After College, Erica Young Reitz. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.
Summary: A faith-oriented guide to navigating the transition from college to early adulthood, exploring issues of faith, relationships, community, work, calling and finances.
Much has been made about the loss of faith that sometimes occurs among youth who go to college. Less attention is given to the deepening of faith of others or the spiritual awakening of some that occurs during college. Even less have there been good discussions of how believing students navigate the transition to post-collegiate early adulthood. Until now.
Erica Young Reitz, who has led the Senior EXIT program, a senior year college transition program at Penn State, has given us a kind of roadmap describing the transitions post-collegians face, and what it means to live faithfully to Christ in a new situation. In her introduction, she writes:
“Leaving the gates of university life often comes with the expectation that we’re ready for what’s on the other side. But what does readiness even mean? Some students feel ready in September of their senior year (get me out of here!) while others—who may actually be more equipped for the “real world” than they realize—dread college coming to a close. In the scurry of résumé preparations and job applications, it’s easy to reduce readiness to our emotions about entering adulthood or to a list of key items necessary for life on our own.”
The first part of the book explores what faithfulness to Christ looks like in this new situation. She explores what it is like to go, like Abraham, with God into the unknown. She considers our expectations of “normal” and whether these have room for adversity, in which we might experience taking up the cross in new ways. She explores the big question of discerning God’s will, especially when faced with a myriad of choices.
Part two then explores what faithfulness looks like in community. She honestly discusses finding new friends post-college and the challenge to become hospitable people. She talks about finding a church, with some helpful material for those who have experienced different forms of abuse in their church experience. She talks about the diversity of people we will encounter and going out of our comfort zones. She gives very practical counsel on the matter of parents and moving from dependence through independence to a healthy form of interdependence. She candidly discusses dating, sex, and marriage, post-college. I especially appreciated her practical counsel about not living together while saving up for the storybook wedding, which seems to be the narrative of many young couples.
The final part of the book concerns living out our calling faithfully in the world. She includes chapters on stewarding every area of life for the kingdom, dealing with the realities of the workplace, and our handling of finances. She offers a very practical discussion of workplace realities and what it might practically mean to “bless” our co-workers. In the area of finance, she offers helpful resources including a budget planning sheet and challenges the assumption that it is necessary to take on large car loans and consumer debt, freeing one to use more resources for kingdom aspirations.
The book is informative without being preachy, using a number of stories while also giving very practical tips. Reitz helps people understand how this period is a kind of liminal space that may feel disorienting or painful, and how to live as a person of faith in this time. Each chapter concludes with “Going Deeper” questions that could be used individually or in a group discussing the book. There are passages for scripture study as well as a few additional relevant books suggested.
This is a great gift for graduating students. Even better, it would make a great discussion resource for a semester discussion with a group of seniors. The issues Reitz raises also raise important questions for those of us working in collegiate ministry. Are we waiting until senior years to talk about things like the will of God, community, work and calling, money and sexuality? We probably talk about sexuality before then, but what about the others? Are we simply mentoring students for our mission on campus or also for their mission in life? After College is a great resource to help students navigate this crucial transition from the former to the latter.