Preparing for Life After College: How to Find Community

by Savannah Lawrence ’19

Envisioning life after college can sometimes feel like stepping into the unknown. Perhaps it’s the thought of moving home (or moving away from home), starting a new job, or establishing your post-college identity that fills you with questions. For some, the thought of leaving college means leaving behind the community they’ve called a second home for several years. Fortunately, while change is an inevitable part of this growing process, there are endless opportunities to find and cultivate your new community after graduating.

“We as human beings are made for community, but community can look different from person to person,” said Coba Canales, M.Div., dean of spiritual formation at Azusa Pacific. “Whether in a new town or back home, there are various ways to explore finding healthy community after college.” Canales himself says he experienced the difficulty of finding community after his own undergraduate experience at APU. Here are his recommendations for recent and soon-to-be college graduates.

The Transition from College

“It’s a common experience for students to leave the undergraduate environment where there is so much access to people and programs that were in some ways built for you,” said Canales. “What graduates will find after college is that there are not as many of those naturally built-in community moments.” For example, students at APU find community in their living spaces, classrooms, clubs, international organizations, D-Groups, cohorts, alpha groups, and more. Many don’t realize how formative these groups have been until it is time to leave and find new communities after college.

Don’t Wait for Community to Come to You

After graduating, Canales’ search for community led him to start a young adult ministry and then to focus on college ministry, which ultimately led to his role as campus pastor at APU. “Starting that ministry in some ways was meeting the needs of others, and in some ways helping me find that community that I wanted,” he said. “Don’t wait for community to happen to you. If you are looking around wondering where it will come from, be the source that helps create and build it.”

Seek Community in Your Workplace

Whether in your current job or field of interest, coworkers and colleagues are a great source of community for recent graduates. “Students may be pleasantly surprised by the ways that they will make new and very good friends that they don’t currently have,” said Canales. He suggests college graduates stay open to the possibilities of new relationships while seeking to continue existing ones.

Balance Digital and Face-to-Face Connections

Staying connected with those you’ve met during your college journey is easier than ever thanks to social media. Canales says keeping in touch and maintaining connections online is one way to continue your existing communities. “Graduates should find ways to balance their virtual and digital ongoing connections with friends they met while at school,” he said.

Get Involved with a Church

Canales recommends recent graduates get established or reestablished with a church community. “Graduates can be part of church communities where they have shared faith and shared values—where you can be seen, loved, heard, encouraged, supported, and held accountable,” he said. “Your local church can serve a lot of those purposes, whether you become part of a young adult ministry or take part in other opportunities.”

Find a Mentor to Guide You

Be intentional about searching for people who will pour your life as you search for community. The wisdom of a mentor can help shape your post-college years in a number of ways. Canales said he surrendered his idea of community to God, who then provided him with a mentorship opportunity. “I had to trust God and lean into as many people as I could,” he said. “I connected with someone who had been in the ministry for over 10 years, and that person ended up being a co-pastor and mentor to me.”

Your journey to this point has equipped you for what comes next. Embrace the possibilities of life after college and be part of building up the communities around you. Take time to stay connected with those you already have community with and learn how to forge new relationships as you lean into this next chapter of life.