Brenda Miller, Staff Writer
Many of us dream of the day when, after four years of hard work, loved ones will watch as we receive our long-awaited diploma. Once we have the coveted certificate, there’s one question left still standing: now what?
Curious friends and relatives have asked me where I’m planning to go to grad school. They began as early as last year when my older sister was graduating college and headed on to pursue her PhD. Her plans had begun, so what were mine?
Seeing as I was only a freshman, these questions terrified me. It seemed to me as if I had just decided where to go to get my undergrad. Now there was already pressure for the next step? And although, yes, I’m planning on going to grad school, why does everyone make that assumption?
Four years feels like a long time while we’re trudging through our studies, writing essay after essay, reading pages and pages to gain as much information from the text as we can. In reality, four years is an short time to accomplish what must be accomplished, including making post-graduate decisions.
Making the decision of what to do after high school was already difficult, and the number of options were sometimes overwhelming. Some people took some time off, some joined the work force right away, and some were brave enough to join the military. Many people went to a community college, a four-year school, or both.
It may seem as though we have been thrust back into this high school mindset, trying to decide what to do after we have our diploma, but this time there’s more pressure.
We are no longer teenagers. We are adults, and we must now come face to face with the big bad world outside the Illinois Wesleyan bubble.
As the years tick by, it becomes more important to have a career path laid out by the time we finish college since the decision plays a large role in what to do after graduation.
Decisions must be made early in order to plan to take the various required tests. There’s the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, ABC, 123, God Help Me… It can all be quite stressful. Why go through the stress of taking the MCAT or LSAT and then decide a slightly different path would be better?
Despite the stress, there are plenty of options for what to do after college. Just as after high school, some people join the work force, take a bit of time off or continue school.
Unlike applying for college though, there are more specific questions that must be answered before making a decision or applying to graduate programs. Each field has different requirements and recommendations.
Is a post-graduate degree necessary for success in the field? If it is, is it a master’s or PhD? Should it be pursued immediately or after a few years of working in the field?
Most of us students are under 25, and the prospect of deciding what to do for the next several decades is extremely intimidating. What if we choose something we don’t actually enjoy, or proves to be a dead end? We’ve put in so much time, money and effort that the pressure to choose ‘correctly’ is immense.
So yes, it is important to have a plan, a purpose, a goal, but it is equally as important to recognize the mutability of these goals. The world changes to demand new talents for a field of work, and our preferences within a field may change as well.
Although having a direction is vital, we must be willing to allow some flexibility within a basic plan to account for these changes and allow us to pursue our passion.
So try not to get too worked up from the stress of post-graduate choices and recognize that, even though this is a big decision, the rest of your life doesn’t depend on it.