Seniors Pressured To Make Post-Grad Plans



KRT LIFESTYLE STORY SLUGGED: HOME-OFFICE KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY VICKI VALERIO/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (November 11) Barbara Link sits on her home office desk in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. The office was constructed from a closet in her one-bedroom apartment. (mvw) 2004

Samantha Smart

The question of: what are you doing after graduation? is the single-most dreaded question that a senior in college faces. While some of us have had our plans figured out since last summer, there are still many of us who have no clue what’s next once May 18 rolls around. Upon hearing that question, many anxieties resurface that are centered around the great pressure that some of us face: oh shoot, what am I going to do once I graduate?

We have spent four years in our respective majors and minors, and while some of those directly led to a job with a specific company, not all courses of study have a set job track. For the rest of us, this leaves the door open for so many opportunities: AmeriCorps, taking a year off to travel, Teach for America, working for a fashion company or non-profit, and the list goes on. However, when seniors are faced with this question it is not so much the anxiety of what we are going to do post-grad, but more so the pressure from campus culture that expects us to have everything all worked out as quickly as possible.

There is a set intensity on campus for seniors to nail down a job before graduating. However, the process of looking for a job as I have personally experienced, is very challenging. With that being enough of a struggle, it doesn’t help that some university students are so quick to brag about the internship they got through their connections, or the amazing job offer they received, sometimes out loud for everyone to hear, but also, on LinkedIn. There was a significant period of time last fall when I actively could not check LinkedIn, for fear of seeing another one of those generic posts: “I am so excited to announce that I have accepted a job offer with [insert company name here], in [insert company location here]” While I was happy for my peers, I felt like I was behind; as if I somehow needed to have my post-grad plans already set in stone. I began to feel more pressure to get a job offer just so I could say I received an offer.

I felt like I was behind; as if I somehow needed to have my post-grad plans already set in stone.”

Furthermore, the marketing initiative by the School of Business’s Master’s in Management program in which they plastered the “it’s time for: what are you doing after graduation” signs everywhere, also added extra anxiety to general post-grad stress. From the napkins in Benson University Center and the Pit, to the permanent signs on the sidewalks all over the lower and upper quad, seeing these signs was inevitable. I would like to express a heartfelt sentiment to the team in charge of creating and promoting this slogan: please consider revising it. I understand that it is meant to encourage undergraduates to apply to your program, but as a senior who did not have her post-grad plans yet, this stressed me out even more. It did not make me want to apply to your program, in fact, it served as a deterrent. I believe those signs did more harm than good, and I found them to be problematic. I think there are better ways to promote a graduate program than by asking an anxiety-provoking question.

Nevertheless, despite all the pressure on campus surrounding post-grad decisions, whether from LinkedIn posts, or from the School of Business’ Master’s in Management team, I don’t think that it’s fair to ask seniors to stop sharing their future plans in any way they choose. I have recently experienced the joys of receiving and accepting a job offer, and it is a mixture of happiness and great relief. I completely understand that students want to share this with others in their network. 

I’m wondering however, if there is a way that we as a campus community could be a little less competitive and more understanding in this area of post-grad plans. I’m wondering if we could be more considerate of those around us who don’t yet know their plans and are very worried about their future after graduation. I’m wondering if the university can delay the survey that I recently got in my inbox, asking me to fill out what my post-grad plans were, in February. 

I’m wondering what would happen if we left space for seniors who don’t have it figured it out, to figure it out on their own timetable, making it acceptable and normal for them to continue to figure out their life before and after May 18.