The Senior Diary column appears every now and again when seniors stop panicking and write about their last year of college. If you’re a senior and you want to contribute to the Senior Diaries contact us at email@example.com.
Life is a series of questions. What is your favorite color? What do you want to be when you grow up? Where are you going to college? And then there’s the perennial question asked of college seniors: What are you going to do after college?
I have no idea how this happened. How is it October already? I remember sitting on Foss during Orientation and exchanging pleasantries and awkward silences with the people around me. Fast forward four years and I am sitting in the senior meeting being told I have three life options: go to graduate school, get a job, or take an adventure (of course there is always the ever-growing and popular option four: go back home and live with your parents). Four years ago my biggest concerns were finding friends, dealing with snow in the winter, and adjusting to a college workload. Now my one concern is life after May 22.
Way back in the day there was a formula to it all—go to elementary school, middle school, high school and, if you do well, go to college. Now, there is no formula. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a splash nervous, a shot anxious, and a twist terrified about life after Wesleyan and that makes for one not-so-tasty cocktail.
The old acronyms, SAT and ACT, have given way to new ones: LSAT, GRE, GMAT, and MCAT, just to name a few. I have to confess that I am slightly jealous of people who have chosen to become lawyers or doctors. The next few years are outlined pretty clearly. Then there are those semi-mythical students that I have heard about, but not met, who have already secured jobs. As for the rest of us, the senior meeting made clear that most of us will have jobs 10 years from now that do not yet exist. Well, great, what am I supposed to do in the meantime?
The job market isn’t welcoming us with wide-open arms. In September, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent with the number of unemployed at around 14.9 million people.
But here is the upside: the World Bank reports that the average life expectancy of someone born in the United States is 78 years. That’s an increase of almost a decade since 1960. People are living longer and getting married later. The Baby Boomer generation will begin retiring in coming years, opening up many job spots. We have more time today than past generations to try different things and then figure out how to explain that you’ve made a career out of Lolcats, or some other odd Internet sensation, to your parent’s friends (you’ll probably have to explain what a Lolcat is too).
It also turns out that these four years haven’t been a complete waste. The College Board (yeah, remember those guys?) released their 2010 Education Pays report which found that, “During their working lives, typical college graduates earn about 66 percent more than typical high school graduates, and those with advanced degrees earn two to three times as much as high school graduates.”
Over this past month, I’ve been asked several times if I am a freshman; this bodes well for me when I am 35 and will look 30. I’ve started reminiscing with friends about the good times, the bad times, and the crazy times. Yet, at the same time, I sometimes find myself feeling somewhat jaded. The fact is that now the majority of this campus was born in a different decade than I.
The class of 2011 is in limbo right now. There is the frightening nightmare of being stuck in a cubicle hell for years and the equally as frightening thought of not following your dream (if you have one). Add a thesis into this mix and you have yourself an overwhelming whirlwind of items on an ever-growing, never-ending to-do list that keeps intersecting and connecting. But, rest assured, students have come before us and they have made it through.
So, I have no answer to that irritating yet intriguing question I can’t help but ask other seniors, but I have several months before panic mode kicks into high gear to figure it out. In the meantime, perhaps the best way to answer that last question is with another question (so Wesleyan) from my dear friend Ferris Bueller: “The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do?’ The question is ‘what aren’t we going to do?’”