Ah spring, when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of leaving this place. Most seniors will agree that it’s a difficult time of year to stay focused, even with snow on the ground. The feeling is compounded when I consider that I’d rather be engaged in the job hunt, but my mind registers that as being “unproductive” since it’s not directly contributing to schoolwork. Yet, when I’m asked about graduation, sometimes it’s hard to get excited.
A part of this is due to the realization that life on campus is pretty cushy—no one gets upset if I miss a deadline (as older editors know I have) or even fall asleep in the atrium (which I think everyone knows I have). But it largely has to with the fact that my plans for next year have changed. I’ve spent my time here preparing to apply to medical school, and next fall, that’s not where I’ll be headed. After pouring in considerable time and resources to try and become a competitive candidate, sometimes it feels like a personal failure, yet this is just a setback.
I’m hardly alone here—every year more than 600,000 applications are sent to schools, and only about three percent of those applications will turn into matriculating students. The challenge now is to dust off and figure out where the next year takes me. I’ve realized that I think to some degree, this is the quintessential question of twentysomethings past, present and future. When the structure falls away and we’re left to our own devices, what do we make of ourselves?
Even earlier this year I wrote about dealing with change in stride. Now it’s time I accept my own advice and start looking forward. Sometimes it’s easy to let setbacks get the better of us, but we have to remember that we’re not alone. Any problem you can think of, someone else has gone through as well. Even being pretty “type B,” having a long term plan fall apart is immensely stressful.
However, this isn’t the end—one round of applications doesn’t invalidate accomplishments, just as a change of career isn’t the end of the road. We’re a generation of lateral movers more apt to start something new than stick around and wait for promotion. It’s part of our generational identity that in an incredibly competitive job market we work to make opportunities for ourselves.
So remember what you have while you’re here: professors who work to inform you, a college that builds a structure under you and a city that welcomes your input. When you leave, you’ll be striking out on your own terms, but that’s exactly what you’re prepared for.