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College is Still Confusing After the Pandemic

You’d expect after a year and a half of staring at a screen of black squares that being able to put those empty names to faces would provide you a feeling of belonging at this big school. But with 40,000+ people and nearly everyone not knowing exactly what they’re doing with themselves, it seems like no one is going to slow down and let you know that everything will be okay. It’s simply not something that you can anticipate either. It’s impossible to have the assurance that you will end up where you currently want to be. College is lonely, and despite the hoards of people you meet on campus, it does little to ease the sense of confusion.

The anxieties in high school of not finding a perfect group of friends still apply to college, but now you have the added responsibility of choosing your major, applying to internships along with your peers, keeping yourself fed, and The list goes on. The transition to adulthood is messy and you just want to know if you are doing it right. Everyone told me that college would be more enjoyable when it’s in person, making me think that picking my major and finding a community would suddenly come to me more easily because I was on campus. It isn’t. I still don’t know what I am doing and am just as confused as before. It’s important to remember that perfect clarity doesn’t exist. I know full-grown adults who continue to have career crises and are unhappy with their current jobs. It won’t magically appear in the next few years and is a constant journey.

Older students have characterized it as the Duck Metaphor, where when you look around, your classmates are breezing through class and seem to know the material already. They already snagged an internship and are on their way to make six figures right after school. That’s what a duck looks like on the surface: gliding smoothly across the pond. But underwater, where no one sees, they are paddling furiously to stay afloat. No one gets to that point without ease. Just as you are struggling to keep up with your responsibilities and exceed, everyone else is doing the same. The strong and successful face is just a mask. While they excel in the aspects of life you are struggling with, they may have a hard time in an area you have never had to worry about. I have found by expressing your cluelessness in college, people are likely to open up about their own. Absolutely no one has it all together.

While I just made college seem like a hellhole, it is a pivotal time period for self-discovery and development. That one prerequisite class that you are dreading might lead you down a path you never expected. I always thought I was the person who was certain in my path but ended up changing my major three times. It’s not uncommon to hear a story of someone changing their paths a handful of times. You are introduced to a massive network of upperclassmen and alumni that exemplify the plethora of possibilities out there when you graduate and provide you with clarity on what you want to do. The unfortunate responsibility of having to take care of yourself builds important life skills and time management.

Just like life does not have a specific time period or dates you need to accomplish something by, your time in college is the same. Watching people already starting companies or graduating in three years shouldn’t take away from your own achievements. It’s easy to feel like you aren’t worthy or that you are falling short, but everyone does life differently. While my sentiments will do little to automatically ease your anxieties, as I continue to struggle with my own, these are things I try to remember whenever I feel discouraged. 

Like any other goal you are striving towards in life, it takes a massive amount of discipline. It’s important to remember that this stage of life isn’t supposed to be easy and doesn’t work on the first try. It’s also important to be honest with yourself. As mentioned previously, there are people way further down in life that have been working in a field that they don’t enjoy for years. Maybe college really isn’t for you or maybe you shouldn’t give up on that class just because it’s time consuming. If anything, now is the time to question if this is something you can imagine doing for the rest of your life. The decisions you make now impact your future, and it is not the time to pretend that that major or class is making you happy. 

Theresa Liu

U Mich '24

Sophomore at the University of Michigan studying Financial Mathematics
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