"So what do you plan on doing after you graduate?"
"Do you have any jobs lined up?"
"What are you going to do with your degree?"
These are only a few of the many questions I have heard nearly every day of my 5 year college undergraduate career. And I'm sure that I'm not alone. College students of all ages are forced to listen to these questions from co-workers, family members, student peers, and even complete strangers.
I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten hammered with questions from complete strangers I have just met when they find out that I am a college student. I feel like at this point it is such a cliche thing, for college kids to be complaining about getting these types of questions. Everyone gets them right, so why is it a big deal?
Well because, I for one among many other college students I'm guessing, are unsure of what's next for me after I graduate. So when I get the typical questions regarding what I plan on doing when I graduate, and what I want to do with my degree, I can't help but panic. I feel like there is this unsettling weight on my chest because, I have no freaking clue!
If I said I have no clue though, I feel like I would get looked down upon. Why is there this constant pressure in our current society to know exactly what we want to do, how we're gonna do it, and when we will get it done? There is such a rush to get into the working world and get that great career, that we are killing ourselves with stress because of it.
And why are we forcing this ideal on young adults, just beginning to enter their adult lives and figuring out how the great big cutthroat world works? When will this stigma that all college students need to know their plan and what life will look like after college?
Because I for one, do not know what life has in store for me. And that should be okay too. I shouldn't feel ashamed of wanting to weigh my options, apply for different jobs, and see where life takes me. I should have the right to feel out of control, and have, "I'm still figuring it out, actually" be an acceptable response to people questioning my future plans after graduation.
The pressure put on college students is insurmountable. Not only do we have to navigate a new environment different from high school and making new friends while losing old ones, but we also are expected to decide on a major and minor, and this is literally set in stone.
College counselors say it isn't, but once you declare your major and minor and start taking classes towards them, if you change your mind and want to switch to something else, a lot of times the classes you've already taken will become useless, and the time it'll take to finish your degree will increase. This is scary enough without outspoken acquaintances on your back to demand what you want to do with your degree once you graduate. Pile that on, and you are in for an extreme anxiety-fest.
As someone who is an English major and thus I can do many things with my degree, when people ask me, "Oh what do you plan to do after I graduate?" I almost laugh to myself because, 1. I don't know and 2. I don't know because there are literally hundreds of things my English Language, Literature, and Writing degree will qualify me for.
These things include but are not limited to: Communications, Professional Writing, Editing, Tutoring, and of course the obvious one, Teaching. A Lot of these positions will not accept applications until you are graduated with your degree as well, so that means I do not have anything lined up yet. So sometimes I just want to scream to these questioning acquaintances, "But, I have some great ideas! Wanna hear them?" My lack of ability to see the future should not constitute how successful I am going to be in my life.
I shouldn't feel extreme pressure from people who are not myself to live up to some unreal expectations of graduate preparedness. No college student should feel that they have to, either. We are doing so much as students, and getting a degree is something not everyone can do. Not knowing the specifics of what life looks like after we graduate with our degree shouldn't make us feel stressed out, worthless, or ashamed. I am tired of feeling this way when people look down upon me for not living up to their standards.
One thing I want all future and present college students to keep in mind, from me, a college senior about to graduate this Spring, is that life is too short to be stressing out of every single minuscule and obsolete detail about the future. I have had way too many panic attacks and breakdowns over doing this. Obsessing over the future and life after college is harmful because it only breeds distress.
No one knows what the future holds, and it's perfectly okay if you aren't sure what life looks like after you walk out on that stage to get your diploma and toss your hat flying into the air. Embrace these final moments of your college career, because you will never, ever be back in the exact same place and mindset again.
We are constantly changing, shifting and adapting. So embrace it, don't fight it, and as cliche as it sounds, enjoy the ride. It's one you may look back on someday and tell your grandchildren about, the times you were in college and consciously chose to live in the present, instead of worrying about the future.