How do you reflect on the final months of your college career and look toward what comes after?
We are bombarded with reminders and advice from those who have experienced it before us, but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the climactic time that is the second semester of senior year. It’s a time of enjoyment but also of fear.
This past year, I’ve made it a goal to enjoy myself — making memories attending as many Lehigh sports events as I can, trying new restaurants on the South Side and taking interesting classes. But there’s always a lingering thought in the back of my mind of what comes next.
It’s been reassuring to have the routine that comes with being in school for 16 years and being surrounded by peers who are going through similar experiences. I’ve taken comfort in my role as a student, a member of different clubs and sports teams and a friend.
A lot of that becomes disrupted when you’re thrown into the “real world.”
Everyone’s path is different. Some seniors may face pressure from their family to move out of their childhood homes and take residency elsewhere immediately after graduating, while others may stay under their parents’ roof while they save up money and try to adjust to adulthood in the rooms they dreamed in as kids.
Some might be recruited by companies in their field, or pursue another degree, or continue to send out their resume until they finally get a response or take time off to travel. Most of us will face our post-undergraduate lives with student loans looming over our heads.
We’re often told that college is the place where we solidify our identities and interests and try to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. And those expectations can be scary.
As a journalism major, I’ve taken classes that have taught me a variety of skills and have allowed me to experiment with my other academic interests, from which I’ve been able to explore what I enjoy doing.
Realizing that I don’t have to force myself into a box has been (and continues to be) a learning experience. Although I know what I love, I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do with it yet.
While it feels like “the unknown” is not talked about enough, I take comfort in knowing I am not alone.
A 2022 Intelligent.com study found only 46% of college graduates said they currently held a job directly related to their major.
I recently spoke to my internship supervisor about the job search process. When she asked what my post-grad plans were, I told her I was still figuring things out. She sympathetically replied she still wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do — even as someone in their late 20s with a successful career.
I have friends in different majors who are still applying for jobs. I know people who have known what they wanted to do since they were 12 years old and are still nervous about what’s to come.
My parents have always known their interests, but they didn’t figure out what aspect of it they loved until they were in their 30s. My family friend, now in their 50s, recently announced they were pursuing a new career path.
Although I’ve discovered a lot about myself and forged new interests in the past four years, I’ve learned that reflection and growth don’t end after graduation.
My journalism studies have never limited my exploration into other topics, and my degree or a job in the field won’t either.
When will this fear of the unknown or the fear of finding our purpose dissipate? I’ve started to think the answer is never, and there’s a beauty in that.
Rather than fighting against the unknown and provoking the existential dread that comes with it, I might be better served accepting the fact that the future will always be a mystery to me.
Life is full of the unexpected, which might result in opportunities or setbacks. The prospects make me excited for the future.
While I don’t know what my life will look like after May, I am excited to continue learning more about myself. Whether I find my dream job right away or have to struggle and adapt for a few years, I’ll embrace either path.