My Transition Between College And Grad School

My Transition Between College And Grad School

Change is never easy, but it is always necessary.

In a matter of months, my life changed from certainty and monotony to a flurry of new plans, big ideas, and disconcerting realities. As a senior in college, I knew things were coming to a sharp halt and swift close, but the idea of such a significant life change didn't hit me until much later than I had expected.

As soon as fall semester 2015 began, I was looking ahead. Eight months in the future, I'd be walking across a stage in front of thousands of jubilant parents, siblings, and friends. Though I was excited for the magic and intensity of that moment, I was equally as unprepared for what was to follow.

Over the course of the next few months, I strategically planned out the next two and a half years of my life. I knew I was going to go to grad school, but didn't know where - or how. (There really should be more resources available to students considering grad school; I had to figure everything out on my own and with my friends). I made it my goal to finish my final two semesters on the Dean's List, spend as much time as possible with my friends, and solidly develop lasting relationships with the professors I admired most.

After having applied to three schools in Chicago, and subsequently reapplying to the college I was about to graduate from for their graduate program, I felt a certainty that if (no, when) I got in to my current school's grad program, I would be able to continue working at my on-campus job as a writing tutor, continue singing in choir with my favorite professors, and continue growing my relationships with English professors I had gotten to know over the course of the past four years.

Little did I know life would have other plans for me.

Once I thought I had figured out all of the little details and decided upon where I'd be heading the following fall, the remaining months blurred past.

When I got the news in March that I hadn't been accepted to my now alma mater's graduate program, initially, I was heartbroken. I had been planning out the next two years of my life around the sense of comfort that I wouldn't have to alter my life much, if at all, because I'd continue going to the same school I had built a life in and around. Instead of dwelling on what might have been, I promptly submitted my acceptance of another grad program in the city and began to re-imagine the next two years of my academic career.

Again, time seemed to fly by as the days grew longer, but my time in undergrad grew shorter. Comfortably calm with one month until graduation, unlike most second-semester seniors, I thought I'd have been overcome with anxiety about leaving the metaphoric nest.

Surprisingly, I wasn't.

I couldn't explain why I felt so at ease during one of the most critically important times in my life, and didn't understand why I felt so unperturbed, but I wanted to take that feeling and run with it.

Maybe it was because the future didn't feel real, or maybe it was because I was content with my choice of graduate program and knew I had no more planning to do. Whatever the reason, I was seemingly sure about how the next part of my life would play out.

In actuality, however, I had four weeks to pack four years of knowledge, activities, and relationships into lasting memories I could take with me to grad school.

The final week of my undergraduate education came to its end and I began to feel the cold hand of change grip its bony fingers around my neck. My anxiety became glaring and suffocated me with the awareness that there was no way to go back four years and turn back time.

As dramatic as it may seem, I had never felt this sense of companionship or love from an institution or group of people in my life prior to college. I honestly didn't care about leaving people in high school (and I basically don't talk to anyone from there anymore as it is), but leaving college meant entering what we've come to know as the real world. I don't think many recent grads are prepared to enter the real world, and I knew I was certainly one of them.

After graduation, I felt a disconnect while preparing to transition from undergrad to grad school. I didn't want to leave my friends, professors who had deeply impacted my life, my choir community, or my on-campus job where I had worked for three years with so many wonderful people.

I constantly battled with myself between the certainty of the past or the uncertainty of the future, but during this summer, I had the luxury of experiencing life as an adult in a way I had never had to before; because of these experiences, I was able to mature in a way I hadn't had to pre-graduation. I had my first set of real interviews, both via phone and face-to-face. I got not one, but two new jobs that I never would have sought out had I continued attending the same college and staying in my comfort zone for the next two years of my life. I was catapulted into the real world, maybe a little against my will, but it ended up being the best year of my academic career and life so far.

I won't lie and say that I'm now immune to change, or that the idea of new beginnings doesn't still intimidate me, but I am so much more accepting of new opportunities with an open mind and heart.

Cover Image Credit: Time Magazine

Popular Right Now

To The Nursing Major During The Hardest Week Of The Year

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.


