Our lives revolve around a schedule. After high school, we immediately start college. We earn high grades, intern every summer and finish college in four years or less. As soon as we walk off the stage at graduation, we then head into our new jobs or our master’s programs. Our successes are reduced to items on an itinerary, every milestone becoming just a note on a list to check off.
At least, this is what most people think and hold themselves to.
Oftentimes, college students tend to forget that our futures are not linear and success is not so simple. There is no right or wrong time to find a job or internship. There is no time limit on graduation. There is no set method in making our own success in our lives. However, believing that we need to follow our future like we’re following an agenda only adds to the mounting pressure on our shoulders and diminishes our mental states.
The 2013 National College Health Assessment, which analyzed data from 125,000 students from more than 150 colleges and universities, reported that almost half of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in their last school year. Nearly a third of students reported that in the last school year, they also struggled to function as a result of depression.
One of the main contributing factors to such high levels of anxiety and depression in college students stems from the immense amount of pressure we all endure while in school. When we don’t get that internship, we feel inadequate. If we’re too caught up in school work and senior year to apply for jobs, we think we’re falling behind. When we can’t graduate in the ideal four years, we feel like we failed somewhere along the way.
But none of this holds any real truth, and having our parents, faculty and even our own peers reinforcing these mindsets only aids the development of mental health problems.
It also isn’t easy to put a timestamp on our accomplishments when facing certain circumstances while in college, and in the job market that many of us will try to enter in the next few months.
The Orlando Sentinel reported in 2014 that most college students actually graduate in closer to six years, as opposed to the traditional four. The driving factors behind this include changing majors and balancing jobs with school. According to the article, “only about 19 percent of college students will graduate in four years from public universities and about 36 percent from flagship high-level research institutions.”
In a separate article by The Washington Post, it reports that four out of five college students will graduate without a job. The article tells the story of students Lauren and Matt, who graduated on time but still couldn’t land a job. Matt reported searching for jobs both before and after graduating, but he still couldn’t find anything. A factor that contributes to these problems includes less job offerings, leading to higher competition. Since the internship market functions similarly to the job market, the same can be expected.
These factors hinder our abilities to graduate, find jobs and score internships. They are not our fault. However, since they delay our success schedules, we blame ourselves.
Rushing to make “ideal” deadlines in our lives will only lead us to make choices that may not benefit us in the long run. For example, in the article from The Washington Post, college graduate Lauren took a job straight out of school but ended up disliking it and feeling forced to quit. We shouldn’t rush and settle on jobs or internships, as we may miss out on better opportunities while we suffer through the consequences of our hasty actions.
In addition, no two college students envision the exact same ideal future for themselves. Your friend may want to spend their life in a finance office and your roommate might want to be a teacher. Meanwhile, you may want to focus on traveling or on creating art. These are different end goals that cannot be reached in the exact same way. Quantifying our careers does not offer the variety and options we need.
There is no need to rush through our lives. We all think and function differently, as we are all different individuals. In addition, situations and opportunities are not fixed, but are always coming and going. This essentially guarantees that it is impossible for us to all accomplish our goals and reach our ambitions at the same time.
It’s important to remember, as we apply for internships, work toward graduating and plan out our futures that life is not linear. Falling into the accepted mindset that we need to achieve on a schedule will only hurt our futures, as well as our mental stabilities. Our careers are achievements to be made, not simply dates that fall on a lifelong calendar.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh
Printed in the 4/5/17 issue.