The 5 Stages of Graduation Anxiety

By Taylor Dashiell on January 9, 2016


It’s seems like just last week you moved into your cubby hole of a freshman dorm, saying the first teary goodbye to your parents as they unloaded the last of your stuff from the family car. Whether you moved twelve minutes or twelve hundred miles, kept your nose to the books or partied until the sun came up every weekend for 4+ years, commencement is just around the corner and we’re all asking the same question: where did the time go?! The realization hits us all a little differently, but there are definitely landmarks we can all expect to hit during the last semester as an undergraduate. So let’s take some time to diagnose each stage and dissect it accordingly, because you’re going to need it. Oddly, they mirror the stages of grief, but in a way we are mourning a life, the impending end of our college life.

1.      Denial

Even with every hometown friend and distant family member talking about it and even as you boarded the plane or packed up the car to get back to campus, it still hasn’t hit you. The first day of class rolls around, and campus is as much a home as the apartment or dorm you’ve left that morning, or afternoon if you’re lucky. January is quite chilly even as far as Florida so spring semester is a bit more like winter for a good long while, but the cold makes you believe you have some time left. Time to goof off, time to focus solely on your course load, time to apply for jobs and internships. But you won’t be able to dwell in denial for long.

2.      Anger

You’ve realized that denial can no longer continue, and that’s frustrating. Maybe ignoring your anxieties and fears is how you deal with most obstacles but graduation is still approaching. In the event that you are usually sociable and patient, you might find yourself quick-tempered and more reclusive. You’ll be sick of just about everything, school work included. Situations that you’d normally be okay with or would find a way to fix without much hassle, become a momentous ordeal and you may very well create a scene. This is normal, but everyone will receive it differently, so be ready for a few “what’s your problem’s” and “chill out dude’s” since they’re clearly on a different stage than you. But like denial, anger will not last and you’ll find it can be quite exhausting to keep lashing out at anything and anyone so you will want to move on to the next stage.

3.      Bargaining

It’s a degree higher than denial in that you’re now trying to prevent the day from coming by any means necessary. So you binge watch that show you wanted to start instead of working on that eight page paper, or you run around all weekend with friends, trying not to think about the mountain of homework you have due on Monday. Maybe your professor will send out an email about an extension or cancelling class all together, giving you extra time to work on everything, therefore justifying your procrastination. You. Can’t. Keep. This. Up.

4.      Depression

For all intents and purposes, it’s the crash; all the energy used denying, fuming, and avoiding has finally taken its toll. No more running, no more pretending, graduation is staring you in the face and you still have so much to do. Not only do you want to finish your undergrad course load strong, you may be applying for internships and even jobs for after college. You don’t know where you want to go, and though your degree is supposed to be some sort of ‘guide line’ you’ve never felt more lost. It may also coincide with a busy week you’re having during the semester. Maybe you have a big test, or three, and that eight page paper is due by the end of the week. Coffee is water and you have no idea what a well-balanced meal is anymore.

5.      Acceptance

Hopefully it didn’t take you the whole semester to get to this wonderful anxiety free state, but if it did, no worries everyone processes their feelings at different speeds. Every stage before this has prepared you for this moment, you finished that paper and pulled a couple all-nighters to study for those tests but you’re made it! Graduation is coming, and it’s not quite detrimental that you don’t have that internship or job lined up because you’re graduating, that’s a big deal! So enjoy it, even the three hour commencement ceremony with the ten thousand other people in your class that you never met. A new life is waiting for you after you grab that diploma, and some very much needed R&R.


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