The end of the school year comes with a bag of mixed emotions. As students, we all have different feelings when summer break is upon us. For seniors, the spectrum of emotions is even larger. Seniors are embarking on the next chapter of their lives. As exciting as it may be, there is still an incredibly daunting aspect to this chapter. With graduation, there comes a timeless and anxiety-provoking question:

"So, what are you going to be doing after graduation?” 

The question seems harmless, and for those who have a plan it may be exciting to answer. However, many students dread the question and the pressure it adds to an already stressful time. 

As a society, we assume people must follow a general timeline in order to be “successful.” There is pressure to graduate in four years, have a job lined up for immediately after graduation and have a lease signed for an apartment in the new city you will be moving to. But, it’s never that simple.

The pressure to “have it all figured out” post-graduation can be detrimental to a graduate’s mindset. Instead of viewing this as a rather happy time, seniors can be overcome by depression and hopelessness in which they forget they are closing only a chapter of their lives and not the entire book. 

Research conducted by the American Psychological Association shows that millennials have the highest rates of stress, with job concerns being one of their main worries. 

Then, there is also the aspect of social media to add to this anxiety. It seems like every day, a new person will post an Instagram story congratulating a friend on their new job. Social media already gives us a skewed perception of reality, but for graduating seniors it gives an out-of-proportion sense that everyone has it all figured out. 

So, who is putting it in our heads that we are a failure if we don’t drive away from Richmond and enter our first job within the next week? Really at fault is the society in which we live, the environment we inhabit and the incorrect thought that success is a 9-5 job.  

Although most of my own acquaintances are fretting over their lack of a job, there are others whose anxiety about a June start date is overbearing. Either way, the build-up of stress and pressure to have a five-year plan should not take over the fact that we are all graduating. 

Graduating from a top four-year undergraduate university is an accomplishment many can only dream of achieving. Although it’s easy to get wrapped up in the future, there is something more important happening right in front of us seniors: the present. 

You don’t have to have it all figured out. You should be proud, no matter where you are going, when you walk across the stage at graduation and receive your undergraduate diploma.

And to the family members, friends and teachers of graduating seniors who ask the question “What are your plans for after graduation?” Give words of encouragement instead, such as “Everything will work itself out.” 

Commend both those who have a job lined up and those who don’t for their accomplishments -- for the things they have done these past four years and for what they will do in the future.

Congratulate them for graduating from the University of Richmond.

Contact contributor Michaela Tevlin at michaela.tevlin@richmond.edu.