Now that the spring semester is well underway, seniors are facing one particular question when they talk to their family members on the phone or meet up for coffee with their friends: “What are your plans after graduation?”
As a second-semester senior, I have been asked this question on many occasions from everyone, including my professors and my parents’ friends. I try to answer with a smile and make everyone believe that I have it all under control, but the question is an anxiety-inducing reminder of the fact that I do not have much time to figure out where I am going to be after I graduate in May.
I am not saying that it is wrong to ask seniors what their post-graduation plans are – it is natural to be curious about what your friends will do when they leave school. That said, those who want to ask the question should make just as much of a point to inquire about how their senior friends are holding up mentally and emotionally.
In addition to the stress of nailing down post-graduation plans, the realization that college is ending and the prospect of living far away from college friends can make the semester an emotionally difficult time. It is hard to think about saying goodbye to the student organizations that have given you a home away from home and not being close to people you have seen almost every day for four years. The reality of the impending changes hit me hard when I got back to campus for the start of the spring semester, and it made for some emotionally taxing days. During that time when I was struggling to comprehend that my college days were coming to an end, I did not need people asking me what I was doing after graduation. I needed someone to acknowledge that the semester can be difficult for seniors and ask how I was doing instead.
Some college seniors have argued that other people should avoid asking the question about post-graduation plans entirely, but this is not a helpful or realistic solution. Friends and families of college seniors are going to be curious about their plans, and avoiding the question will just be avoiding the elephant in the room. It is not that everyone needs to stop asking where their senior friends are going to be after the semester ends, but before they do, they should make it more of a priority to ask their senior friends how they are feeling amid all the change that comes with graduation.
As a second-semester senior, it is easy to feel alone in the emotions of leaving college behind, even when you know your senior peers are dealing with the same feelings. Seniors will tell you when they land a job or receive a graduate school acceptance letter. Instead of pushing them for updates about their future plans, make more of a point to check in on and be there for them emotionally – it will go a long way.
Natalie Prieb, a senior majoring in English and creative writing, is a columnist.