What Not To Say To Someone Who Just Graduated

Whether you're celebrating a kindergarten promotion or the end of high school, graduating is a huge accomplishment that should be commemorated. Even your dog deserves a ceremony when they complete their puppy training! For those who spent four or more years pursuing higher education, strutting down the stage in a cap and gown to receive their degree can bring a sense of excitement and anxiety all at once. College graduation signifies the end of late-night study sessions, frat parties, and endless piles of homework, thank goodness. But it also signifies the beginning of the rest of a graduate's life, which for many means making tough decisions, entering the workforce, and navigating life on their own without the structure of scheduled classes and a summer break to look forward to.

When you find yourself at the graduation ceremony or celebration of a loved one, keep in mind that they might be feeling some serious nerves and anxiety as they embark on a new phase of life, and try to avoid questions and comments that will inevitably make them feel even worse.

Avoid rapid questioning and financial lectures

You're bound to attend at least a few graduation ceremonies or afterparties: as of 2021, 91% of Americans have a high school diploma, and 37% of Americans have a college degree or higher, per Statista. While you're probably curious about your loved ones' five-year plan, a whirlwind of questions might be more than the graduate can handle. Cosmopolitan shares some of the biggest no-no's when approaching a recent grad, and the phrase, "So, what's next?" is at the top of their list. Graduates are most likely asking themselves that question, and probably don't have an answer. Even if they have an internship or a job lined up, give them a moment to celebrate their accomplishment before asking about the next one.

College graduation can be daunting for any twenty-something who likely has some pretty serious debt thanks to their shiny new degree  — according to U.S. News, the average student debt in America is around $30,000. Woman's Day advises against reminding them of all that debt, or any sort of expenses, on their big night of celebration. Questioning them about how much their degree cost, the details about their loan payments, or asking how they can afford rent and expenses is not appropriate. If you are financially savvy, try offering your help gently: "If you need any help navigating your finances during your transition period, I'm here for you!" This gentle suggestion is kind and helpful without calling for immediate action or spiking their anxiety.

Advice is nice, but it's not always helpful

You might expect college grads to be jumping for joy when they finish college, but for many, it is a sad occasion. They could be moving away from their college town, and leaving friends behind, or feeling seriously lost about what to do next. Giving them advice to help cheer them up might be well-meaning, but phrases like, "You're supposed to be happy!" or "You and your friends won't ever be this close again," are usually not received very well, according to Cosmopolitan. While you may be speaking from your experience in college, that doesn't necessarily mean they also had that experience, so your wise words come from an unhelpful place. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's still not okay to invalidate their experience or their feelings.

Speaking of feelings, you are most likely over-the-moon excited to see your loved ones growing up and accomplishing their goals, but don't assume that their path is the same as everyone else. The Guardian reports that it's best not to push graduates about their next milestones: No grad wants to hear, "So, will I hear wedding bells soon?" Whether or not they're in a serious relationship, marriage doesn't have to be the next thing on their to-do list. Besides, they literally just graduated. Try not to put more pressure on their next steps, especially one as big as tying the knot.

A simple congrats can go a long way

It can be hard to navigate the waters of conversation when someone close to you is experiencing such a monumental time in their life. When in doubt, express your love sincerely and briefly. A simple, "Congratulations! You did it!" will never go out of style. You simply being present and celebrating communicates to the graduate that they have a support system and that the people around them are proud.

If your loved one is struggling with their feelings about graduating, it's natural to want to console them and ease their anxiety. You might have a ton of life experience that they can learn from and a whole well of knowledge they wish they had. But sometimes, the best thing you can do is remind them that they're smart and capable and will figure things out. College Girl Smarts reminds us that things do get better after graduation, and success does not have one definition. Whatever makes your graduate happy should be what they strive for, and you can be there as a beckon of support for them to lean on.