Every year, over a million students graduate from colleges all over the globe. They stand proud in their cap and gowns, ready to take their diploma with a smile. To the audience, they’re entirely poised and prepared to take on the world. In reality, they’ve had ten mental breakdowns, slammed out a 30-page thesis paper, and shotgunned two cases of beer (or bottles of wine)… all within the last seven days. And that’s not even the half of what we students endure throughout our whole senior year.
We’ve been put in the middle of many situations as students that cause us grief and unwanted pressure, but none more so than the act of graduating. It’s the crossroad through the veil, and we’re not sure yet how we feel about it. Presented below are just a handful of emotional phases you soon-to-be graduates might encounter:
1. Disbelief of the Truth
This occurs when you finally understand something vital during your last year of college: you’re graduating. And then you ask yourself some critical and pressing questions. How the crap did this happen? How have four long years passed by so quickly? Who in their right mind is letting me become a contributing member of human society? Yeah, sure, you’ve spent years pored over overpriced books and pushed through late nights at the library, but that was more for routine than preparing for the day when you’d no longer have to. Disbelief happens the moment you become aware that semi-adulthood is ending and real life is about to start. Ready or not (or really not ready), here it comes.
At this point, you’re starting to questioning all your life choices and regretting a number of them. What if what I went to school for isn’t any good in the real world? You’ve majored in classic literature or biology, but they say a business degree will always come in handy. Graphic design could be cool too, but nothing compares to a life in technology. Before long, you’re not only second-guessing your fourth chosen major but also wondering if graduating as a whole is really what’s best. No law says you have to graduate after four or five years. In fact, no law says that you have to graduate at all. Your school has plenty of classes available that sound interesting, and people smarter than you are often saying that there’s nothing more important than a well-rounded education. Besides, come to think of it, living on campus food for the rest of your life wouldn’t be that bad, and your student discount would never expire.
3. A Mixture of Fear and Excitement
Despite the stress that it’s continuously caused you over the years, you’re a bit excited about the idea of graduating. Heck, you deserve a pat on the back for making it this far. There were a few times when you thought you wouldn’t. More than once you were willing to spend the rest of your life living under your parents’ roof with no complaint if it meant that you’d never have to pay for a $200 textbook again. Still, you made it to the end of the line with only a few fatal scrapes and bruises. You’ve grown a lot in the last few years, so maybe (just maybe) you are ready to begin the next chapter of your life. After all, if you can make it through 8ams and mandatory attendance, you can make it through anything. Right?
With graduation upon you, there is a lot to be thankful for. Soon you’ll be free of all those 10 page papers and strategically planning out your mental health days for the benefit of not skipping too many class periods. In fact, you don’t have to worry about classes at all anymore. Professors that don’t realize their class isn’t your only class? Forget about it. Annoying classmates? Bye. Exams filled with questions that you didn’t study for? They won’t be missed. But wait, there’s even more. You can finally stop (yes, stop) collecting debt. Of course you now have no excuse for not paying those loans back, but at this point you take what you can get.
Now, this is where it gets tough for you. You’ve gone through all the listed classes, gathered the exact amount of credits, and completed the online forms to graduate but… what am I doing to do next? If any college student says that question didn’t cross their mind at least once a day, they’re probably lying. Uncertainty for what happens after you’ve been handed your diploma is a constant reminder that no matter what your parents, professors, and the rest of society tells you, you are not the equipped adult they think you are. Only a few days ago you were eating cold, week-old leftovers in your pajamas… as breakfast… in your 2 o’clock class that you were 20 minutes late to. You have no clue what the world wants from you or how exactly you’re supposed to achieve that. There’s graduate school that you hear so much about, study abroad options to expand your horizons, but then again no one ever says no to a gap year, and jumping into the job market is always smart. What to do? What to do?
Realizing that student life is ending can be a bittersweet moment, and a lot goes on in the minds of seniors in-between their first class of the year and their final standing as a student in front of the school board—some that are prettier to witness than others. Whether it’s trying to settle on what to do for the rest of their life or accepting the notion that they are real-world adults, senior year is an emotional process that hits every student one way or another.
© 2018 Selena Lundy