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The Age Old Question Haunting All Soon To Be College Graduates, “So What’s Next?”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

More often than not I am painfully reminded of my upcoming graduation this coming spring. Granted I am excited for this new chapter in my life, I am also terrified of the unknown ahead of me.

Going back to High School days, things seemed to fall into place easily (at least in my situation). I was living at home, didn’t have to pay rent, always had food to eat and nice clothes to wear (“Thanks mom!”). It was easy to come home every night and not worry about these things that have been provided for me all my life. The only things I had to worry about were paying my credit card bills, car insurance and putting gas in my car.

Moving forward, all throughout Community College I still had this easygoing mindset that things are so easy and moving along smoothly, although I did have some hiccups in-between. I’ve taken semesters off to work and explore other things (such as, Am I really meant for college? or Is college even meant for me?) and I’ve gone full-swing into the college life of staying up until 3AM completing work and studying for tests and exams. Somehow I found college to be the most comfortable thing for me even though it’s stressful and costs a ridiculous amount of money to attend. But university life is different. So much different than all of that. Suddenly, I’m living more than 5,000 miles away from home, family, friends, and on top all of that I have to do all of these things my mom has done for me too! (paying rent, buying food, and who knew cleaning supplies were so darn expensive!).

Albeit it is a little less stressful when I factor in grants and scholarships, but it’s still scary that once I graduate from university, all of these safety nets will be ripped away from me. No more grants, scholarships, tuition refunds. I’ll have to figure that out on my own. Along with paying off student loans, now THAT is scary. There’s so much cushion with being in school. And after being in the academic world for so long, it’s so easy to become accustomed to the limiting schedules of class times, due dates, study periods. It’s something that is just so familiar that brings so much structure into my life. Once I graduate, it’ll all be gone. Finito. Bye-bye.

Going back to the age old question of “What’s next after college?”, I still have absolutely no idea. There’s the possibility of going straight into grad school only furthering my already ridiculous student debt, or I could just move on already from the academic world and find a job. Ideally, I want something that can financially support me, pay rent, bills, student loans, and give me a fulfilling sense of purpose and structure to my life. My LinkedIn is going to hopefully build up over time and I’ll be onto the next exciting journey of networking and finding a place within the real working world.

But remember, it doesn’t stop there with “What’s next after college?”, there’s more milestone questions family members love to ask such as “Are you going to buy a house sometime soon, or rent forever?”, “When are you and s/o getting married?”, “Are there any plans for children? How many/why not?”. So many expectations from the cookie cutter “standard” of living, but I’d like to do what makes me happy and feel useful rather than do what is “expected.” I feel that as long as I can live comfortably, no matter what order or standard is followed or not, it’s best to do what makes me happiest in the long run while also being able to support myself.

Kristen is studying towards a Bachelors Degree in Korean and Second Language Studies/Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. In her free time she enjoys yoga, hiking, playing tennis, reading at local parks, cooking and tending to her ever-expanding houseplant collection.
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