The great beyond

The feelings of fear, excitement and shaky nerves are becoming more and more prominent as June 12 looms closer for Portland State’s graduating seniors.

The feelings of fear, excitement and shaky nerves are becoming more and more prominent as June 12 looms closer for Portland State’s graduating seniors.

When you tell people that you are graduating, a usual response is, “Congratulations! What are you going to do next?” The smile on your face may then fade to a stressful expression as you try to search for the words. “Well…I’m applying to jobs…and stuff…” 

The stress sets in while trying to grab those last few tedious credits. Then even more stress kicks in when you realize there are few, viciously competitive job prospects on the horizon, and instead of studying for that quiz or writing that paper, you add to your résumé, tweak it and apply to as many places as possible.

Thoughts of the unknown begin to creep into your head. Every couple of days it is a different emotion. One day you could not be more excited for graduation, having no more exams, busy work or financial aid woes. The next day, you are filled with dread about leaving behind the lack of real job (for some) and the not-so-responsible days of having a drink with friends on a Tuesday night.

College definitely has its ups and downs, and it changes people. Many would not be who they are today without these four—in many cases more—years of experiences. The knowledge that you have gained and that has stuck with you will forever remain along with the friends you have made.

For me, graduation brings forth a feeling of uncertainty, and I dread that uncertainty, but I also find it exciting. I have never left school since kindergarten, and with the exception of a few summers, I have never taken a break. After every school year I knew that I was going back to school again come September. I realize that a lot of things have to change regarding my mindset, because I think in terms of school years instead of actual years. Here I am, 16 years later, about to graduate college, not knowing where I am going.

Other soon-to-be-graduates are feeling similar anxiety.

“My overall feeling of graduation is fear mixed in with utter excitement for the beginning of the next chapter of my life,” said senior Destiny Topolski, a psychology major with an emphasis in criminal justice. Topolski is graduating with no job prospects but is planning on preparing for the GRE, volunteering and eventually applying to graduate schools.

The economy, while maybe not be as poor as it used to be, is still in pretty bad shape. The unemployment rate was 10 percent in March of this year. The economy is not back to its better days yet, but it is certainly not at its worst. Still the lack of jobs can be stressful for recent grads. Especially since nowadays, a bachelor’s degree seems more like a high school diploma; necessary, but does not guarantee a job.

Many students are going straight to graduate school after their bachelor’s degree, which is due in large part to the poor economy.

“The job prospects in this city are incredibly daunting, and the thought of not having school to fall back on makes me nervous,” psychology senior Nicole Atkins said. Atkins is planning on preparing for the GRE and spending time with loved ones before graduate school, much like Topolski.

The transition can consist of multiple things; whether that is transitioning from an undergraduate education to a graduate education, preparing for internships, volunteer work or going to a full-time job.

“I anticipate a very significant transformation as I shift from student to full-time bread winner. Now I must actually learn how to budget a paycheck, versus my three-month financial aid money,” psychology senior Alycia Helbling said.

While graduation is still a terrifying time, it is also full of thoughts and good wishes from family, friends and peers. It is important to understand that while this is a scary transition, it is also a time to celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t lose sight of that over any stress.

Congratulations, class of 2011. You earned this, don’t ever forget that. ?