The Gap Decade Released this Week: FREE Sneak Peek!

You’re connected to After College Transition because you want the best resources for equipping students to thrive in their post-college journeys. I’m excited to share about a new IVP title that just released this week!

If you haven’t seen The Gap Decade by Katie Schnack, you need to add it to your must-read/must-recommend list for anyone you know who is in the process of “adulting.” They are not alone!

I had the honor of endorsing The Gap Decade (see my shameless plug below). This book will keep you turning pages and laughing until your sides hurt.

With complete hilarity and brutal honesty, Katie Schnack not only normalizes the awkwardness that comes with adulting, but she also inspires action; her willingness to tell the naked truth forces us to take hold of our own journeys and find hope in the struggle. Buckle up for some belly laughs and get ready for a binge read – you won’t want to put this book down!

Katie has generously agreed to share a sneak peek by including FREE access to an excerpt from Chapter 16 “Free Yourself From the Shame Around Mental Health. Because Who has the Time for Shame Anymore” (see below).

We both agree this chapter features a topic that concerns all of us who work with young people. I hope you appreciate Katie’s humor, even as she tackles a topic as serious and sensitive as mental health.

Enjoy! Don’t forget to order your copy…and a stack for all of those 20somethings you love!

Adaptation from The Gap Decade by Katie Schnack

Adapted from Chapter Sixteen, “Free Yourself From the Shame Around Mental Health. Because Who has the Time for Shame Anymore”

There is still a lot of stigma around mental illness, unfortunately. Even with all the internet positivity, awareness months, and people beginning to open up about their suffering— which are all wonderful steps—we still have a ways to go in society to be more empathetic and understanding of people who are struggling in this way. Myself included.

See, I have a stigma against my own mental illness, which is pretty ridiculous. Even writing the words “mental illness” makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s not that, not for me. I don’t have a mental illness, nah. I just get deeply sad where it hurts to exist or panic like an asthmatic ape in times of great stress. But despite how much I appreciate when others are open and honest about their struggles, I have had trouble admitting I have anxiety and depression. Which just seems silly. This is a real thing. Denying isn’t helping me, you, or the person reading this who is silently suffering and full of shame and embarrassment and confusion over why they can’t just “get it together” like everyone else appears to do on the internet. (Lies.) Personally, I am working to fight against my own self-imposed stigma in a way that is right for me. I think in situations like this, where you are trying to just manage your junk the best way possible, that is all you can do. Do what is best for you, and be kind to others along the way.

In working to fight for my health and bust through my old, creaky personal stigmas, I do a few things. I remain open about my struggles with my circle of friends, with my family, and in my writing. I don’t dwell on it or get dramatic about it, but if I am having a bad mental health day or can tell I am slipping below the surface, I tell my people. I tell my friends or Kyle, and they simply pray and listen, and it helps. And then I do everything I can to get my head above water again quickly, whether that be get some rest, exercise, change what I eat, or remember to take my medicine.

For me it’s important to be honest and open about when I’m struggling because during the times when I was hyperventilating and in so much internal pain from a panic attack I felt my soul explode or my skin hurt from the amount of depression weighing down on me, I would tell myself these lies: I am the only one. I am the only one who can’t hold it all together. Nobody else gets this nutso. What if someone saw you like this? What is wrong with you? I am the only one.

What kind of messed up internal trash talk is THAT? But when I hear or read about someone else being raw and upfront about their mental health struggles, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Every time I am reminded it isn’t just me gives me the life-giving strength to keep walking through the dark days and work toward a stronger, more stable, and truthful version of myself.

I once heard a powerful testimony of a girl who had severe onset depression during her third pregnancy and had to step away from her other two children and go receive longer, inpatient care. And when I heard that, you know what went through my mind? Not judgments. I didn’t “tsk tsk” at her like cranky Aunt Karen. Instead my heart was filled with compassion for what she walked through and the strength that must have taken to not only endure that hard season but then use it to speak to other women and inspire them.

