An alternate title for this article is “Disillusionment on the Brink of College Graduation” or perhaps “What Was it All FOR?” or “These Loans Will Strangle Me Until I Die.” Anyone else feel this way right as they’re about to graduate from four plus years of the traditional undergraduate experience? Oh, good. It’s not just me.
It all started tonight at one a.m. when I was contemplating the trip I want to take to Ireland next year. I was calculating out how much it would cost me and how long it would take me to save that money to go, assuming I can land any sort of job within the coming months, when it suddenly occurred to me that I cannot, in good conscience, go to Ireland. The cost of that trip, even if I should be able to save it all up, would pay off almost the entirety of one of my student loans. There’s no way I can spend that money that I haven’t earned yet on a trip I can’t afford, because that money needs to go to the mountain of debt I’ve accumulated over my head in the pursuit of higher learning.
I have actually been very fortunate, really, in my time in college. I’ve been the recipient of loads of scholarships and financial aid. But I’ll still be graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, to be repaid by me in monthly increments for the next, oh, twenty-five years or so. Or until I die. Whichever comes first.
I don’t want to sound whiney or jaded about paying for college. I know it’ll be worth it, my name on that diploma that I can hang on a wall someday. It makes you marketable, qualifies you for jobs you wouldn’t otherwise be qualified for. My time in undergrad taught me who I was and changed me for the better. What I’m saying is, stay in school, kids, and college is worth it.
But I’m here on the cusp of graduation and it all seems so…pointless, really. Job offers haven’t come rolling in. I’ll be lucky if I’m underemployed because the alternative is not being employed at all. I’ve struggled so much in the last four years, and for what? An entirely uncertain future, with no promise of it getting better anytime soon.
I know many others who’ve got it all planned out, but I know twice as many who are in the same boat as me. It’s easy to keep your eye on the prize as you battle finals and all-nighters and term papers, but once the prize has been reached, it feels very empty. At least for me, anyway. Oh, I have learned so much. But does the world even care?
I guess you could say that the point of college is not to make yourself look better to the rest of humanity. It’s to better yourself, for the sake of yourself. In other words, you deserve to be educated, and you deserve to achieve. Sure, the mountain of debt can cloud that accomplishment for some, as it has been doing for me. But when you reach the end of your tenure and you walk across the stage to signify completion of your bachelor’s, try and remember this with me: it’s not about the uncertain future, and it’s not about the student loans. It’s not about diplomas on walls and low bank account balances. It’s about how much you gave of yourself, how much you changed and grew, and how you can be proud of the person you have become. You have accomplished a great, great thing, and we should celebrate that.
Let’s forget about the loans for later. After all, we’ve got that handy six month grace period, right? Right?
(featured image via shutterstock)