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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SAU chapter.

I thought I had it all figured out. Oh, how that changes. 

The stark reality that graduation is quickly approaching is overwhelming, especially when the plan I thought I had nailed down from my first day of college has since faltered. As I’ve learned more about myself and my future professional field, I find myself asking the question, “What do I really want?” It seemed so easy to plan for the upcoming big day when the task of facing it was years away. However, now I am a mere four months away from being considered capable of holding job titles I’ve only ever dreamed of having. 

I personally think that there are two daunting aspects of graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree. First, the entire premise of no longer holding the status of a student is difficult to imagine. I have spent the past sixteen years of my life as a student learning in an educational setting every day. I have always loved school, so I think there is a feeling of loss now that the time has come to leave the world of traditional education. Of course, as adults, we continue learning in life due to new personal and professional experiences, but this is a drastic change. Change is scary. Even if we feel prepared for it, there are so many unknowns that lead to feelings of anxiety and lowered self-efficacy. When I was younger, I thought that by the time I graduated I would have my life figured out and be extremely confident. I am now hit with the honest truth that few people ever leave higher education feeling like they know what they are doing. Everyone has to take time to find their path following graduation. However, another challenge arises when you feel ambivalent about your next steps. 

This is the second intimidating factor of graduating college. I do not know exactly what I want to do in my career from the time I graduate to the time I retire. I don’t think anyone really knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives. In order to get started in the workforce, this decision has to be partially made. I used to have it all planned out. I knew that I was going to graduate with my BA in Forensic Psychology and then continue on into a Master’s program in Forensic Psychology with the end goal being a doctoral degree. As I have learned more about myself and my personal goals, such as traveling, maintaining my hobbies, and having a family and ample time spent with its members, this master plan has large holes in it in regard to time. Additionally, I don’t even know if my professional goals require a doctoral-level degree anymore! It is almost impossible to determine right now if I want to pursue Master’s level work or jobs that require a Ph.D. or PsyD. There are so many factors to consider, such as the time and money difference, as well as the implications for the nature of my career. Especially in psychology, I think it is ludicrous for students to decide what they want to do when they have little to no professional work experience. However, I have to do something when I graduate, but the unknowns make this decision dreadful at times. 

I know that this overwhelming reality is equally present for students who are not pursuing graduate education, and those feelings are just as valid. It is so hard to know what route to take in life when there is no guidebook and no solid experience to work off of. I am trying to reframe my hesitation and worries regarding my next steps into an opportunity for adventure, learning, and new relationships. “Adulting” after college is daunting, but it is a necessary component of life and maturing. The best way to avoid self-sabotage and a host of negative feelings is to think optimistically.

Hello! I am a Forensic Psychology Major with Minors in Criminal Justice and Sociology. I am the secretary for Sexual Assault Awareness Team and am involved in STEP and Psychology Club at St. Ambrose University. In my free time I enjoy painting and embroidering, being a dog mom, and spending time with my friends!