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The Woes of Senioritis

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The entity that is consuming my life at the present moment is graduation. I am constantly torn between wanting it to come sooner and wanting to put it off indefinitely. My mood swings between crippling senioritis where I can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours matching my socks the day before I have a test and a paper due to extreme anxiety that causes me to crawl under the covers and retreat to the state of mind of a 5-year-old. Either way, I get no homework finished.

For 18 years, I have lived within a designated schedule carefully planned around an on-time departure from the academic world and a smooth transition into “adulting.” However, upon returning from spring break, I realized there are only 59 days until graduation and I’ve applied to two jobs.

Induce panic.

Why the lack of motivation? Why the desire to pursue a higher degree just to put off graduation and looming student loan payments? This is the track we have been placed on since our first day of kindergarten. You go to school, get good grades, participate in school functions, get into a good college, land that internship, graduate, get a job and do that for the rest of your life. So, we all should be ready for this right?

As the world stands right now, things aren’t too grim for recent college graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for college graduates is at 2.5%, meaning one in 40 are employed. First year salary isn’t too shabby either, hovering around $50,000. For a single young adult with no children, that isn’t half bad, especially if you live in one of the top 5 cities for college graduates (Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Denver and Columbus) each of which has a decent price of living. On paper, graduation looks pretty good.

However, TIME Magazine recently reported that more college students are seeking counseling at a record breaking rate. Citing a study done by The American College Health Association, 40% of college students reported debilitating depression while 61% reported extreme anxiety.

There are several proposed reasons for the spike and we’ve heard them all: an ever-increasing workload that requires more intelligence, more drive, less sleep, less leisure time; a competitive job market; student loans; bills; trying to keep up with the demands of the world we live in. Earning $50,000 the first year may sound great, but you better have doubled that by year five or you wasted four years on a useless liberal arts degree, and you better be ok with never being able to send your children to private schools.

There is nothing wrong with an improving society. Our species advancing is not a bad thing. But how much can we really progress if our cleverness, abstract thinking and imaginations are funneled through a system that tells you if you don’t have a job by time you graduate college, you’re doomed. It not only reduces individualism, but it is killing us from the inside out, and how can we improve the world if you’re burnt out 59 days before you’ve graduated?

In 2015, Forbes reported that the number of students studying abroad has doubled since the year 2000, and the majority of these students report a better world view after studying abroad. The number of recent college grads living abroad is also rising. Hundreds upon hundreds of decent-paying jobs lie in the trade industry and require fewer years of school while costing a fraction of what it costs to earn a bachelor’s degree. There are options other than the norm and maybe the recent decline in mental health among young people is an indication that it’s time to try something different.

The most popular class at Yale is called Psychology and the Good Life, a class that focuses on what it takes to be happy. It currently has almost 1,200 students enrolled. It is a pass/fail class to prove “the things Yale undergraduates often connect with life satisfaction—a high grade, a prestigious internship, a high-paying job—do not increase happiness at all.” The article continues to say that the science on happiness has changed, and what was expected to make people happy ten years ago is not the same as it is now.

If a successful job and a lot of money is no longer what makes us happy, then why do we continue to push the same agenda? Education is never wrong, but the outside pressures of it can be. And if those pressures now lead to mental health problems, then maybe it’s time to go back to learning for the sake of learning and curiosity.

If the expectations of what is to come out of education where different, I may not be sitting here, two months from receiving my degree, wondering if all I have to look forward to is rush hour traffic and bills.

But that also could be my senioritis talking.  

You go to school, get good grades, participate in school functions, get into a good college, land that internship, graduate, get a job and do that for the rest of your life. So, we all should be ready for this right?

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The Woes of Senioritis