back in with mom and dad after four years of independence and autonomy may be a challenge. To navigate this, initiate a discussion with your parents about your expectations and preferences-you're not returning home in the same capacity in which you left, and it's important that they recognize the changes and growth that you have gone through. Knowing this is a time-limited event may also help, and setting realistic goals for how long you intend to stay can help you keep sight of this. This will keep you motivated to seek the next step, as well as help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Whatever your post-college experience may be, keep in mind the transitions you're experiencing and give yourself permission to feel the mixed emotions that they may bring. Doing so will likely make your transition easier because you won't be trying to ignore very real feelings and experiences.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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