The big wide world – it’s a scary place, isn’t it? Especially if you are a real-life grown up, something I regret to say I must soon become. College life seems like the perfect bubble between growing-up and staying forever young – one gains independence, grows as an individual, learns a whole plethora of new things, but still retains a sense of youth, holds the ability to call up mom when the washing machine breaks, or stay up until 3am eating pizza with friends despite having class the next morning. Suddenly, however, it’s the Christmas holidays of your final year, and you sit down to dinner. Only this year, everyone’s eyes are on you, and you must face the dreaded question you’ve seen many before you experience; “So, what are your plans for next year?”
The daunting task of choosing a college course all those years ago seems like a walk in the park now, and suddenly you find yourself wishing you could transport back to your first day on campus, when the end seemed light years away. The sense of structure and familiarity you have been guaranteed for many years is fading, and the responsibilities and realities of the ‘real world’ are fast approaching. If, like me, the thought of the future sets alarm bells ringing in your mind, and evokes thoughts of a full-blown quarter-life-crisis, just know you are certainly not alone. It is unsurprising that according to a CNBC report, many therapists in America have turned to the term “post-graduation depression” to describe this feeling experienced by so many. While this fear is valid, and grounded in the fact that for most of us, the security which comes from being in state education since the age of 5 is slipping away, this does not mean we should not also be extremely excited about the future ahead of us, the diversity of opportunities open to us.
When I told relatives a few months ago that I was considering taking a year out, to save up money and really figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life, I was met with looks of shock, and exclamations that I “will never pick it back up if I stop now.” But taking a year out is a valid, and good, decision, for a lot of people. Taking time to make an informed decision regarding your future is a far better idea than rushing into further education on a topic you are unsure of, or accepting a job offer for a position you do not feel truly passionate about. A year off gives you options – perhaps you want to work full-time, save up money and research all your possible pathways. Maybe you’ll travel, explore and experience parts of the world that cannot be appreciated with a mere weeklong holiday. What about learning a new skill, having the chance to give back and do charity work, or simply working on yourself as a person? The stigma surrounding taking a break after a long and taxing undergraduate course is one which should be broken, as more often than not it is the wisest, and the most rewarding decision, in the long-run.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have already decided your path in life, a masters can be a great way to gain further knowledge on a topic or career you are passionate about. Aside from the obvious draw that comes with a masters – extending your time in college (everyone was thinking it), it also offers, as the name suggests, a chance to demonstrate mastery within your chosen field. If you do decide a masters is the choice for you, then you’ll be aware you have another big decision to face … which course suits you best. Sorry! There are, however, a large number of resources which can prove useful in this decision, including FindAMasters, an Irish website which allows you to explore your options based on discipline, institution, location, course and study type, or gradireland, another website offering advice on funding, the benefits of further education, the areas of study available to you, and the career prospects they can offer. So if you are veering towards a masters, do your research, keep up to date with application dates and deposit prices, and most importantly, enjoy it!
Conversely, you can face the big bad world head on, and go straight into work after college. While a daunting, and sometimes unimaginable, concept, it is financially a solid choice, and allows you to begin working your way up in your field of choice immediately. This means facing the dreaded interview portion of your life, where you must not only get your personality, skills and work ethic across in twenty minutes, but also prove that you are the best of a potentially very large bunch. And if I can give you one piece of advice, it would be – practice! In the mirror, with your best friend, with your dog, it really doesn’t matter, just get used to talking out loud, or more significantly, talking solely about yourself out loud. LinkedIn is also incredibly useful if this is the route for you, offering a platform to meet like-minded people with similar drive, but also potential employers, and create connections before you’ve even gotten off the couch. If the working world is the choice for you, it’s time to pull out your finest ‘I’m a professional’ outfit, update your C.V, and make connections anywhere and everywhere you can.
Leaving college behind after what feels like only weeks, saying goodbye to the years that form us into the people we want to be, is undoubtedly scary. But it’s also exciting, the possibilities are endless, and there is no right or wrong direction to take. As long as you remember to focus on what it is you want, and not what everyone else is doing, you’re bound to achieve, and have as much fun after college as you did during. Remember, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!