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As scary as it may seem to seniors, graduation is not the apocalypse

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For more than 3,000 students at Saint Louis University, the apocalypse really is coming this May. It doesn’t matter what future lies ahead and what new and exciting things are about to begin, because the world as they know it is about to end for the members of the graduating class of 2013.

When my high school class was graduating, our calculus teacher warned us not to get too excited. “Everyone graduates from high school,” she said. “Just wait till y’all graduate from college. Now, that is worth celebrating.” Perhaps it is because at 39 percent, Missouri falls below the national college graduation average of 39.3 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes people who drop out of college and those who choose not to go to college at all, and for whatever reason, never get to take the walk to receive a bachelor’s degree. This year, those joining the 39 percent of the Missouri population with a college diploma might be wondering if this time, it will feel any different.

Yet, as college graduation draws nearer, it seems like high school graduation was much more exciting. At the time, the future seemed brighter. Choosing a major was exciting, picking extracurricular activities was exhilarating and the SLU air was crisp and refreshing. You could be liberal and adventurous with your decisions, and somehow it was so satisfactory to fight your parents for the “useless” major you had fallen in love with. Undeniably, federal aid was much more generous for first- and second-year students.

If loans are building up and you feel like you haven’t changed a bit since the last time you threw your graduation cap in the air, then it is no surprise if you are dreading purchasing your cap and gown this year.

What is more, college professors and families encourage students not to end their education here, but to keep on going, no matter the cost.

It is true that a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. The U.S. is striving to reach a national average of 60 percent college graduation rate in order to regain its place as the most college-educated population in the world.

Soon, this “everyone” that graduates from college will also be graduating with a bachelor’s degree. No big deal.

So what is the appeal for the post-graduate degree, other than trying to be more than the “everyone” who graduates from college? And if a bachelor’s degree feels lighter in weight than the gold-encrusted frame they give you to preserve it in, what’s there to hope for in a master’s degree or a doctorate, getting yourself deeper in debt than you already are?

In short, what really is the purpose of life? It seems like this dilemma is boiling down to that last question.

Believe it or not, there really is more to learn about the world than can be learned in college. This is not to be used as a pessimistic excuse not to pursue and continue higher education; in fact, it is to serve as the central purpose.

Graduate school in particular is a place to take advantage of this fact and meet as many people as possible, learn as much as you can about what they know, and be prepared to enter life-long relationships of mutual learning.

As a once-hopeless college graduate, I found inspiration as I heard college professors talking about their passion for knowledge, passion which didn’t only take them through graduate school, but brought them back to school to teach and continue to learn through research, decade after decade.

If being among brilliant and passionate people for just a while longer, if being there to learn first-hand from their experiences and knowledge, and if being on the road to become a part of the body of individuals who work to preserve and build knowledge is not motivation enough to pursue graduate school, I don’t know what is. Perhaps a bigger paycheck will lure the others who are not as excited about sitting next to intellectual giants and being able to work with them.

And if you happen not to be inspired at all by this prospect, don’t let the future trip you up on your way to receiving that gold-encrusted frame on May 18, because the apocalypse is not coming.

 

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