A few weeks ago, I received an official notice from my university, informing me that in 100 days, I graduate from college. Within the hour, I received additional emails, reminding me to apply to graduate in March, buy my cap and gown, purchase prints for my senior portrait, and provide an email for the alumni association to use after I graduate.
I’m not the first person graduating from college and I’m definitely not the last, but the feeling of excitement and dread somehow feels unique to just me. I think that’s because no matter how much advice a person gets or how many articles someone reads, they have to experience it themselves to really be able to understand. It’s a lot like this phrase almost every freshman hears: “Your four years will go by so fast, so make the most of it.” When I was first told how fast college would fly by, I didn’t really believe it because it seemed very cliché. Turns out, it was a cliché to actually buy into.
Despite the rapid progression of my college career, senior year always felt far away. Even after my junior year and my study-abroad semester ended, I didn’t feel like a senior. I stepped off the plane in Boston, fresh off four wonderful months in London, and suddenly it felt as if thousands of people were congratulating me on making it to senior year and asking me my postgrad plans — which is, for me, one of the scariest things to be asked because I can’t give a definitive answer.
While many of my peers are moving on to graduate school or their first professional jobs, most, like me, are still trying to figure that out. There are also so many “adult” questions I’ve had to think about, such as where I want to live after I graduate, when I might want to attend grad school, where I see myself in five years. These questions are terrifying, not because I’ve never thought about them before, but because this time it feels very real and final.
I’m at a point in my journey to postgrad in which I can start to see the humor in it all. I now tell people that I’m graduating with degrees in history and English, and revel in correctly predicting the reactions of “You’re smart, so I’m not worried about you finding a job” or “Good luck finding a job. The humanities job market is tough. You should get a job in finance.” I’ve even told my grandfather that in a perfect world, I could retire and just talk politics and watch MSNBC with him all day.
I think what truly makes the graduation process so personal, despite the fact that millions of students will be leaving, is that every reaction to the end of college is so different. I have classmates who are dreading it for a number of reasons, whether it be missing the parties or the intellectual experience, while others can’t wait to leave because they got into the grad school of their choice. They can’t wait to start their job, or they’re excited to not have to take another science class.
What makes the last 100 days so remarkable is not that it’s a warning you should probably get a job, but that it’s a chance to reflect on the college experience and cherish the memories you’ve made. My going to a Jesuit college made it very easy for me to talk about reflection, but in reality, the end of college should be about appreciating the experiences, both social and vocational, and spending time with the people embarking on this journey of higher education with you. So as I wind down my time in college, I’m probably going to feel like I’m drowning in schoolwork and cover letters, but I’m also going to enjoy every moment of these last 100 days.