As the semester ends—and especially if your program is coming to an end—you can be sure that lots of changes are coming your way. When we ask students about changes they’re anticipating, they sometimes say, “I hope my friends and family never change” or “I’m worried about what might come next.”
It’s natural to fear change, especially if we are pretty comfortable with the status quo. Change leads to the unknown, and the unknown makes our minds uneasy. But during your time as a student and the years following graduation, you will likely experience more change than at any other time in your life.
How to get more comfortable with change
Over the next few years, you will likely experience more change than at any other time in your life. You may change degree programs, careers, living situations, and romantic partners. These changes will drive other changes too—in your interests, talents, relationships, priorities, and values. That’s what growth is. Life is change.
Instead of fearing change, practice opening yourself up to it.
- Don’t fight it. Change happens. If you resist change (“Why is this happening?” “What if I don’t like this?” “You said you would never change!”), you waste time and energy that could better be used managing what you are facing.
- Stay in the moment. Worrying excessively about what might or might not happen throws fuel on the fear fire. Keeping your attention in the present keeps you ready to do whatever is needed.
- Trust that you got this. You are more resilient then you think. You have the inner resources to take on whatever change brings your way, especially if you can settle into taking each day as it comes.
Change can be destabilizing—and also exciting and fun. To stay anchored in the present so you can maximize your resilience in the face of change, practice mindfulness for just 10 minutes a day. This way, you’ll be ready. The Headspace app is a good way to get started.
Students’ mixed feelings about what’s coming next:
“I’m looking forward to graduating and then finding a job, which could lead to a potential move. The unknown future scares me, but I keep trusting that everything will work out.”
—Chelsea B., third-year graduate student, University of Texas at Tyler
“I will be graduating this spring, so I am looking forward to having my free time back. I work and take classes online part-time. I will be revisiting hobbies that I have not had time for in recent years. It has taken me five years to complete my program.”
—Sonja M., second-year student, Nova Scotia Community College
“I’ll be taking a break from school and focusing more on my family, which is just as busy but a different type.”
—Jennifer W., first-year student, Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina
“I’m starting a PhD program at a new university in a new city. I expect to feel significant anxiety, but I’ll handle it.”
—Barry F., third-year graduate student, Portland State University, Oregon