I also thought, I get it. I get how she could get that low where she had to make the extremely difficult decision to step away from her two other little babies for a few weeks and get the help she needed. And I was so grateful she shared that story, which I know must have been so challenging for her to do. But I needed to hear about her dark days, then her strength and triumph as she stepped back into the light, and I am sure other women listening that day did too. And I realized if I can have compassion and empathy for her and her story, I certainly should try to do the same for myself.

Being reminded that it isn’t just me who has low moments is life giving. I need all the reminders, folks. And if you are struggling with mental health right now, here is a loving piece of written proof it isn’t just you either. It can feel so isolating, so hopeless, but it isn’t. Next time you are lying face down in the kitchen crying into your unwashed floor, I am right there with ya, sister. Been there, done that, cried on that floor. Used my tears to then wash it. You are not alone.

My bout of depression in Memphis was a doozy. Quite simply, it hurt to exist, and doing any tiny task took about ten times the strength and effort. I was exhausted by simply trying to function. It was pretty dang awful and scary, but mostly it just annoyed me—and my upstairs apartment neighbor who could hear me weeping.

It annoyed me because I was in that place again. I was so tired of being depressed. I was so tired of stupid panic attacks. I was so tired of having to deal with it once more and making poor Kyle have to deal with it. I wanted it gone from my life for good. I never again wanted to wake up with a chest tight with dread before my feet even hit the floor for the day. Instead, I wanted to wake up every morning and feel like a glittery Richard Simmons on a good hair day during his bestselling workout video wearing his best leotard. That is the level of life goals I aspire to. Instead, I just felt like the version of Richard Simmons who has hidden from society so long someone felt compelled to make a podcast about it. And I was mad about that.

I don’t know why people have mental health problems. I also don’t know why people get irritable bowel syndrome. But what I do know is they are both just physical illnesses that happen in your body and are usually just a product of your genes. Or jeans, if you wear them too tight and it starts to get to you. And nobody ever says if you poop weird you must be less of a Christian. Nobody shames you for not just trying to pray away your uncomfortable gas situation. The same should be true for mental health issues.

Taken from The Gap Decade  by Katie Schnack. Copyright (c) 2021 by Katilyn Marie Schnack. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Just Get Started: Something You Can Use Right Away

As promised, this next video talks about the importance of just starting somewhere. 

If you missed the first video, check that out before you watch this one. 

The video below includes ideas you can try right away. Just get started! Or, if you’re trucking along, make a commitment to take things to next level. Leave a comment below about what you’re up to or what you’re planning to try. Let’s encourage each other!

Rooting for you,

Erica 

P.S. Have you registered yet for the LIVE webinar later this week? I hope you can join me as I talk about The 3 Most Important Topics to Address with Seniors Before They Graduate.

Click here for instant access to the FREE resources I mention in the video.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

Is Transformation Possible?

I’m rolling out some FREE, fun things this week, and this video below is the first!

When it comes to equipping students for life after college, it’s easy to doubt our own efforts. We may wonder: Are we even making a difference?

In this video, I talk about how we started small. Very small. We didn’t quite know what we were doing, and we certainly doubted if we were making a difference.

But things didn’t stay that way forever.

I hope this video encourages you to get started or keep going, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant your attempts may feel right now.

Growth and transformation in your own work — and in the lives of students — is possible!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below, and subscribe on the right if you don’t want to miss out on the next video.

I’d love to hear from you!

-Erica

PS: Oh, one more thing you won’t want to miss: I’m hosting a FREE, live webinar later this week on The 3 Most Important Topics to Address with College Seniors Before They Graduate. Check it out, and hope to see you there!

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Equipping Students for Life After College

Click here for FREE access to downloadable PDF.

Many years ago, when my team and I started equipping students to thrive after college, we felt like we were creating in the dark. There were not many resources out there – for students or for those who work with them. We did a lot of building from the ground up, spun our wheels many times, and learned from the burn. 

I want to save you time and the frustration of spinning your wheels. Or, if you’re trucking along, I want to help you maximize your efforts and bring them to the next level. 

If you want to learn some of the pitfalls leaders should watch out for as well as how to turn the opposite actions into best practices, check out the attached PDF: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Equipping Students for Life after College. Click here, so you can discover what they are. 

