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An Open Letter to All 2021 Graduates

Dear 2021 graduates, 

We did it! Even amidst a global pandemic, we managed to finish up our final coursework and get on the path to receive this “piece of paper” we’ve been waiting for. 

It’s okay to feel a mix of emotions right now. It’s okay to not know what to feel. Finishing your FINAL final exam in your bedroom doesn’t feel the same as pushing open the classroom building doors and breathing in that sweet, fresh air of victory after handing in your physical exam paper. Finishing your undergraduate education during this Zoom era is anticlimactic, to say the least. 

Graduating is scary. All our lives, we have paths laid out for us. First we start with kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, then later followed by high school and college. After that, it’s just up to us. There’s no map or signs pointing us in certain directions. We’re just floating in the middle of the ocean. 

Do I go to graduate school? Do I move to a new city and pursue a job there or stay where I am? Do I take this “safety net” job or try something exciting I’ve always wanted to do? 

With school, there are clear-cut goals — study hard, get good grades, and repeat. After that, it’s easy to get lost. 

The post-grad life is full of opportunities. There are so many different paths you can take. It’s daunting to make decisions since everything seems to hold so much power over how your life will turn out in the future. 

The path in front of us is misty and full of uncertainties. 

I’m a planner. I like to plan things and know what to expect. Uncertainties intimidate me but over the past few years, I’ve learned to be at peace with it. Take one step at a time — a mantra I lived by every single day in college. Even though these words seem insignificant, they hold enormous power over your mindset. 

Take everything one step at a time. Live your life one day at a time. You’d be surprised how much less overwhelming everything becomes. With so many things going on and so much uncertainty, tell yourself to only look at tomorrow for now. 

On a bigger scale, focus only on your “next thing” after graduation. Focus on the next two years and nothing else. Don’t worry about moving somewhere else in the future, don’t worry about where to raise your family, don’t worry about what company you want to stick with for the long run. 

Don’t worry about any of that. Focus on just the next two years. Focus on what steps you want to take at the beginning of your career journey and only that. 

While it is completely okay, and even healthy, to plan some things beyond the next two years, do not let the details haunt you. One step at a time. You will cross those bridges when you get to them. 

Collegiettes, your life is just getting started. I’m so excited for this next chapter of our lives and I wish you nothing but the very best!


A fellow 2021 graduate

Marina Li

George Mason University '21

Marina is a junior at George Mason University studying Communication with a concentration in Public Relations with a minor in Marketing and Tourism & Events Management. She is a social media coordinator, content creator and event planner. She is the kind of person who would burst out singing Disney, musicals, and Christmas songs out of nowhere. In her free time, she likes to watch corgi compilations, read, watch Netflix, think about life and experience repeated existential and identity crisis. Her dream job is to work with Pixar or Disney Studios.
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