Challenges Of Senior Year In College

As college seniors approach the final stretch of their undergraduate journey, they often find themselves amidst a whirlwind of emotions, responsibilities, and uncertainties. Senior year is a pivotal time marked by significant academic, personal, and professional transitions. While it can be an exhilarating period filled with anticipation for what lies ahead, it also brings forth a unique set of challenges that students must navigate to successfully transition into the next phase of their lives.

College Seniors: Why You Shouldn’t Stress Out About What’s Coming Next




It’s January of senior year; college graduation is on the horizon, and you’re feeling anxious about what’s next.  After high school was college. And after freshman year was sophomore year and so on.  It was all scripted and predictable – that is, until now.

Graduate school?  Perhaps, but you don’t really know what to study, or really even what graduate school is all about.  A job?  Sure – that makes perfect sense, but you’ve never really had one of those before – and aren’t even sure where to begin.   You’re feeling stressed – swimming in the uncertainty, worrying about choosing the perfect thing – because, after all, who wouldn’t want to find the perfect thing?

The problem of course is that there is no perfect thing or ideal path.  It’s exciting, but also nerve wracking.  Everything is a possibility, and nothing is certain.  I’ve been there myself, of course – though many years ago.  But on a daily basis, I speak with students who feel this angst in a palpable way.  So, here are a few tips to help you navigate this pressure of venturing into the unknown – tips I wish I had been told when I was at this point in my life.

Tip 1.  You’re more resilient than you think. You might feel like you’ve never made a transition like this before – and it’s certainly true that this particular transition has its own challenges.  But you’re experienced with transitions.  You made it from high school to college – and you might have even traveled quite far for college.  You probably have done an internship before – which means you’ve already made a mini transition to the workplace.  The point here is that you’re not a novice to transitions – and even the “real world” probably isn’t a total unknown. You have experience; you have transitioned; and you can live to tell about it.

Tip 2. Get comfortable with change because this is only the beginning.  If I think about my own college roommates from 30 years ago, most are doing something they never would have expected doing back then – and some of them are in industries that didn’t even exist in the early 1990’s.   And my guess is that this will likely be the same for you.  Careers are rarely linear.  People typically have at least 3 or 4 different jobs or roles in their lives and often more.  And chances are, you will too.  So, think of this first transition as just that:  the first of many.  And recognize that the ability to pivot from one experience to another in the process of building a career is a completely normal and natural process.

Tip 3. Use social media… but wisely. Certain social media use can be quite useful for dealing with anxiety about the unknown.  For example, it’s very smart to build a professional style LinkedIn profile detailing your experiences and backgrounds. It’s also potentially useful to follow key influencers and people in industries you think might be interesting on social media – to hear what they have to say and to get a feel for their profession.   And it can also be quite useful to connect with specific friends on social media as a way of inquiring about professional opportunities.

But social media also has its dangers – especially when it becomes a source of social comparison.  It’s tempting for example to see how impressive and accomplished and happy someone seems to be on social media, and to compare that to your own less-than-perfect existence.  But remember: all the “perfect things” you see on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat may not be so perfect in reality, and it’s a waste of your own time and energy to use social media as a mirror for judging your own personal status and sense of accomplishment.

Tip 4. Prepare yourself to take advantage of serendipity.  You may not exactly know what path you’ll take or where it will take you.  But there are some smart things you can do to prepare yourself to take advantage of serendipity – so when something does arise, you’re ready to pounce.  For starters: Create a resume, and especially a LinkedIn profile that communicates your personal “brand” and the value you can add to a corporation in a clear, immediate way.  Start building your network.  You may not think of your classmates and family friends as a “network” but they most assuredly are.  So, make sure that you reach out to a wide range of people you know and who might work in fields interesting to you.

Ask lots of smart questions; listen very carefully to the answers; and always ask if there is someone else they’d suggest you speak with to learn more.  Be an extremely active, engaged listener and collector of useful information and advice.  And with all this in place, there is a very high chance that somehow, some way an opportunity will reveal itself and you’ll be ready to take advantage.

Tip 5. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the present, even as you think of the future.  Make sure to stay active and healthy. Take care of yourself: Because if you feel overwhelmed with anxiety about the future, you’ll be less able to take advantage of potential opportunities in the present.  So don’t waste energy and resources on worry that you can invest instead in professional growth and opportunity.  Easier said than done, for sure, especially if your level of anxiety is very high.  But it’s something important to consider as you embark on your journey.

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