I don’t understand why people say graduating college is the best time of your life. If that’s the case, then the Lord should just take me now.
I’ve never been more stressed in my life. I’m frantically searching for a full-time job while avoiding badgering (but well-intentioned) questions about my future. For the first time, I have absolutely no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a month. My business friends were offered their $60,000-salary jobs last fall while we journalism students desperately shoot out résumé tapes and writing samples in response to every Internet ad and nervously drum our fingers waiting to hear whether our internships will land us an entry-level position with benefits.
Although the past four years at Howard University have been undeniably fun and life-changing, most of my friends agree that “stressed” is the best word to describe the final months of what’s supposed to be the grandest time of our lives. And here’s why:
1. The job hunt.
The economy continues to be weak for recent college graduates and companies are hiring less. I have a friend who sent out more than 120 résumé tapes and e-mails to general managers all across the country. He started his search last October. He was hired by a television station in Louisiana last week. The job search is long and tedious, especially in this era when most applications are done electronically. And when you have class, homework, exams, papers, an internship and a part-time job, you barely have time to even look for a post-graduation job. Nonetheless, you must have time to write a tailored cover letter for each one. It’s exhausting. The process itself is enough to crack any college student.
2. The embarrassing thought of moving back home.
For the thousands of college students who graduate from school without job offers, the end looks like a cliff. If we don’t get a job, what will we do? Will we go back home to our parents? Will we go back to working at Starbucks? These prospects may seem like something that has to be done. But for most college students, these options aren’t what was expected. It’s embarrassing when you have to admit to your friends that you’re moving back home after graduation when they are moving to New York to work at some top-notch company or going to California for grad school. Here’s the conversation:
“Hey, girl! What are you doing after graduation?”
“I’m moving to New York next month to work for Vogue magazine. I’m so excited! What about you?
“Oh, well, I’m going back home to North Carolina for a while.”
Even with a degree, you feel like a failure. The youthful optimistic feeling of “I can do anything and be whatever I want to be” is clouded with dreadful thoughts of being broke, and we scramble for any type of job to feel secure instead of following our dreams for fear of failing. No one wants to move back home after graduation. We all have dreams of living on our own, launching our careers and becoming successful — not doing dishes for our mothers while listening to our dads yelling out “Jeopardy!” answers to the television in the other room.
3. Student loans and bills.
As my mother reminds me constantly, the student loan bills start rolling in after you graduate. If you live off campus, you still have rent to pay along with other bills, so if you’re jobless, this stresses you out even more. You feel like an adult with adult problems but without adult finances.
4. Saying goodbye to friends.
Then on top of all the stress, you have to face the inevitable fact that you and your friends are parting ways, college is officially over, and you just finished having the “best time of your life.” It’s depressing. Sure, we have fun during the last few weeks. We go to happy hour, party at clubs and reminisce about good times, but there’s a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs: Is this really over?
I might sound like a complete pessimist, but as a newly minted college graduate, the sky looks dark.
According to “Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy,” a study released by Rutgers University last May, only one in two college graduates who received diplomas between 2006 and 2010 had a full-time job, and of those, four in 10 worked in jobs that didn’t even require four-year degrees.
And Cliff Zukin, an author of the Rutgers study, called us the “postponed generation” in a New York Times article because graduates are living with parents longer and taking longer to become financially secure. “The journey on the life path, for many, is essentially stalled,” the Times’s Jennifer 8. Lee wrote.
The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And I don’t know about you, but I want a healthy heart. I don’t want to be “postponed” or “stalled.” I’m 22 years old. I’m ready to take off and soar.
Alyssa McLendon is a recent graduate of Howard University and is a multimedia journalist living in Washington, D.C. Her past internships include CNN, The Washington Post, WHUR 96.3 HD-2, and the United States Department of Treasury.
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