As we all know, graduation season has just occurred and for some of us, maybe this is when we would have graduated. But not graduating on time has actually become the norm, sadly, that doesn't always make some of us feel better. Personally, it's taking me a long time to be able to walk across that stage, but there are many valuable lessons I have learned during the course of my (long) college career.
1. It's your pace and your timeline.
Pacing yourself is one of the most important things that I have learned while attending college. It's too often we discover ourselves under an immense amount of pressure from society or seeing our friends graduating on time, to get it all done in a matter of four years. But, if we're being honest, most of that pressure just comes from within ourselves. Who ever said it was a bad thing to not graduate on time? This is your one shot to get it right, your one chance to discover your passions and what you want to do with your life. No big deal or anything, right? So, take your time and go at your pace.
2. Life happens.
Challenges will present themselves in your life. You will get thrown some crazy curve-balls that you were not expecting, and sometimes, that can affect your college career pathway. And guess what? That's OK! Personally, for me, midway through college I decided to pick up everything and move across the country. When I moved, not all my credits were transferrable. Although frustrating at the time, I wouldn't change anything. Because during that extra given time, I discovered my passions, but I also grew up and matured, which ultimately has helped me be able to cope and manage college even better.
3. Sometimes you decide to change your major.
There are so many people that I have met during my 75 years of attending college (not really, just feels that way), who went in their freshman year wanting to do one thing, and midway decided that clearly is not what they want to do for the rest of their lives. But that is what college is for! Discovering yourself, your passions and what you want to do for the rest of your life! I went in as a psychology major and now I am currently studying journalism…like, what? You change. You morph. You grow. You find yourself. That is the purpose of college; embrace it.
4. Jobs care, but do they actually?
I have had friends tell me stories about how they were worried about the fact that they weren't done with college, or they had run past their initial graduation date, when applying to jobs. They thought that all they would look at would be their academics, but one friend told me she got the job because of her hard work, dedication, and charisma. She is now in a position geared towards what she is currently studying in school, gaining real-world experience and knowledge in her field. Keep that in mind when you are worried about applying to jobs; not all companies solely look at your academics, they also look at you as a person.
5. I'm not sure if everyone knows this, but college is actually really hard.
You are not just being tested academically, although, I am pretty tired of late-night study sessions and filling out scantrons. But it isn't just your academics going haywire, you are also being tested mentally, physically and emotionally. Your patience is constantly being tested during school; can I get an amen? But let the obstacles you face increase your patience and perseverance. We have all at one point had to wait a semester to get into a class, or retake a class to receive a better grade, or wait to apply for a job because of a degree requirement. During the time, it's super frustrating but taking the time to get it right the first time and develop patience, has personally really helped shape me and mature me as a person- plus, it gets me one step closer to that stage.
6. There are so many people in similar positions.
Did you know the on-time graduation rate at a public university is 19%? Math isn't my strong suit but I'm pretty sure that isn't a lot. I'm not even going to just hit you with the stone-cold facts, if you just take a look around your classroom, you will find so many different people in different situations and at different ages. It's refreshing and comforting knowing that there are so many other people in a similar situation as you- knowing that you aren't alone and that this is very common these days. So, anytime you start thinking, "I am the only one going through this and no one understands!" just re-read my first sentence.
7. Graduating is a huge accomplishment.
Graduating from college is an accomplishment of a lifetime. There are thousands of people who drop out of college every year due to the financial strain, the workload, or just not being able to handle it. If it takes you four years, if it takes you six years, or even if it takes you twenty years- it doesn't matter. You worked hard and you earned it; therefore, you should be nothing less than proud of yourself. Your degree is something no one else can take away from you.
It may at times feel as if you are crawling to the finish line, and not only are you crying out for help, but so is your bank account- and believe me, I know it's expensive, but you cannot put a price tag on your life, your happiness or your passions. Don't quit. You may be exhausted and broke, but the end result is such a huge accomplishment that no one can take away from you. Continue to grow and set yourself up for success and be proud no matter how long it takes you to walk across that stage.