Survive Quarter Life Crisis

Surviving the Quarter Life Crisis

When you’ve spent 12 years of your life in school, the thought of a life without the structure and routine of education can be a little scary. Since pre-school, school has defined our every-day patterns. As May gets closer and closer, many students are beginning to experience something terrifying: the quarter life crisis.

A quarter life crisis can be explained as a period of time during your twenties to thirties when you begin to feel doubtful about your life, brought on by the stress of looming adulthood. George Kapalka, Ph.D., a professor of psychological counseling, has witnessed this anxiety among many students at Monmouth University. He explained, “Most students go to college right after high school, so by the time they graduate from college they have been in school for 17 years straight. When you’re 22, that’s about 2/3rds of your life.”

Kapalka continued, “So, after college will be the first time when a good degree of structure provided for you – by having classes and spending time studying and completing assignments – so when you now have to create your own structure – by getting a job, a place of your own, etc. – this is anxiety provoking because you never really had to do that.”

Students have to face the reality of the job market. We’ve been in our comfortable Monmouth bubble, but the thought of competing with students from all over the country (not just North and South Jersey) is something a lot of us sweat over. “It’s stressful at times to think about what I want to do for the rest of my life, after I get my Master’s,” said Stephanie Merlis, a senior business marketing student. “The idea of sending in hundreds of job applications and not getting a response is terrifying.”

Finances are another aspect to be concerned about for graduating students. Many students are supported by their parents, whether it be your mom chipping in for a mealplan, or your dad covering your house’s utility bills. Kapalka said, “For many students this will be the first time they will live on their own and have to attend to all matters pertaining to renting a place, paying bills, etc. While they may have some of that in college, it is greatly increased when one rents his/her own place and has to attend to all aspects of that. This can seem overwhelming at first.”

Another scary aspect of the future is what we are constantly being told about the outside world. Will we get hired? Will we live with our parents forever? What is actually going on with the economy? Kapalka explained, “While the economy has improved over the past several years by most objective standards, that’s not the message that is portrayed most often in the media – especially Internet sources – and so this further drives the anxiety. As evident in the current election, many people feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, and thus those graduating from college and entering the workforce at this time have anxiety about how they will survive in a country where things are getting worse.”

Danielle Romanowski, a senior communication student, has experienced this panic before, stating, “At this point in my life I have had multiple quarter life crises about all aspects of life. Having a quarter life crisis is not being able to enjoy life in the present moment because you’re so concerned about what the next step is and potentially ruining your life; you feel as if you’re not in control of your life.”

Romanowski explained, “For me, there’s always been a clear path in life, but after college it’s like, what’s next? That question is hard to answer sometimes. You don’t know what your life is supposed to look like in your twenties.”

For some students, social media fuels the fear. You refresh your Instagram page to see your graduated friends succeeding in their fields, or posting a Facebook status announcing their next endeavor, and you start to doubt if you will find success.  “I feel it’s not fair to have these high expectations of 20 year olds when that’s never been a past thing,” argued Samantha Marella, a senior business student. “Now everyone’s expected to go to college and expected to get a job, when we should never be expected to take on such big careers at such a young age. I think social media plays a larger role in the quarter life crisis because we’re the first generation to be able to compare our successes and failures with everyone we’ve ever met in our lives.”

While your peers and friends may not admit to their anxieties, it’s probable that every student has experienced fear of the future.

Kapalka advised, “Have concrete plans and know what you’ll do after your graduate, so that transition will be more natural. Start seeking jobs before you graduate. Get support from student employment programs, and get help with structuring your resume and learning good interview skills. Apply to a lot of jobs so you can gain experience with the interview process. Talk to your parents or older siblings about what one needs to know to maintain own apartment. Set up lists of bills and schedules of payments for personal bills so that you stay on top of them. The more concrete steps you take to help you set your direction after you graduate, the more confident you’ll be about being OK after college.”