Senior year of college, for many reasons, is a gruelling experience. Most likely, this isn’t the first time that seniors have heard that the final stretch of undergrad is taxing. Difficult, nerve-wracking, unparalleled, heartbreaking, insightful; the list goes on, and all are true.
The projection of college students into the real world is a journey that is often accompanied by various mental hardships. Balancing multiple demanding classes, having a job, seeking a job and extracurriculars all while on very little sleep and coasting by while financially unstable is already an everyday process for many. In fact, one in five college students battle anxiety or depression and over 40% of students said they felt too depressed to properly function day-to-day.
But with graduation added to the mix, senior year is its own special challenge. As a demographic that has largely spent the entirety of our lives as students and/or under parental guidance, we are suddenly thrust into and expected to compete in a world brimming with longer work weeks, a decrease in the average employee’s net worth and income, expensive graduate programs and an increase in stress and depression due to economic inequality. So, for anyone feeling as if they’re not where they should be, it’s important not to internalize these feelings, as post-grad hardship is universal.
Not knowing who they are or who they’re meant to be is the thematic underlining of a senior’s final semesters of undergrad. This might be one of the causes of stress associated with senior year. Admittedly, stress is more of a euphemistic term in this instance. It is entirely too general and does a disservice to the weight of this time period. An identity crisis, or an intensive period of self-exploration and analysis of the various ways of examining oneself, would be more accurate.
Students may realize they no longer enjoy their major, despite having dedicated four years to studying it. Or maybe they’re too passionate about the subject to turn it into a mentally draining profession. What if this passion won’t make any money? Going to graduate school is a popular option, but to study what? And where does a student get the money to pay for that tuition? Many may not understand how to navigate themselves outside the context of being a student.
For those who envision a specific life path and are sure of what they want to do, there’s still the struggle of actually doing it. The job market we are entering is one defined by unprecedented competition and inequality. The amount of graduates is consistently increasing, turning hard-earned experience and abilities into a lottery ticket in a numbers machine. Moreover, landing a job is about networking more than skill sets.
This competitive streak that defines the market is amplified by our constant use of our mobile devices. At our fingertips are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, juxtaposing the success of our peers with our own personal downfalls, especially during our free time, when we’re known to be more self-reflective. The danger in social media is it creates a heavily skewed image of one’s life. Users tend to showcase their peaks, their highlight reel, and it does not paint an accurate depiction of their lives.
To a certain degree, though, it can be positive, as “the inspiration you feel about someone else’s achievements can rev up the motivation to improve your own life,” according to Psychology Today. Seeing a high school friend’s rigourous choreography might serve as inspiration to take up dancing or fitness, and possibly revitalize one’s life.
The notions of success or enlightenment a student might think they’re not measuring up to by the time they reach the finish line are informed by inaccurate tidbits of misinformation depicting where others in their age range seem to be. The reality is that both the world of college and post-grad are not entirely easy for anyone. Therefore, whenever anyone compares someone else’s highs to their lows, they are only doing a disservice to themself and their personal journey. Graduation is in just under three months and seniors have made it this far. Who’s to say we can’t go farther?
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 print edition. Email Mili Mansaray at [email protected]