Is Graduation Scary? Navigating Post-Grad Decisions
“So what are your plans after graduation?” “History? What are you going to do with that degree?” “I bet you are so ready to graduate and get out there into the ‘real world’, right?”
These are the most commonly-asked questions for a college senior to get from any adult. Believe me, I know. Every family gathering, visit home, or interaction with somebody who is no longer an undergrad asks me these things. Sure, I have some sort of idea what I want to do after I graduate, but why do I still feel nervous?
I live on campus in a townhouse with five fellow senior girls. We all are already feeling the pressure to decide our futures now. However, after many long vent sessions, pints of ice cream and “family dinners,” I have decided to take a different, non-typical approach to my post-graduation plans. I am graduating with a major in history and a minor in gender and sexuality studies, which allows me to pursue many careers. While some of my friends are heading to grad school, I have decided to try out a few of my options after I leave St. Lawrence and find a job that I am truly passionate about.
This past summer I had an internship where I did exactly that. I worked as an Interpreter at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. Here, I was stationed on a replica American Revolution gunboat, the Philadelphia II, in the lake. My job was to describe the history of the ship that fought in 1776 during the Battle of Valcour Island. Through this opportunity, I met many fantastic people and expanded my knowledge in many ways. Every day on the boat, I would wear a St. Lawrence t-shirt, which caught the eye of many SLU alumni who visited the museum. I probably met around 20 people this summer that had a connection to St. Lawrence. They were always ecstatic to hear about my time there and encouraged me not to be afraid of my future. “For the past three years, St. Lawrence has been preparing you to do great things,” was a common phrase I heard from alumni.
One day at a staff meeting, where we were discussing the upcoming board meeting, one of the directors said there was a new member joining the trustees, Dr. William “Bill” Fox. Wow, I thought to myself, that name sounds so familiar. I raised my hand, “That wouldn’t happen to be President Fox from St. Lawrence University, would it?”
The director responded happily, “Why yes it is, don’t you go there?”
“Yes I’ll be a senior in the fall,” I responded.
Who would have known that not only was President Fox joining the board at my internship but he, too, was a history major at St. Lawrence, just like me. I wonder if he always had his career path figured out; my guess is probably not and look at where he is now! This fueled my idea of what to do.
I think back to my time at the museum often and reflect on the number of alumni I had met. My director was right, it is a small world. Almost every one of them gave me the same graduation advice: “Don’t worry, you have your whole life ahead of you to figure out what you want to do. Go out into the world and try some different careers out, and do what makes you happy!”
So, that is exactly what I plan to do. I want to immerse myself in the ‘real world’ and see what careers I really love. Then, perhaps, when I find something I will return to school again. St. Lawrence has prepared me for this in more ways than I can count and knowing that I have the support of the alumni network is astounding.
Now when I hear those common questions about my future, I have an answer. I am no longer scared; I am excited to see what I can find.