My Transition Between College And Grad School

My Transition Between College And Grad School

Change is never easy, but it is always necessary.
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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

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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To The High School Senior Nearing The End Of This Chapter, Feel Free To Look Back

Trust me, you're going to want to.

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Right now you can't wait to leave. You can't wait for that fresh start, new friends, independence… the list is never-ending. But coming from someone two years removed from high school, please take it all in. Take in those last goofy times in class. All those fun car rides in the middle of the night with your friends where you laugh so hard you cry. Spending all day long with the friends you've known your whole life… remember how it feels in your heart. Enjoy graduation and take lots of pictures. Remember to always remain in the moment during all of these events. Don't let anything ruin it for you. That carefree feeling you have right now and will continue to have this summer will pass whether you believe it or not. Adulthood crawls in quicker than you think…

You will be left with the memories of what was, never to see or speak to so many people you once genuinely had so much fun with. High school is such a unique experience and I believe many of us take it granted because it is a necessity. We look at it as a chore because of mundane things like it being boring and having to wake up so early. In the moment we fail to see how fun it actually was. It is often only afterward that we realize just what we really had in those 4 years. Admittedly, I never thought I missed much of anything about high school, and I especially never thought I would. But here I am, two years later and I'm just realizing how easy I had it. High school was hard, but when I say the real world is harder, please take my words to heart. I am a firm believer that high school, in general, is a massive bubble.

Not to say that the bubble is bad. But the bubble will break, and it's more jarring to some than others. So don't let it impact you in a negative way, be prepared for its impact and conquer it! My point is, know that high school is not supposed to be the best four years of your life, but it is a time of your life where most people have the least worries, and that is something you can't get back. Worries and stress are subjective, so of course, we all thought our lives were over multiple times in high school, but we shortly realized that was not the case.

Your last teenage years should be taken in stride. Don't wish them away for older age, enjoy them. You'll never get them back, so you might as well stay in the moment.

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