Oh, one more thing. There’s more good stuff on the way! Keep your eyes on your inbox so you don’t miss out. 🙂

Now is the time to prepare students to thrive after college!

Rooting for you,

-Erica 

Are You Turning This Perceived Weakness into a Strength for Students?

Let me guess: Often, you feel like you’re in an uphill battle. You’re trying to convince students to take advantage of resources you have to offer, but they don’t know what they don’t know, so they opt out.

I get it. I’ve been just as frustrated, but I’ve also learned that there’s something we can do about it.

Instead of blaming students, we can work to alter their perceptions and normalize the help-seeking process for them.

Do your students perceive the need for help as something for the weak, remedial, or those who can’t figure things out on their own?

Let’s work to change this perceived weakness into a strength!

Successful Students Seek Help

In Thriving in Transitions, one of the contributors, Jillian Kinzie, talks about the importance of normalizing the help-seeking process for students. She writes,

“Students in transition need to not know only the campus resources that are available and how to access them, but also that successful students seek out those resources(p. 15).

Let’s show our students that strong and successful people seek out help.

Normalizing the Help-Seeking Process

Alumni panels are great place to feature individuals who have sought help along the way to their success.

I’ll never forget the time one of our alumnae panelists shared how she started seeing a personal counselor during her first year out of college. Her parents recent divorce coupled with the many stressors of the transition brought her to a place need. Sasha’s* vulnerability on the panel led to a student approaching me later on, confessing that she too had been struggling with a similar situation of her own parent’s divorce, among other issues. She asked, “Where can I get some professional help?”

When we normalize the help-seeking process, struggling students feel empowered to get what they need to thrive.

Putting This into Practice

If you are not in these roles already, show your students that successful students…

  • …seek out professors during office hours. These visits can foster academic success and build relational capital, which is crucial for life after college.
  • …seek out career and calling services/centers on campus. Help students avoid the April panic (Oh no! I’m graduating, and I don’t have a job!), and preemptively invite students into a career preparation process.
  • …seek out multi-generational relationships at church or elsewhere. Life after college is filled with generational diversity. Let’s prepare our students by encouraging cross-generational connections now.

Can you invite some former students to share how the help-seeking process has shaped them into the thriving alumni they are today?

I’m taking my own advice, and I invited two former ENGL 15 students to share their experiences with my current writing students this week. These two students made the most of the resources available to them; I want to show my current students that strong students seek help!

What’s one way you plan to normalize the help-seeking process for your students? Leave a comment below!

P.S. Speaking of help-seeking, where are you stuck when it comes to equipping students to thrive after college? I’m here to help! I’d love to chat for 15-20 minutes. Click here, and we’ll find a time!

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Live Training Course!

If you viewed the last video, then you know I have something super exciting I want to share with you! 

It’s a special, limited-time opportunity that I can’t wait to tell you about: a live training course for practitioners (student affairs professionals, college ministers and church leaders) who want to equip students to thrive after college. 

Are you ready to take your efforts to the next level? Check out this page and act quickly. The course begins next week! There are only a limited number of seats and this offer is only good until this Friday at 11:59pm ET. 

The Importance of Place and Space in Preparing Students for Life After College

In this video I share a little bit about how the Life After College program got started at Hope College. One of the key things we talked about as it was getting off the ground was the importance of space and place.

At the end of the video I mention a special, limited-time opportunity I have for you. It’s rolling out super soon, so keep your eyes on your inbox! If you don’t already receive updates, you can subscribe here to be sure you don’t miss it.

CAN’T WAIT!

Erica

PS Don’t forget to leave a comment below the video about one thing that stood out to you or one question you have – I want to hear from you!

Not What He Expected

When life after college does not pan out as expected, it can be easy to question, “Have done something wrong? Did I make a mistake in moving here, taking this job, or marrying this person?”

Just because something feels disorienting or distressing, it doesn’t mean we need to go somewhere else. In fact, we might be exactly where we need to be. Recent graduate, Jeff Schallick, comes to realize that his life and work have not turned out as expected. BUT, he’s not throwing in the towel. Instead, Jeff is determined to be faithful to his present calling, trusting in a bigger view and better dreamer for his life than himself.