To the Nursing Major During Finals Week,

I know you're tired, I know you're stressed, and I know you feel like you can't go on. I know that no part of this seems fair, and I know you are by far the biggest critic of yourself. I know that you've thought about giving up. I know that you feel alone. I know that you wonder why in the world you chose one of the hardest college majors, especially on the days it leaves you feeling empty and broken.

But, I also know that you love nursing school. I know your eyes light up when you're with patients, and I know your heart races when you think of graduation. I know that you love the people that you're in school with, like truly, we're-all-in-this-together, family type of love. I know that you look at the older nurses with admiration, just hoping and praying that you will remain that calm and composed one day. I know that every time someone asks what your college major is that you beam with pride as you tell them it's nursing, and I know that your heart skips a beat knowing that you are making a difference.

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that a failed class doesn't mean you aren't meant to do this. I know that a 'C' on a test that you studied so. dang. hard. for does not mean that you are not intelligent. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

I know that nursing school isn't fair. I know you wish it was easier. I know that some days you can't remember why it's worth it. I know you want to go out and have fun. I know that staying up until 1:00 A.M. doing paperwork, only to have to be up and at clinicals before the sun rises is not fair. I know that studying this much only to be failing the class is hard. I know you wish your friends and family understood. I know that this is difficult.

Nursing school isn't glamorous, with the white lab coat and stethoscope. Nursing school is crying, randomly and a lot. Nursing school is exhaustion. Nursing school is drinking so much coffee that you lose track. Nursing school is being so stressed that you can't eat. Nursing school is four cumulative finals jam-packed into one week that is enough to make you go insane.

But, nursing school is worth it. I know that when these assignments are turned in and finals are over, that you will find the motivation to keep going. I know that one good day of making a difference in a patient's life is worth a hundred bad days of nursing school.

Keep hanging in there, nursing majors. It'll all be worth it— this I know, for sure.

So, if you have a nursing major in your life, hug them and tell them that you're proud of them. Nursing school is tough, nursing school is scary, and nursing school is overwhelming; but a simple 'thank-you' from someone we love is all we need to keep going.


A third-year nursing student who knows

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To My Boyfriend, As He Prepares To Graduate College

Good luck in the "real world," you can do it!


Five weeks, excluding finals and that's it. No more classes, first-day icebreakers, Pub Wednesdays, or game days at the Pepsi Ice Skating Rink. You. Are. Done. Crazy right?

In just a blink of an eye, your four years here at Illinois State University have flown by. It's heartbreaking because I know how much you love being here with your friends, enjoying every minute of living your best life, and not worrying about "adult" responsibilities. I can see how hard it is for you to fully accept that these next couple of weeks are your last weeks here.

You look at me with those eyes every time I mention how close the graduation date is, but I can't help but express my excitement and how proud I am even though I know for a fact that my senior year won't be the same without you here. Questions like who would I grab Panda Express on a weekly basis with? What about Sunday grocery trips? Or simply calling you and having you right at my door in a matter of minutes.

It's sure going to be different not only for me but the guys too. Why? Well, there's going to be no one to make random noises or say random things. All I can say is, you have made strong friendships with people you consider your lifelong friends — ones you'll stay in contact with until the end of time. It's amazing how much of an impact you have made on your friends, peers, and me. Everyone has so many nice things to say about you. I know you're smiling and shaking your head right now, but I have videos to prove it! Thanks to your family for creating and influencing that amazing heart of yours. They really did raise such an amazing person.

I am truly lucky to witness the good times and bad times with you these past two years. Those experiences have made you who you are today. From partying every weekend to getting your grades up to becoming captain of the hockey team, then struggling to find internships, to finding one, and finally in a couple of weeks...stepping into that stadium and on that stage to receive your diploma. I have so much much faith that you'll be nothing but successful, however, YOU have to believe in yourself as well.

In just weeks, you'll be considered an alumnus. Don't be sad, be happy about all of the memories you hold in your heart — all the friendships you've made, all the games you've led and won. I'll be waving, cheering, and, most likely, crying from the stands as you walk and receive your diploma. Be proud and walk with pride.

Here's to a great four years — the end of chapter 16 and the start of a new one.

Congratulations, baby, you did it!

P.S. Don't forget to come back and visit me and the guys!

Related Content

Facebook Comments