Graduating sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get far, far away from Mount Allison. But graduating is still really stressful. Most of this stress arises from the never-ending questions about my post-grad plans. What’s next? What are you going to do with your degree? Grad school or no grad school? What school? What program? I must have missed the lecture that answered all of these questions. I didn’t realize that signing up for a degree meant that I had to have the rest of my life figured out when I finished.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people about grad school over the last few months. I’ve wanted to go to grad school since I took my first women’s & gender studies class three years ago, and I’ve spent the better part of November trying to put together my application packages. I’ve spent hours ripping my hair out, and so far, I have nothing. Or, until recently, I thought I had nothing.
Applying to grad school is stressful. It costs a lot of money, it takes a lot of time, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get in. Grad school has been my go-to answer to the “What’s next?” question for as long as I can remember. So, what if I don’t get in? What will happen then?
The uncertainty that comes with applying has often made it feel like a huge waste of time. But I’m starting to realize that this isn’t actually true. Applying has forced me to think about what I really want to do when I graduate, and the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I think that’s okay.
When did applying to grad school become a requirement, anyway? My parents demanded it and my professors suggested it. It always seemed like the “right” thing to do – so right that I never stopped to think about what I wanted to do post-graduation.
Instead, I worried about having “perfect” grades, almost always falling short because I was too stressed to actually do any of my work. And now, here I am, too stressed to finish my grad school applications.
After years of university, people demand answers. They want absolutes, periods and colons, but I only speak in relativity, brackets and ellipses. The people asking the questions only hear that I don’t have a plan. They hear that after four years of university and thousands and thousands of dollars spent, I am still unsure. But, I didn’t pay Mt. A to answer all of life’s questions. I paid Mt. A for an education, and in five months, I will (finally) have proof of purchase.
The uncertainty of my future shouldn’t scare me. It should be exciting. It is exciting. Maybe I’ll take a year off and travel. Maybe I’ll be in grad school. Or maybe I’ll still be working at my $12.25/hour job. Either way, I’m going to let myself be unsure and sit in the uncertainty of my post-grad plans.
It’s quite a bit less stressful when you have a plan BEFORE going in to university. Obviously situations can change, but if you keep an open mind and are willing to be flexible and put in the hard work and sacrifice, you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish.