• Jacinth Jones

First Year Out: A Post-Grad Survival Guide


Credit: Alexis Young

Roughly one year ago, the class of 2019 set sail toward new heights. Some crossed the stage with job offers, postgraduate fellowships or graduate school acceptances. Others moved back home temporarily, waited three to six months for an entry-level position or both. 


Without the steady pace of coursework, internships, 18-credit semesters or much needed spring or summer breaks, navigating life after college was and is a big jump into times of uncertainty and ambiguity. 


Last year, I spoke with nine then three-month-old HBCU graduates about their words of wisdom to the incoming freshmen class. I checked back with them to see how they were faring their first year out. 


To the HBCU class of 2020 (congratulations!), take it from the recent graduates who survived their “freshman year of life.”



1. Nathan Vinson | Florida A&M University


If there is one thing I would tell myself this time last year, I would simply say "it always, and in all ways, comes together." As someone who was known as a high-achieving individual, not having a job offer as I crossed the graduation stage was a little hard for me. 


But hard times are often humbling times, and that could not have been more true for me.

Credit: Justyn Thomas

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the gap between graduation and the first day of my postgraduate job was to learn how to slow down, and to take life moment by moment rather than large chunks. 


And it has been the most rewarding lesson of my life. My potential is even greater than it was before. That is what happens when you open yourself up to a new way of thinking and a better way of living!

2. Xanté Wallace | Prairie View A&M University


Graduating can be one of the most elating yet daunting experiences a young adult could endure. The possibilities of venturing into a world full of freedom, while hyperventilating about the plethora of choices that you can and cannot make, continually weighs on our mind. 

Credit: Jessmine Cornelius

In these new environments, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, after you find a place to stay to provide shelter with food and water, we yearn for safety and security accompanied with love and belonging. Join networks the moment you settle in your place. Young professional networks, community service organizations, social clubs and others are key to making you feel belonged. 


Furthermore, a lot of these entities are geared towards young adults getting established in their field to ensure the transition is a calmer one. Find your fit, calm your mind and enjoy the new journey!

3. Mikael Aregaye | Bowie State University 


Graduating was a wondrous feeling and an amazing accomplishment - especially as a first-generation student. As a senior, I longed for my degree. I presumed once I received a diploma, I would be free to live out all my dreams and inhibitions. On the contrary, adulthood had something else in mind.

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I soon realized life after college was not as lavish as I imagined. I slowly began to adjust to the working life and discovered things about myself that I could not have in a formal education. You can not learn everything about life in a book. After months of venturing the murky waters of adulthood, I began to understand the beauty in all its grim and unearthed a new me.


Do not be afraid to take the plunge. The real world will bring out the real you. 

4. Cassidi Williams | Southern University 


There are going to be questions about your next move you honestly may not be sure of and that is okay. It is important to reflect and think on your feelings. Do not ever feel like a decision should be made by a deadline or boxed into any “realistic job.”

Credit: Drake Boudreaux

If you told me my freshman year I would be working as flight attendant, I would have probably laughed.  It sounded so outside of the picturesque lifestyle I thought I would have. I still have plans to pursue a higher degree but I am more comfortable with where I am and how I chose to get there.


Be kind and patient with yourself. Things always have a way of working themselves out.

5. Alexandra Henry | Xavier University of Louisiana


It has officially been a year and I still look at my diploma in awe. Since graduation, I quickly learned things do not always go as planned. Anything can happen but remember that God’s timing is always better than our timing. 


Before I crossed the stage, I had some last minute unresolved credit issues which could have prevented me from graduating with my class. By the time the issue was resolved, I was unable to apply to graduate school because my transcript did not show I fulfilled Xavier’s graduation requirements. 

Although upset, it was key to not let this setback keep me from reaching my goals. I got out of my feelings and started working even harder. By taking GRE prep classes to better my score (which I did) and attending networking events, I landed a full-time position at a Houston hospital - a place I always dreamed of working for.  


All in all, I wish someone had told me to give myself more time. You do not have to try and make all your dreams come true at once.  It will lead to frustration and bitterness toward others. Take time to find or build your dream career/life. 


You can truly have it all - just not overnight. 

6. Christian Roberts | Morehouse College


Embrace the journey. 


During the first few months after graduation, I consistently found myself trying to imagine what the next years would look like socially, academically and spiritually. I kept making attempts to identify exactly where I wanted to be, exactly how I wanted to get there and the time frame needed to accomplish my goals. However, I understand that God leads us where we are meant to be in his timing and way. 

As the current circumstances are proving, things will happen far beyond our control that will alter the plans and ideas we have for ourselves. However, while interruptions, challenges and disappointments are inevitable, they are natural and just one part of what can be a very fun and empowering journey toward becoming an adult.


Although there is a lot I am waiting to experience and become, what I’m waiting for is not as important as what God wants me to do during the wait.

7. Briana Jenifer | Howard University


Graduating from college is a freeing experience. It is something you work towards for years and when you finally reach it, you can’t help but wonder “now what?” 


In the first few weeks, you are caught up in the whirlwind of starting your adult life. You move out of your dorm, say goodbye to friends and prepare to start that better life you have been waiting for. It can be overwhelming. I found myself feeling pressured to get something off the ground the instant I made it out. 

My advice is to not be so hard on yourself. I know it is easier said than done but it is important to learn. It takes time to develop confidence and to build a skillset. The good thing is that time moves differently when you have graduated.


In school, everything is compressed into a finite period but in reality, you have your whole life to develop.

8. Kayla Triche | Tuskegee University 


Relax and enjoy the journey ahead. 


Nobody tells you how postgraduate life leaves you feeling unsure of just about everything. There are depressive and frustrated moments if you feel like you are not where you should be. Leaving the safe college bubble that sheltered you and moving to a new chapter in life can set off bouts of nervousness and anxiety. 

Whether you are on track to continue your education or jump into the workforce, give yourself time to adapt to your new environment and discover your new normal. Take it one day at a time and celebrate every win even the little ones. 


Rome was not built in a day and you cannot expect postgrad life to immediately lead to your happily ever after.


Enjoy the ride of discovering adulthood because every high and low you experience will mold you into your best self.

9. Destiny Van | Spelman College


I knew there would be trials transitioning from an undergraduate program to a doctorate - especially from an HBCU to a predominately white institution. As a Black woman, I constantly deal with microaggressions and unsettling circumstances but I refuse to be silenced.

Life will throw a bunch of curveballs at you so try to always be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Find safe spaces. It is so easy to get caught up in work/research but it is essential to have a support system. Communication among loved ones is so important and I wish it was emphasized today. Keep in touch and pray for them.


Constantly seek and go to therapy and church. Find a trusted therapist that can navigate your experiences the best way possible. Most of all, strengthen your faith and relationship with God every day.



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