Life after college - are you ready?

By Mindy Griser

You've had graduation day visualized in the back of your mind since freshman year and now you find it quickly approaching. Amidst the excitement and enthusiasm also comes a frenzy of emotions that borderline on hysteria. Don't panic. You're not alone -- and you're not going crazy.

Pre-graduation fright is not only completely normal, but almost a prerequisite to accepting that diploma and diving head first into the real world.

According to Fran Katzanek, author of the newly published Reality 101: The Ultimate Guide to Life After College, academics have little to do with transition. "Not knowing what awaits you is the most traumatic," says Katzanek. "Even though high school is different than college, it's still an extension of a structured environment."

Katzanek, who served as director of career services at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island for 15 years, was inspired to write the book to help recent college graduates and almost-grads cope with the trauma of ending their college career. The idea came to her after she realized that graduating students - even those with the highest honors -- are horrified when staring the future right in the face.

The book deals with many "real world" related issues, like finding a satisfying job, how to handle a landlord, signing a lease and how to juggle bills.

Ryan Dickey, a 1996 graduate of the University of California, Davis described his last semester as one of the toughest periods in his life. Finishing up with classes the December before graduation, Dickey took a corporate job, yet continued living with two of his college roommates until his graduation ceremony took place in June of 1997. Dickey says adjusting his sleep schedule with that of his roommates was problematic.

"They would have friends over and party almost every night," says Dickey. I had to be in bed every night by 10:30 [p.m.] so I could get up early enough to function the next day. I eventually had to wear ear plugs to bed just so I could fall asleep among the noise." For Dickey, this created a great deal of stress, which was aggravated by the pressure of starting a new career.

Courtney Greve, a senior at the University of Illinois in Champagne, says most of her college buds are more concerned with avoiding what Dickey was going through -- the trap of a conventional job.