"So what are your plans after college?"
We all seem to get asked about our future no matter what year we are as college students.
For many, the answer never really seems to get easier.
Some people answer with a surety and conviction that completely outlines the exact plan for their life. They are going to pursue this exact degree, with a focus on this exact thing, and they even have the school they want to go to for it picked out.
Other students seem to be on the other end of the spectrum, with answers such as, "I'm not really sure what I want to do yet," or "I'm trying to figure it out."
Throughout my own college career, I have swung between both of these kinds of answers, depending on the semester.
A New York Times article titled "Major Decisions" indicates that part of the reason for this indecisiveness stems from the handful of options made readily available to us, which makes it difficult to choose a major. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that nearly 80 percent of American university students change their major at least once.
On average, students change their major at least three times during their collegiate career.
As the prospect of graduation in May looms ever closer for me, I have spent an inordinate amount of time talking to fellow upperclassmen about what we're going to do with our lives, and I have realized I am not alone in my uncertainty.
So many others feel the same sense of unknown – as one of my friends recently told me, he feels like he's walking down a long hallway lined with doors to opportunities. At each door he tests the handle, and into the unlocked doors he peeks inside.
Some doors he decides to close; others he leaves propped open to explore later.
If you, like him, have yet to find the correct door, don't worry– even if you're a senior in college and you've found that what you've been studying for four years is not something you want to pursue further, you are not alone.
We have this timeline set in our minds that arbitrarily demands we accomplish certain things by a certain time, but it is totally false. A societal construct, the "timeline" deems you a social late-bloomer if you are not pursuing some form of higher education or have your career on track after college. The next goals to accomplish are marriage by your early 30s and then having kids a couple of years later. If you have not found a soulmate before then, people begin to pity you. Career status ambiguity garners the same sidelong glances.
All of this panic needs to stop. Stop creating and then adhering to this timeline. Do things in your own time, whether that means taking a few more years to add on another degree, or just traveling and backpacking around the world for some time. Work a temporary job for a year while you do grad school applications. Not everything you want to do has to be accomplished during college. Oftentimes, what you want to do probably shouldn't be constrained to your college years anyway.
We are never done growing as individuals, nor is it ever too late to start over. A crossroads will appear many times in our lives, forcing a choice between two roads: one continuing on the same pathway, possibly to a life filled with drudgery and regret, or another to a life filled with passion and purpose.
Most would choose the latter, an appealing ideal that nevertheless requires braving the ambiguity to become the author of their own lives.
Try that answer the next time someone asks, "What are you doing after college?"
Tell them you'll let them know when you get there.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at email@example.com.