I'm not even a senior yet and I'm already dreading graduation. It's a feeling that's been weighing on me since my sophomore year.
This feeling struck me when I randomly came to the realization that school has been my primary source of living, and I'm sure a lot of people can say the same. From preschool, grade school, maybe some form of an educational summer program, high school, and now college, school has been a part of my entire life. And in a year, it won't be anymore.
Even though I have a whole year left, I still find myself scared of what comes after college. I'm worried about things like not securing a decent job, having to live with my parents, and wasting time doing things that don't make me happy.
In college, taking classes and doing productive assignments gives me a clear sense of purpose and direction, which is exactly what I need. Sure, it gets exhausting and busy, but at least I'm doing something that I know is keeping me mentally active and engaged in pursuing my career. Once I leave college, those things become uncertain and sometimes far from reaching which worries me.
Graduating is an inevitable part of growing up and reaching your full potential. In a few years, you'll probably be stressing over how to ask for a raise at your stable job or planning your very own wedding. Nonetheless, when reality strikes, we'll have to figure it out one way or another.
If you're afraid of graduating like me, these are 10 questions to ask yourself before graduation. I know they seem scary, but trust me, taking even a short second to think about your answers is important.
1. Am I ready for the real world?
Probably not. I'm not saying this to make you feel bad, but it all depends. I can't speak for everyone, but to those who feel like me - dreading graduation and fearing adulthood - you're not ready.
I respect those who've been working hard throughout college and gaining premium experience in their field. For all I know, I could feel a completely different way this time next year. But as of now, I'm not ready for the real world of paying my own bills, working an adult job, and supporting myself alone.
2. How much do I actually owe in student loans?
This is a personal question and one I'm not going to answer, which would reveal the extent of my school finances. However, this is an important question.
To stay on track and not scare yourself, you should check where you stand in student loans. Whether it's a lot or a little, being aware of this is key. You especially should know the dates and payment plans available to you.
3. What does life after college look like?
This is tricky. I already have a plan of what I want my life to look like, but who knows if it's going to actually turn out like that. No matter how your life looks like after, it's important to be content and happy with where you are.
If working a full-time job while still living with your parents is what life looks like for you, embrace that! You're still striving, doing your best, and working on your goals. There will always be inconvenient parts, but as long as you have a positive mindset, you're on the right track.
4. Shouldn't I have already found my soulmate?
No, not at all. This shouldn't be a primary concern. You still have plenty of time, so don't sulk over your friends who are getting married or having kids. Everyone's path is different, so focus on you!
5. What counts as an "adult" job?
Sorry to break it to you, but working at a fast food chain or as a waiter in a restaurant doesn't count as a career job. Yes, it's a great side hustle and there's no shame to that. But ultimately, a job in the career field you're pursuing is what counts, at least to me.
Even if you're just interning at a place that could potentially hire you, that's a major step in the right direction. Paid or unpaid, try to get as much experience in your field before you graduate. This will help you look qualified and ready for the real, salary paid position you deserve!
6. Why do some of my friends already have kids? Should I...
No, no, and no! It's okay! Please don't get ahead of yourself. You're about to graduate or have recently graduated, and in no way (unless you're really ready) do you need to pressure yourself into having a kid. Baby pictures, sonograms, gender reveals, and pregnancy journeys on Instagram are all great to look at and admire, but there's no need to rush things that aren't meant to be. Putting timing standards on yourself just because you see something you want isn't ideal either.
Kids are huge responsibilities and LIFELONG COMMITMENTS. Trust me, you'll be okay.
7. Do I need to have a plan?
Yes and no. While it's important to have a vision and goal of what you want your life to look like after college, there's no guarantee it's going to work out perfectly. I'd advise planning some things out, such as a way to make money even if it's not related to your major, a place to stay that's not dependent on your parent, and what steps you can take now to help get to where you eventually want to be.
Whether it's volunteering somewhere in your career field or honing in skills needed to move up in your current workplace, plan ahead so you don't have to stress later. Little steps count just as much as big steps.
8. Can I still be dependent on my parents?
It depends on your parents. If you're lucky enough to have parents that don't have a problem supporting you after you graduate, then you're good to go. But if you don't, make sure you have a plan afterward. Everyone's situation is different. Planning for things you know are coming in the future is something you'll need to start doing anyways as a young adult in the real world.
Being dependent on your parents for a little bit isn't shameful either. I'm lucky enough to be dependent on my parents while still in college. However, I don't see it as a free pass. I'm grateful and thankful for them, but I'm still striving to become independent as soon as I can after college. Even if that means working multiple jobs and having roommates.
9. Can I finally get a dog or cat after I graduate?
This question might sound a little odd, but it's one I take seriously. I love animals and I desperately want a puppy of my own after college.
I already have a cat that is fully mine, but it's not easy. As a busy student who isn't home every day, I'm not in the best position to take care of my own pet. Thankfully, my parents are temporarily helping out with this. but that may not be the case for you.
So before you think about going straight to an adoption center after you graduate or even before, make sure you evaluate some things. Do you have a consistent place to stay where your new pet is welcome? Do you have adequate time to train and take care of an animal? Would your job or social life interfere with having a pet?
These are all questions you need to ask and answer truthfully. No pet deserves to live at a standard not fit for their well-being.
10. Can I move to a different state or country after I graduate?
I want to tell you yes, yes, you can! But unfortunately, I'm not sure. My goal would be to travel the world after college and hopefully if that's yours too, you'll get the chance to. It all depends on your financial stability and the opportunities out there.
There are programs you can enroll in that pay for your travel expenses and in turn, you work for them in some way. While that may seem tedious, I'd say it's a pretty good deal for traveling the world.
But more importantly, taking time for yourself is necessary. Even if that means going somewhere small inside the country, taking an extreme break from the same school-driven life you've been living is key, at least to me.