Graduation Anxiety: The Fear of What Lies Aheadcsudhbulletin November 3, 2021 0 COMMENTS
Serena Sanchez, a senior at CSUDH, sifts through and opens up about her built up anxiety over graduating in only a few months. Photo provided by Serena Sanchez.
By Serena Sanchez, Staff Reporter
As spring 2022 registration has reared its early head, the usual feeling of excitement is now nonexistent as I’m reminded of the fact that I graduate next semester. As I open my student portal and look through the four courses I have left, I am a bundle of nerves and feel as though I am gripping the campus grounds with white, almost translucent, knuckles.
As the water of realization is poured on me, and many decisions are stacking on top of each other, I am left to face what I want to do after I walk across that stage and am handed my diploma.
I was driving myself to school on the first day of freshman year with minimal makeup, a red and white striped T-shirt, black leggings with a small hole on the left thigh and a brand-new pair of white vans that I already knew would create blisters as I walked to my first class.
My ponytail swung slightly as I listened to a playlist I most likely made to encourage myself and looked for parking. The August heat beat down on me as I finally found a spot in Lot 7 at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Now that I only have about a semester and a half remaining of my undergraduate journey, not only do I feel the looming stress of graduate school contemplation and applying for internships, but I also feel as though I am leaving an almost-17-year relationship. A relationship that was so sheltered, so all-consuming that, as it is coming to an end, I have no clue how to go about my life without it.
For a long time, whenever I visualized my future, school was always in the picture. After I culminated from fifth grade, I had middle school to look forward to, and four years of high school following that. None of these transitions had much separation from each other.
One of the options to continue an ongoing educational journey is to attend graduate school, but with a build up of current assignments and responsibilities, not to mention personal issues, this decision seems to sneak up on you like the scariest jumpscare in a horror film.
Do I immediately shift into more education, cut my journey off at graduation, or find time for it later? Am I ready to make such a financial and time consuming commitment? Although I have a strong support system, do I want them to make the sacrifice for me? Does my career choice even require a Master’s, and how will I know if I do not have the career yet?
These questions that once lived in my subconscious mind and have now been forced to the forefront, are only some that go through mine and so many students’. José Solache, the President of the Alumni Advisory Council who graduated from CSUDH in 2006, endured the same all-encompassing feelings and decisions.
In Solache’s case, after graduating, he took a few years off before going to graduate school due to being unsure about the teaching career that his degree would have entailed, as well as financial commitments as he supported himself.
Although he does not think his break, or taking breaks after graduation is a bad idea, he would advise students to make an immediate transition if interested.
“Just do it because life doesn’t get any easier in the sense of commitments, right? Work, commitments of a relationship with someone and the whole deal of moving in, potentially getting married…life naturally evolves into what life becomes,” he said. “So, if you can, take advantage if you’re still in that student status, or maybe living at home, if you have that support system at home and you can afford it, I would say go to grad school immediately.”
But a big consideration to be made is whether your particular dream and career even requires additional schooling.
Brenda Mendez, career coach in the CSUDH Career Center, advises students to really think about it because there is no rush to get to graduate school.
“It’s better to weigh your options and determine what’s right for you. It is often having an honest conversation, sharing what goes into the graduate school process and graduate school in itself, but also exploring an alternative option,” said Mendez.
There is this sense of immense stress and fear of failure when it comes to having a job to jump into post-graduation. If I do not have one, does that mean I never will? Will I be living in my mother’s basement and mooching off of her until I die? These questions dance circles in my brain whether it is because of my tendency to overthink or not.
It is amazing that in my second to last semester at CSUDH, I have not only just noticed the existence of alumni-student support, but that I have just now chosen to dig it up.
One of the resources is Toro Connect, a free, volunteer-based program where students can connect to CSUDH alumni from different locations around the world and seek guidance and support throughout their educational journey.
“This is the first time where our students are able to contact alumni directly and say, ‘Hey, I need help.’ That’s never been provided before, not on a professional level,” said Felicia Hernandez, the Director of Alumni Relations.
This program requires students to set up an account, and once they have, they can fill in their interests, hobbies, major, and the industry they desire. They are able to contact alumni of their choosing. Through this, students can create long-term relationships with mentors.
“In turn,” said Hernandez, “hopefully if there’s a really strong connection, the alumni will also check in on you and say, ‘Hey, I haven’t heard from you. What’s the status? You know, I heard you said you had an interview. Whatever happened to that?’ It goes two ways.”
While there is a great amount of support for students, according to Solache, it also depends on you and your own involvement on campus and preparedness to venture into the oyster we call our world. Although getting your degree is a huge aspect of your future, getting your head out of the books once in a while is crucial.
“I know a few people in life who didn’t worry about that and they would just focus on academics and getting their degree, but didn’t get that life skills moment,” said Solache. “I think clubs and campus organizations…all of those are good to get involved in because you are building that network for your future day job.”
As someone who stayed to herself the majority of her college experience, the amount of involvement I have had in my educational home for almost four years weighs on me like bricks. Did I make the most out of my college experience? One thing I do know is that I wish I had spoken to Solache sooner.
While it may or may not be the perfect solution to your problem, looking into individual career coaching is not a wrong way to start. All students, both pre and post-graduation, are welcome to make an appointment with the available coaches to discuss anything college or career related.
Mendez coaches many students dealing with anxiety, especially as spring semesters come about.”For many of our students who are first-generation college students, the ‘what’s next’ can be intimidating. I like to remind them they can do it! They’ve made it this far and this is just one step moving towards their goals.”
These impending deadlines of responsibilities and decisions, as well as the butterflies in my stomach that I cannot decipher whether they are born from excitement, nerves, or both, I will admit, have done their job at making me dread what is to come. But despite them, knowing that I want to write as a career and am actively pocketing experience, clears the fog a bit.
My dream is to write–as detailed as possible–and although it will be a trek to get there whether I go to graduate school or immediately seek experience, I know that, if I want it badly enough, it will be on the other side regardless. The image of floor to ceiling glass windows that look at the surrounding buildings, an office filled to the brim with books and a large desk with stacks of papers, affirms me that this will someday be reality.
Whether or not these feelings shed quickly, or put my cap and gown on with me next year, I am confident in my ability to navigate what is the best decision for me, whatever it may be.