After last week’s column discerning the current college generation as less than intellectual, I knew I wanted the follow-up column to also relate to the college experience. While I used personal examples last week to build an argument this is more of a personal admission that I have been going through the four-year “journey” of my undergraduate studies all wrong. Hopefully current students and past college graduates alike can relate.
The undergraduate study, which is generally four years, cannot be considered a linear journey. Sure, there is a beginning and an end, but good luck plotting the instances of most importance in between. As I looked at the calendar earlier this week to realize that it is the last week of October, I found myself trying to construct this start-to-finish timeline of important events in the past four years of my life only to realize it does not exist.
Most of us enter college as 18-year olds, still childish in our understanding of the maturation process. We think of ourselves as mature but plenty of our actions indicate naivety. Exponential progress towards maturity can be made in four years, but the college experience does not automatically guarantee readiness for adulthood. It is likely that by the time you graduate you have gathered wisdom, so much so that you are a different person when you leave than you were when you arrived. I believe this will be true for me when I leave the Springfield College community in May.
However, it would be foolish for me to say that in four years I have undergone a linear progression of personal growth. I am more thoughtful than ever, but it is impossible to ignore that life’s happenings are often cyclical.
I came to Springfield College in the fall of 2011 with dreams and aspirations, but did I really know how I really wanted to spend my career life? If you were sure of your decisions at 18 regarding your area of study or even what school you decided to attend then kudos to you.
While I had my uncertainties my dream at the time was to someday be a sports reporter. Ironically I never covered sports in the past four years. I will be graduating with a different dream in mind, which is perfectly fine. The dream is now that someday I will have a vague idea of how to approach my career.
From this realization I have learned that maturation does not mean that you will have all of life’s ambiguous questions answered. After three plus years of studies, it is possible to feel more uncertain about a future than one did at the inception of the college search beginning in high school.
With such a realization comes an important question to ponder: Did I do the “college experience” the right way? My answer is no. I did not, but I also do not know everything that I would have done differently if I could go back in time.
Instead, I have been capping the final year of my college experience by attempting to do all of the things I do know I wish I did all along: working two jobs, finishing up coursework for two majors, interning, participating in a variety of clubs, and having less fun. I am essentially doing all of the things I should have spread throughout a four-year span to the point that I cannot do any of them well. In other words, it is not wise to try to make up for any mistakes at the last possible opportunity.
The psychological burnout from education is another cyclical life event. During senior year of high school all of us students called it “senioritis” and used it as an excuse to enjoy ourselves. Now in senior year of college the same burnout is an excuse to enter panic mode.
For many of today’s students, this panic mode is the harsh reality that sets in before the entrance into the “real world”. I hope that I am not the only one that feels this way, at least. There is the ingrained fear that a well-developed brain on a sturdy set of shoulders is still not enough to promise a decent living in a 21st century economy.
Those of us who have this fear should trust that we would be cunning enough to find a way to support ourselves. We worry that the most important things we learned were nothing that can be translated into a skill or a viable bullet point on a resume.
I am a person that my 18-year old self would be proud of in a lot of ways. I have perhaps learned more than I expected to in such a short period of time. Almost none of this was learned in a classroom and I feel less skilled that I would like to admit. In that sense I feel as if I am at the beginning of a new cycle again. This is not necessarily negative. It is not to be taken too lightly, though.
Those of us college seniors in panic mode are not necessarily underperforming students. Most of my professors would say that I am somewhat of a proactive student. Some of us now in panic mode undoubtedly grew up and became self-aware. In my case a lot of this self-awareness has translated into decent writing for this column. I have also learned enough about myself to know what kind of adult I want to become.
I can claim to have grown more than most. I am able to think of myself as someone who for the most part carried himself as an intellectual. However, personal growth does not pay off student loans, but bullet points on a resume do.