NORTON - With an unemployment rate of 7 percent among college grads 25 and younger, and an economy only inching toward recovery, many millennials are coming to grips with the gritty reality of post-grad expectations.
And, it's really bumming them out.
That's why Stefana Albu wrote "We Never Learned This in Class!: The Reality of Life After College," an inspirational, yet practical, roadmap for twenty-somethings.
It navigates through developing a career, maintaining a relationship and surviving on a painfully low budget.
Organized into three sections - professional growth, emotional growth and social shifts after college - the book tackles the many dilemmas young people face as they transition to independence.
Albu said she wrote the book based on her personal experiences.
"I left Wheaton at the top of my game and thought, 'Of course I can handle the real world. I've been successful in college,'" she said. "But, I learned the hard lesson that life after college is not something you're going to learn from a textbook.
"It's challenging, especially for the millennial generation, partly because of the state of the economy and how that's changed our society. But, also because we have more opportunities than any generation before us."
Young people are no longer taking "a linear path," Albu said.
Fewer people are working to achieve the traditional checklist of a college degree, a steady career path, a child and a marriage all before the age of 30, she said.
"Things are different for us. Because we have so many more career options and alternative ways of progressing into adulthood, millennials are taking more time to sift through them all," she said. "But, they're still feeling pressure to get it all done in the same time frame."
The Westford native knows a bit about exploring her options.
After graduating magna cum laude from Wheaton College as a German and psychobiology double-major in 2010, Albu won a presitigous Fulbright Scholarship to study neurogenetics involved in sleep regulation.
Five days after returning to the United States, Albu started grad school at Brown University in Providence, attained her master's degree, and began working as assistant director of admissions at Wheaton.
That's a lot to accomplish by age 25, and Albu said it wasn't easy.
"It's tough to wake up in the morning and not know what the next month will hold for you or even where you'll be in five or 10 years," she said. "I always hated those kinds of questions in job interviews. I wanted to say 'I'm just trying to get through today.'"
Albu added: "That's actually a tip I included in the book - to embrace the present."
"When we're young, we do a lot of waiting. We're waiting for college to be over. We're waiting to land our dream job and we're missing out on what's going on while we're waiting for what we think is the right thing to happen," she said.
Another snippet of advice Albu offered is to be content with a job that's "right for right now."
Many recent college grads shoot for their dream job right away, but Albu says it's OK to build up to the "perfect job" because it allows people to discover what they really want out of a career.
Albu, who lives now in Providence, said she came to realize part of her career was to help others throughout this transitional period - and it started with an email.
"I recall one really tough day after class when I called one of my best friends, who was half-way across the world at the time. She told me she had a terrible day as well, so I emailed her a compilation of motivational quotes that I read in tough moments to see if that could guide her in any way," Albu said as she sat in her office in Wheaton's admissions building.
"My friend said, 'You should write a book,' and I decided to expand upon these lessons that I had presented previously in quotes," Albu said.
The book is packed with practical advice, but is written in a personal tone and does not trivialize the small crises millennials go through day-to-day.
For example, Albu gives advice on how to pay rent, but also how to deal with missing your friends when they no longer live down the dorm hall.
There's also no shortage of feel-good passages aimed at making post-grads feel better about their current stage in life.
Above all, Albu said, it's important for millennials to remember they're not alone.
"Young people are dealing with a new dynamic specific to our generation, and it's hard," she said. "But, the take-away is that everyone else is going through the same thing."