As college seniors walk across the graduation stage for their diploma, there’s something else they should pick up: After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith by Erica Young Reitz, a needed and refreshingly honest book on life after college.
Reitz is well-qualified to write about these transitions that follow graduation. For the last decade, she has worked with hundreds of seniors and recent grads through the Coalition for Christian Outreach. She also directs Senior EXIT at Penn State University, “a one-year experience that prepares graduating college seniors for the transition into the next phase of life.” After College draws upon her experience and offers a helpful framework for any 20-something figuring out what’s next.
What makes After College distinct is its explicitly Christian perspective on navigating the ups and downs of life after graduation. Right away, the book establishes that life after graduation is not just about finding a job, getting a good paycheck and making friends. Instead, “It’s about preparing not just for a career but for a life of faithfulness in a complex world.”
The book has three main sections: “Real Faith: Faithful to Christ,” “Real Life: Faithful to Community” and “Real World: Faithful to Our Calling.” Within these pages, hardly a topic is left uncovered. In section one, Reitz devotes several chapters to navigating transitions, overcoming adversity and making decisions.
In the next section, Reitz addresses unavoidable transitions that every graduate will face. These chapters focus on making friends; finding a church community; welcoming diversity; changing relationships with parents; and sex, dating and marriage. Reitz manages to make these stressful and complex topics feel accessible and manageable. She also makes clear that these transitions aren’t a walk in the park; however, she offers insights, wisdom and a biblical foundation for not only navigating the transition but thriving in it.
The final section, devoted to remaining faithful to calling, offers both principle and practice. Christian college students often pressure themselves to discern their vocation. But Reitz helpfully reminds readers, “When we think we have to find one ‘right’ calling nugget in a deep river of choices, we may fail to steward our here and now lives for God.” Instead she offers a vision of a common calling for Christians: “to care for God’s world and to be a blessing to others – to love God and neighbor.” She discusses God’s purpose for work, and has an extremely practical chapter on financial stewardship and management.
Each chapter in After College weaves in stories from former students and graduates on their transition. Reitz offers personal stories, too, contributing to an engaging and genuine style of writing. Each chapter roots its topic in a biblical framework and directs readers towards pursuing Christ in all we do. One of the great strengths of the book is its “Going Deeper” resources after each chapter. There, Reitz provides reflection questions, suggested scripture reading and recommended reading from other Christian authors. Thus, readers interested in exploring one of the book’s topics in more depth have an excellent resource at their disposal.
While it’s difficult to imagine Reitz covering much more in her comprehensive book, it does lack attention to navigating political life. For many Christians passionate about justice issues, a chapter offering a Christian vision for citizenship responsibilities and political engagement would have been appropriate.
It would be impossible to write a book that addresses every transition a graduate will face after leaving campus, but Reitz comes close. The book lends itself well to group study and is an excellent resource for anyone working with college seniors or recent graduates. If the 20s are a training ground, as Reitz writes, then After College serves as a biblically rooted, insightful and engaging training manual.
Katie Thompson is the editor of the Center for Public Justice's online publication Shared Justice. A graduate of Gordon College, she co-authored Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice with Michael Gerson and Stephanie Summers.