After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith
Erica Young Reitz
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016
The years after college can be challenging and transformative years. Many students graduate feeling unprepared and ill equipped to approach young adulthood from a posture of faithfulness, but with adequate tools, tips, and the knowledge of shared experiences, young adults can enter into this stage of life faithfully and ready to transition well.
Erica Reitz supports this thesis in three parts: 1) Real Faith: Faithful to Christ, 2) Real Life: Faithful to Community, and 3) Real World: Faithful to Our Calling. These three parts address the person in transition on an individual level, a communal level, and a global or more societal level. The chapters within each section explain potential experiences, feelings and questions that accompany this transitional time and include a variety of narratives and biblical connections. Finally, Reitz includes tools and tips pertaining to each chapter’s subject matter that might lend to a healthier transition.
- “Go to an Unknown Land:” Trusting a Familiar God for Unfamiliar Times – In this chapter, Reitz drives home the idea that the God of our college years is and will be the God of our post college years, despite the challenge of transition. She suggests that maintaining a “Christian Worldview” allows individuals to posture themselves in hope when confronting challenge, as opposed to despair and defeat.
- In Transition: Embracing Change – Reitz suggests there is a cycle to all transitions. Something ends, which must be acknowledged. There is an “in-between” time, or liminal space, that can be used as a time to reflect and prepare but simultaneously runs the risk of being filled with poor behavior. And finally, there is a new beginning. Awareness of this cycle, suggests Reitz, increases preparedness for change
- Take Up Your Cross: Facing Adversity – Culture tries to tell us that things should always be easy, but that isn’t reality. Rather than succumb to and be defeated by adversity, Reitz offers four practices to employ when facing adversity: practice fortitude, choose community, embrace small starts, and wait well. Combined, she writes, these practices can help individuals endure inevitable adversity.
- The Tyranny of Choice: Making God Honored Decisions – Emotions often drive decision making, and life after college abounds with choices. Reitz encourages a daily relationship with God in order better illumine God’s participation in individual decision making. She suggests that a Godly way of decision making includes prayer, information gathering, petition, and conversation with others.
- Beyond the Quad: Finding Friends – After college, friendships are in flux. Reitz emphasizes the importance of finding “Soul Friends,” the people who provide deep connection. In searching for such friendships, it is important to remember the normalcy in changing patterns of friendship but also the normalcy in the need for relationship. Lastly, she acknowledges the impact technology and “the bar scene” can have on developing deep friendships and warns against falling victim to surface level relationships.
- No Perfect Church: Choosing Community – This chapter begins by naming the tendency and ease at which church becomes “optional” after college. Reitz names that while no church is perfect, and some have been hurtful, it is important to choose a church, rather than hop between many in order to build friendships and find stability.
- People Are Stranger: Preparing for Diversity – At times, Reitz argues, college can have the effect of a bubble, where individuals don’t experience much newness or diversity. After college, however, is different, and developing the skills to embrace diversity allows for a smoother transition. Reitz makes several suggestions in order to do so: leave your comfort zone, listen, offer empathy, practice civility and don’t make assumptions. Being a faithful person is being a person who welcomes diversity.
- Family Matters: Relating to Parents – Life after college brings independence, and with that comes a change in relationship with parental figures. In this chapter, Reitz provides a list of tips to consider while working to develop healthy independence, while still maintaining respect and love. For some, life after college involves cohabitation with parents, which Reitz also addresses in brief.
- Twenty-Something Relationships: Navigating Sex, Dating and Marriage – Reitz begins this chapter by naming several myths about dating faithfully. She then unpacks what she believes to be God’s perspective on sex, marriage and everything in between. The chapter closes with a list of tips regarding healthy boundaries, as well as questions to consider when beginning a relationship.
- On Purpose: Stewarding Every Area of Our Lives for Kingdom Good – This chapter begins by addressing the difference between vocation and occupation, calling and career. Reitz writes about the importance in discerning, as well as the importance of learning that all experience is valuable.
- A Faith that Works: Adjusting to Our Jobs, Connecting Them to Christ – During the transition from college, it is important to develop an understanding of work – it’s purpose and effect on our personal lives. Reitz claims that work is good, fallen and redeemed and that it is important to have a faithful perspective on work so as to avoid pushing beliefs on others. She provides several tips to aid in the adjustment to work, which include managing expectations, “taking the long view,” owning the adjustment, carrying integrity, being clear on values, and resisting temptation.
- Financial Faithfulness: Managing Money – Life after college is full of financial changes. Seeing as culture has shaped the dominant view on money, it is important to find an individual framework on money post college. This includes developing a healthy budget as well as learning to tithe. Reitz encourages readers to view themselves as “stewards of God’s money.”
The motivation for this book stemmed primarily from Reitz’s own education. She writes, “This book is a culmination of my master’s studies and professional experience working with seniors and recent graduates, but it is also personal.” Throughout the book, Reitz uses her own experience as narration, both the positive and negative elements of her experience. Ultimately, Reitz operates out of the assumption that students are often not adequately prepared for the challenges that come after college.
Though not named explicitly, Reitz seems to focus her theological attention on the relational Triune God who partners with followers of Christ to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven. She emphasizes a personal connection with this God and the importance of paying attention to the movement of God’s Spirit through devotion, community, service, and stewardship. While Reitz does not reference any specific doctrines, she writes and communicates from a conservative perspective, particularly in Chapters 9 and 12, when she addresses relationships and financial faithfulness
AIM OF BOOK
The primary aim of this book is to first acknowledge the dynamic time that comes after college and the many emotions, challenges and experiences that accompany the transition, and second, to respond to those things. In her conclusion, Reitz writes, “in our deepest struggle, darkest hour and transitional times, we need to know it’s going to be okay. We need hope.” Having discovered, named and unpacked the challenging transitions after college, Reitz aims to share hope with her readers that God is present and listening. Through the tips at the end of each chapter, she offers real action points as ways to respond to each area.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
This book’s greatest strength lies in the embedded narratives of each chapter. Because each chapter opens with a story, the book reads quickly and has a personal feel. As someone who knows the transition from college well, I found these stories to be relatable, comforting and affirming of my own experience (even the challenges). Other strengths include Reitz’s nonacademic language and the inclusion of definitions for terms that may not be universally known, especially in regard to the liturgical calendar. A final strength is the inclusion of a continuing education section at the conclusion of each chapter, which Reitz titles, “Going Deeper.” A list of questions, scripture and recommended reading are provided that could be used for either group discussion or personal reflection. I believe that both college ministers and college seniors could benefit from reading this text; it provides good exposure to the types challenges that come with transitioning from college, and it offers the benefit and impact of preparedness for change.
While these strengths lend to this book’s readability, it is not without its limitations. Reitz writes conservatively, as previously mentioned, which limits the audience for whom her writing will resonate. Her suggestions for boundary setting in relationships could be shaming to some readers and therefore distracting from her other, less conservative points. Furthermore, Reitz’s terminology of inclusion is limited and could be developed (an example being her lack of attention to the LGBTQ community). While these weaknesses may not deter some readers from Reitz’s book as a whole, they would be very noticeable for others.
 Reitz, E. Y., After College, 21.
 Ibid., 83.