Graduation Blues

Graduation is bittersweet. But it’s for the best.

For college students, May is always a bittersweet time.

Finals and Graduation are the roughest time of the year and they happen right after each other.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students attend college in Fall 2018 and 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees would be awarded in the U.S. That’s a lot of student debt.

“First you have to take a test for a quarter of your grade for each class you took this semester and then you get to leave college forever.”

Finishing finals was like making it to the end of the tunnel. You put yourself through a high stress situation where you had a serious chance of death, or worse failure. There was always that one project that you had underestimated (or several) and at least one moment where you had to weigh studying for one class versus another.

“I need a A- in this class to get at least a C in Stats, but the Eastern European Paper is 50% of my grade. Guess I’ll write the first and last quarter of the paper and the middle will just sort of average out.”

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing your finals and spending the next week at home just sleeping and being as lazy as physically possible. Every time after finals I’d always return home tired and sick, pushing myself insanely hard.

However, there was also this aspect that I was one year closer to getting my degree accompanied with the fact that I was one less year of college to have fun. After all the point of getting a college education was to improve yourself and better your chances of finding a worthwhile job. Yet at the same time, college is probably the time in your life where you have the most freedom.

True you will be swamped with homework and prepping for test, but unlike high school you didn’t need to be in class for 7 straight hours. Plus you were at least 18 and according to you ID you were 22. Couple that with the fact that everyone else had an excessive of amount of free time would lead to some awesome experiences. Once you go full time there’s no more of that.

And on top of using up another year of freedom, your senior friends would be gone. Moving on to pursue careers, setting down their kegs and funnels for the last time. As an underclassmen its hard to imagine what that feeling is like. No more stresses about finals and homework, only stresses about finances and being an adult. Every senior I met handled it differently, some trying to fill every second they had left by being as not sober as possible while other sat back and looked back with quiet pride.

I’m not sure exactly how any of my friends truly felt upon graduation, but for me it was a sad transition, but a necessary one. My college days were done and what I had done during them were set. I was left only with my vague memories, my degree, and my regrets. I know there was plenty of stuff I wish I did in college that I was too short-sighted to do. I ignored people that would have made good friends and I avoided a lot of events and parties because I wanted that one extra tenth of a GPA point.

Would I completely change everything that I did in college?

No. I’m glad to have met the people I met and experiences I did have.

But I do wish I truly understood how special that time in my life was and the sheer volume of opportunity presented to you. It was all there for the taking, but you had to be aware of it and make an effort to try for it. At some level, I think every college grad experiences this feeling. It’s impossible to make the right decision every time and do everything that someone knew they would like.

If you’re sad that your college days are over, understand that ending them allow you to look back and appreciate the experiences that you had. It’s difficult to see what benefits those days truly were if you’re still in college. Once you’re out it becomes apparent quite quickly and all you’re left with your experiences and your growth.

Processing the change can be as easy as a day or as long as a decade. Everyone reflects at their own speed.

So seniors feel sad for finishing your college days. It means that what you had really was special. Just don’t get too sad.

The Thing Everyone Misses Most From College

The thing people miss most from college isn’t the parties. It’s something even more precious.

One of the most jarring things about post-grad life is the jarring shift in lifestyle. Now not everyone may have had this, but most people had such a massive increase in independence moving from high school to college. It’s jarring, Now you can go to sleep whenever you want or not at all. You can skip a day or three of classes and no one will stop you (although you are paying thousands of dollars to just skip class). A bag of Sour Patch Kids can be your means of sustenance for an entire weekend and cleaning your bathroom becomes optional.

Lots of kids thrive under all this increase in free-time; the kids who are seemingly doing it all from joining new clubs, getting good grades, and still managing to party every night somehow. Others are obliterated by it. Skipping classes leads to knowing even less about the class, worse grades, and the next thing you know a test is coming up, but it was only announced in the class they skipped. Getting high takes such a priority over everything from cleaning, cooking, and exercise that it’s all you’re really known for. Everyone reacts to this new independence differently, but its an independence that’ll only increase after graduation.

For those who could afford the luxury, the large amounts of free time were the best aspect of college. It goes hand in hand with the increased independence, but this free time disappears after college with full employment. Joining clubs, partying, getting high–they all required that you not only had the independence to do them, but the free time as well. And most college kids have that in spades. You can point to some kids who had to work while at college and it’s a shame that they had to deal with the extra stresses of college without as many of the benefits. Free time was a luxury that not even all college students got. Yet for those who did, it’s a feeling unlike any other. You only had to put in as much work into classes as you felt like and just get up and leave class itself if you felt like it. And then there were all the vacations on top of that.

In college and earlier school, all the vacations were ridiculous. You’d get multiple months off in the summer for finishing a grade level. No other reason. Spring vacation, winter vacation, holiday break; my parents would always be surprised (and annoyed) at all the time I had off. You didn’t have any work to do and its not like you had to use up your personal vacation days to use them. Lots of high-schoolers would start working or bolstering their college resumes with tests and classes over the summers, but it’s a shame that they don’t realize what they’ll soon lose.

In college, its the perfect storm of early adulthood with free time that really lets you start experiencing things that you wanted, or at least stuff you think you wanted. Freshman year is a blitz of hanging out with different people until you find the group you want to hang out with, clubs to try out each week, Greek societies, parties, figuring out your major. You can make some life-altering decisions for the better or worse. It’s wild to think that I made all these choices as an 18 year old. I may have been a legal adult, but I sure wasn’t one mentally.

Free time can be dangerous. You can be as productive as you want to be. Spend all your time partying and you’ll feel the consequences soon enough. Plenty of people will warn you about that, but the inverse is also true. One can spend all your time studying, working, and stretching yourself to the limit. After a point its unsustainable and there’s no one required to stop you from doing it. It’s something I fell victim to and regret immensely. I had so much free time and I used it all to study. Obviously studying is important, but college does offer other services. There were so many people I met towards the end of my college career that I felt would’ve been great people to hang out with, but I only met them once my final classes were more or less done. Clubs I would’ve loved to try were ones I only heard about in my final semester.

Party all the time and your grades will suffer. Study all the time and you will suffer. Both are easy pitfalls to fall into and its up to you and your new independence to find what works best for you.

Free time is a resource and it’s your goal to spread the wealth while you have it.