Authors: C Estelle Smith (Ph.D 2020), William Lane (M.S. 2021), Hannah Miller Hillberg (Ph.D. 2018), Daniel Kluver (Ph.D. 2018), Loren Terveen (professor), Svetlana Yarosh (associate professor)
Abstract: The post-college transition is a critical period where individuals experience unique challenges and stress before, during, and after graduation. Individuals often use social media to discuss and share information, advice, and support related to post-college challenges in online communities. These communities are important as they fill gaps in institutional support between college and post-college plans. We empirically study the challenges and stress expressed on social media around this transition as students graduate college and move into emerging adulthood. We assembled a dataset of about 299,000 Reddit posts between 2008 and 2020 about the post-college transition from 10 subreddits. We extracted top concerns, challenges, and conversation points using unsupervised Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA). Then, we combined the results of LDA with binary transfer learning to identify stress expressions in the dataset (classifier performance at F1=0.94). Finally, we explore temporal patterns in stress expressions, and the variance of per-topic stress levels throughout the year. Our work highlights more deliberate and focused understanding of the post-college transition, as well as useful research and design impacts to study transient cohorts in need of support.