Take time to figure out what you want to do
April 25, 2021
Applying to college when you’re in high school may make four years feel like a long time. But you blink and suddenly you’re in your final year having experienced what felt both like an eternity and a fraction of a second.
Being an engineering major means the career fair is a big thing each semester. It can sometimes feel like you take one good look around and it’s raining Amazon job offers and every other person is talking to Google and Microsoft. Two of your roommates have a semester-long co-op somewhere they really wanted to work, few friends did semesters abroad and others receiving return offers from the summer internships.
To you, it could feel like everyone’s got everything figured out. It may feel like everyone is rushing forward, stacking their list of achievements. One of the biggest sources of stress is probably the uncertainty of what comes next that comes with what feels like the absence of a definitive plan.
If you feel overwhelmed, stuck in the race of who gets there first and who scores the next biggest offer — like you’re sinking slowly while everyone paddles upwards — take a moment to just stop. If you’re graduating or close to graduating now, you’re probably between 20 and 22. If someone had asked you who you were or where you headed coming out of high school, you probably had a certain semblance of an answer for each question. If the same someone came around and asked you the same question, your answers might not be the same.
Just as time changes a good portion of everything, where you are now and where you will be five, 10 or 20 years from now might not be what you envisioned. Not getting a flood of job offers from big companies doesn’t mean you’ll end up living out of your parents’ house for the next decade.
Take time to look back on how far you’ve come and everything you achieved although it might not be what you thought you would achieve. It’s important to look back and recognize your growth and improvement in all the areas that you’ve spent time on.
The big secret in college that no one tells you is no one knows what they’re doing. Just like doing your taxes, no one understands what’s happening, but everyone pretends like they do. Vocalize your concerns, talk to your friends, you’ll be surprised at how big the boat you thought you were alone in really is. Soon enough you’ll realize it’s a yacht and not a single one knows how to steer it.
Just as some people take a year off after high school and before college, taking time to figure out how to navigate your new adult identity and the life that comes with it. The time you spend in college itself can be a part of that journey.
Take time to explore things you’re still interested in if you still have time left in college. Building your skills, exploring your interests and improving on your talents don’t stop at high school, college, grad school or even after that. For example, backpacking through Europe post-graduation may seem something out of movie in our overly judgmental society, but it could give you the experience and perspective you’re looking for. While the job, co-op or internship you get right now may not be exactly what you want, it will serve to provide you with a unique perspective for what comes next.
Regardless, boiling this down to the essentials, don’t let anyone, me included, tell you what you can or cannot do. Graduating on time, early or even late is already stressful in its own regard. Take time out of your day to cherish your growth and recognize that everyone is running the same arduous and confusing race. If your initial plans feel like they’re falling apart, what you need right now is always just around the corner if you just look for it.