Society tells us that college is the place to determine what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. You study a subject for four years. You gain experience with internships and jobs. You build a community and network with those around you, whether you live on campus or elsewhere. But what if you’re approaching your senior year and have no idea what to do? The pressure of what to do after college is large and looming, and that pressure only grows if you’re still confused on what to pursue when you graduate.
I am quickly approaching the end of my junior year—faster than I would like. As we are hurling our way to the finish line, I am becoming more and more confused on what to pursue after graduation.
I thought I knew what I wanted to do as a career after I graduated high school, and the next step was in enrolling in college to get a degree. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, preferably a sports journalist for the National Football League. That’s what I wanted to do until January of my junior year. Now I am scrambling to determine what I want to do so I can figure out what happens after graduation.
Am I going to go to a master’s program to gain more expertise and knowledge about what I want to do? If it is a master’s program, what subject area am I going to focus on? If I want to go straight into working, what am I going to do? I have no idea, and I know that’s how a lot of my peers feel as well.
In a poll done on the VU Voice’s Instagram, 35 people responded to the question: Do you know what you want to do after college (i.e. what you want to get your master’s degree in or what job opportunity you’re looking for)? 60% of people have an idea of what they were going to do after college, but don’t know for sure. 9% of people have no idea what they’re going to do after college, and 31% of people know what they’re going to do. Although there is a wide variety in responses, almost everybody has an idea of what they want to do following college, but they may not know for sure.
There are so many possible paths I could go down. I could go into the professional sports industry and be a beat writer or do broadcasting. I could go into college athletics and work at a slightly lower, but no less intense, level of sports. I could go into higher education in general and become a mentor for college students like my amazing bosses have been to me. Or I could go back to my childhood plan of teaching high school. There are so many different options swirling around my mind, but it all comes down to one thing. I still don’t know which one to pursue.
Alyssa Cloward, a junior at Vanguard University, comments, “There are so many different things to do after college and the possibilities are endless. I do not know what I want to do after college exactly, but I have so many different ideas of what I want to do.” She goes on to say, “There are so many things I would love to do, and I think the biggest challenge will be to figure out what is first.”
Some older working adults in their late 40s and early 50s, have told me that it’s ok to change career paths down the line and I don’t have to know it all right now. However, right now, I want to know it all and make the right decision. Choosing a possible career right now is scary, and I imagine changing it after 20 years is even more terrifying.
The main question swarming my mind is: How do I make the right decision for me right now? If you’re looking for this answer, I can’t give it to you. It differs from person and person, and probably depends a lot on your personal journey thus far. I don’t even know the answer for myself yet.
Although it is extremely stressful to be navigating through the last year or so of college with no clear path, there is hope that answers will come. We don’t have to know all the answers right now, even if the thought of not knowing is hard and scary. We will only be 21 and 22, with a lot of life still to live. We have time.
The traditional undergraduate degree—to master’s program or full-time job—is a cookie cutter timeline. Kudos to those who are following that path because it’s a lot to know and make that decision right now, but for those who are still trying to figure it out, it is ok. I am right there with you.
Cloward states, “I think there is definitely a mix of emotions between the excitement of having endless options, but also the stress of not knowing what is next.”
We may not know what is coming next, but that’s just fine. We’ll figure it out eventually, and by eventually, most of us hope and mean in the next six months.