The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Graduating With Options

3 min read

When asked what your biggest fear is, most people respond with answers like “spiders” or “rollercoasters.”  Some may even say, “my girlfriend’s dad.”

Despite these answers, I believe there is one event that is capable of triggering anxiety on cue and causing a person to break out in a cold sweat: college graduation.

We spend four years taking classes, being active in clubs and societies on campus partying on the weekends, and sometimes starting our weekends on Thursday nights.

Between classes and exams we build upon relationships, starting new ones and maybe ending old ones. We spend these years with the goal of what? Finding ourselves? Maybe. Becoming valedictorian? Probably not.

We spend our college career working toward the goal of graduating and becoming functional members of society. We hope that what we accomplish during our undergraduate career is worth something more than the most expensive piece of paper that we will ever own or frame.

The harsh reality is that one the cap and gown come off a job is the next step, and jobs are becoming harder and harder to find and it seems as though a college diploma is, in a sense, less valuable than it once was. While I don’t like this sentiment, come May 7, the job market isn’t going to care what I think.

Although a job straight out of college is ideal for some people, it is certainly not the only option. Maybe the military is your field of choice. For some who didn’t get enough of an academic butt-kicking as an undergrad graduate school for a master’s or a PhD is a better fit. No matter the path, remember that there are choices.

I believe our generation has felt the pressure to succeed more so than others. We are often told in grade school that our futures have to be decided before arriving to college. We take career tests that are supposed to help us along the way often before we can even drive.

I don’t put too much stock in such things. I would really like to hope that the test I took in ninth grade telling me I was destined to be a plumber turns out to be comical more than prophetic.

In spite of the tests and the redundant advice given to us from parents and counselors, I would say that those entering college with a set plan for their future are the minority.

Some of us have an idea, but no direction. Others, like myself, end up taking countless classes just to narrow the field of choice.

Those with an idea should go with it. If it works out—great. If it doesn’t—try something new. To the clueless seniors like myself, wait it out. Think of the possibilities and if they don’t pan out, take a year off, maybe even travel for a while.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t land your dream job in New York City or have the opportunity of a lifetime at the age of 21.

Embrace your college experience, but don’t be afraid to grow up sooner or later. Take what you’ve learned over the last four years and put that knowledge toward something bigger and better.

Find what you’re passionate about, set goals beyond college and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. College shapes your character, but the real world defines it.