Read more here…

Launching College Students Who Land in the Local Church

By September of his senior year, David had two great job offers. Two offers. In two totally different cities. As he compared the hiring packages, starting salaries and corporate cultures for each position, we challenged him to consider one more factor: location. As his campus ministers, we asked, Which offer will land you in a place where you can find a healthy church?

More Than an Afterthought

As students prepare for life after college, too often they focus a few items necessary for living on their own: securing a job, finding an apartment, having a paycheck in hand, and so on. Church becomes an afterthought. If we want to equip students to land in a local church after college, we need to help them consider this aspect of their lives long before they actually transition. There are many reasons why students don’t connect to a church after graduation: they can’t find one they like, they don’t know how to search, or they’re not convinced it matters. In the challenges of transitional times, church may feel like “one more thing” in the midst of other priorities.

If we want students to choose church, first and foremost we must offer a robust ecclesiology – what church is and why we go. Recent graduates need the church and the church needs them. They also need to know that their church experience in the next phase may look very different from college, and that’s okay! Most churches are not filled with individuals who are the same age or in the same life stage as they are. Age (and other) diversity may be an adjustment for some alumni. That’s why it’s crucial to offer good theology and healthy perspective. Church, in all of its mess and beauty, allows God to manifest his glory, us to experience community and the world to find hope. We are all diminished without it.

Students who understand why church matters are better prepared to find one when they leave. Post-college life requires purposefulness. Perhaps like no other time, accountability structures and social momentum have been removed; the onus is on them. If recent graduates know why they’re looking (it’s all about Jesus, not about me) and what they’re looking for (there’s no perfect church and no two churches are alike), they can make a short list of the non-negotiables they’re searching for in a church but be open from there.

List Non-Negotiables, Leverage Networks, & Consider Place

On a practical level, we can help our students discern their list of non-negotiables. For example, they can choose their musts (i.e. gospel-centered, bible-believing), their wants (i.e. band-led worship, people my age), and those things they’re flexible about (i.e. service times, small group structure). Also, we can help them leverage their network and ours for church recommendations. We keep a database of church recommendations that current students and alumni can access. Students can use it for suggestions, and once they’ve graduated and land in a local church, they can update the database with their recommendations.

Last but never least, let’s help our students consider place. We encourage students to think about moving to a location where they know they will have good church options, or if they’re not sure what’s next, we challenge them to move for a church community or church plant instead of for a job!

David took our challenge seriously. In fact, location was a key factor in accepting one offer over the other. He did some reconnaissance and learned that one of the positions would land in him in a city with dry spiritual soil and few gospel-centered churches. The other position took him to Philadelphia where he quickly plugged into a growing local church. Months later, David discovered that the job he accepted was not a fit. One could argue that he should have accepted the other offer! However, David does not see it this way at all. Because he had such a great church community, David was surrounded by support when he decided to leave his job. And, this community is the very reason he chose to find a new job in the area.

David credits the conversations he had during his senior year as pivotal in helping him find a healthy church after graduation – a crucial part of why he’s thriving beyond college…and why he has no desire to relocate. He’s found a church and community he wouldn’t trade.

This article first appeared in the Association of College Ministry Newsletter, © February 2018. Adapted from After College by Erica Young Reitz. © 2016 by Erica Young Reitz.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know: Community After College

What’s one of the top issues post-graduates face? Finding friends and community. I had a blast this past weekend talking with students about this issue and others at CCO’s Jubilee Conference.

See below for some of what we discussed.

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know: Community After College

It’s Friday night. After a long week, you just want to relax—preferably with a group of friends or even just one. The only problem is that there’s no one to hang out with.

Sound familiar? This was a picture of many of my Friday nights right out of college: sitting in front of the TV, eating DiGiorno’s pizza and feeling pretty sorry for myself that I had no friends. Though I value alone time, I was not prepared to spend night after night by myself, especially after experiencing such rich community in college.

Read more here…

This article first appeared on the InterVarsity Blog on June 23, 2016.