Why is college graduation so traumatic for some young adults?

Early Adulthood (19–40) Read more from
Chapter Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

College graduation marks an abrupt transition between adolescence and young adulthood. Particularly for those students who attend residential, four-year colleges, the end of the relatively sheltered and structured college experience can be quite disorienting. In general, the transition between adolescence and adulthood can be anxiety-provoking. People at this stage of life often feel considerable anxiety about taking on the risks and responsibilities of creating an adult life structure. Fear of failure or of being trapped in a dead-end or soul-crushing career can feed a desire to prolong the carefree, aimless days of adolescence.

Two popular American movies that came out in the 1990s address the emotional difficulties some young adults have in making the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. Clerks, starring Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, and Reality Bites, starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofolo, and Ben Stiller, both play with the humor and pathos of this stage of life.


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