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Tips for Emerging Adulthood

Did you know there is a life stage called Emerging Adulthood? Well, as a UVA student or recent graduate, you’re right in the middle of it! It’s an exciting and uncertain time, full of opportunity and change. Read on for tips on how to enjoy and master this important phase of life.

The Five Defining Characteristics of Emerging Adulthood are:

  • Identity Exploration
  • Instability
  • Self-Focus
  • Feeling In-Between
  • Possibility

TIP: This is a time for exploring who you want to be, in love, work, and worldview. It’s a time when almost nothing is certain, because most of your major life decisions are still ahead of you. Watch this Ted Talk by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, who coined the term emerging adulthood, and conducts extensive research on the topic. (And guess what – he got his PhD from UVa!)

Self-Focus is not Selfishness.

You may have heard some bad press about twentysomethings: that they are disinclined to work hard, afraid of commitment, or too idealistic. Try not to let these critiques get into your head! Looking through the lens of emerging adulthood, your twenties are a time when one of your main obligations is to yourself. Of course, you may still have responsibilities to others, but don’t forget that you’re an important part of the equation. This can be a time to begin learning what brings your life meaning, what you are curious about knowing and doing, and who you prefer to spend your time with. You can try things now that might be harder in the future when you have long-term commitments.

Some examples:

  • Travel
  • Unusual work
  • Building and prioritizing strong friend networks
  • Acquiring unique skills

What else would you like to try?

TIP: Your brain is primed right now for growth and new experiences – keep it active!

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

Believe it or not, the first job or opportunity you get right out of college is actually your first chance, not your last, to explore what you want to do with the rest of your adult life. Despite the pressures you may feel, you have time to figure out who you are and what you want – you have the whole rest of your life, in fact.

TIP: Avoid comparing yourself to your peers – this is your life, not anyone else’s, and whatever steps you take will be sure to lead somewhere! Take a breath, observe your surroundings, and see what you can learn… from there, decide what to do next.

Support System: To develop your support system, ask yourself:

  • Do you love spending time with close friends?
  • What are the routines that support your self-care?
  • Have you created a sense of meaning through volunteering? Mentoring? Writing?

Whatever you do after graduation, whether you stay in Charlottesville, move back home, or go to a totally unfamiliar place, creating a new support system is an important first step.

TIP: If you’re graduating, take some time to reflect on what worked for you during college. Establishing familiar, enjoyable habits will help to remind you that you know at least a few things things about who you are, and what you need to thrive.

Final TIP: Remember that you can always reach out for support! The Women’s Center is here for you as a resource, even after you graduate. So enjoy graduation, celebrate your big accomplishments, embrace your new identity a member of the Alumni – and remember – we’re always just a phone call away.

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