Editor's Note: Ask Maddy is an advice column published every Wednesday. Anonymous questions are taken from this Google form. Questions are also taken both from The Collegian's Instagram, @thecollegianur, and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
How are you preparing for your last semester on campus?
I was actually trying not to think about it, but thanks for bringing it up!
In just a few months, I’ll be starting my final semester at the University of Richmond. One of my mottos has always been to keep my eyes on the prize: a B.S. in leadership studies and journalism being handed to me on May 8, 2023.
The motto has been helpful up until recently. Starting this semester, it seems many of my peers and I have been going through intermittent periods of exhaustion, low motivation and overall burnout. A few weeks into the semester, I realized these characteristics are all related to one illness that I thought I’d never catch: senioritis.
Preparing for my final semester on campus is taking a lot of determination and resilience. I want to extend the same sentiment to my fellow seniors. As we turn into the home stretch of our undergraduate careers, here are some things that I’m keeping in mind.
Be comfortable with the uncomfortable
Adjusting to being a student at UR does not end after your first year — it continues all the way through your senior year. Even with just one semester left, I’m finding out about opportunities and resources available to me that I would have never even considered during my freshman year here. As seniors, we need to learn to lean on these resources more than we ever have before.
This can be challenging. Students at UR are known for not asking for help when it’s needed — me included. But in order to secure that final job offer or finish that grad school application, seniors have to be comfortable asking for assistance and expanding on the resources — including the Office of Alumni and Career Services and the Office of Scholars and Fellowships — this campus provides.
Just like the words repeated by some of our mothers during childhood, it takes a village. To my graduating seniors, I hope that you’ll learn to become comfortable identifying when you need help and actively seeking it.
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Jobs, jobs and more jobs
I’m going to let you all in on a secret: I have not secured a job for after graduation. Of course, I’m putting in applications, scheduling interviews and things of that nature, but I do not have a job.
Do you know what every non-student’s favorite question is when they find out you’re a senior? Here it is: “So, what are your plans for after you graduate?”
Y’all, it is not fun. But, I want to draw on the principle, “Good things come to those who wait.”
Last year, I had a very similar, down-to-the-wire moment. Students in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies are required to do an internship the summer between their junior and senior years. The months leading up to summer vacation were harrowing — it seemed like a knob with the word “PRESSURE” labeled on it was turned all the way up.
At moments like these, it is common to feel like no one is going through what you are going through. At the time, it seemed like everyone had secured their internship and had done it in a timely manner, unlike me.
It took real work for me to realize that there is no “timeline” for success. Some of my classmates found internships in January and some of them — including myself — had not secured one until mid-to-late-April. Either way, we had all reached the same goal within our own “timely manner,” not that determined by our peers, but in our own time.
I say all this to say that if you did not go into senior year with a job offer, it is completely okay. I know the tension is there — I promise, I’m feeling it as well — but what is meant to you will find you in your own time.
Burnout: Level 4
Seniors, I know we are tired.
We attend an academically rigorous school with thought-provoking professors and challenging assignments. We go to class, then go to work, then go to club meetings and maybe end it off at The Cellar to unwind on Wednesdays. Then, we wake up and start the cycle all over again.
We were sent home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming back to campus was not as smooth as we may have liked it to be.
This is not to mention the emotional turmoil many of us go through just by attending UR. I’m talking about the feeling of being the only Black student in the classroom. I’m talking of the microaggressions students from marginalized communities run into on nearly a daily basis. I’m talking about blatant racism at the Heilman Dining Center during Halloween and the years-long fight to remove the names of eugenicists and enslavers from buildings all over campus. I’m talking of one of my first basketball games at UR in my first year — one where students protested on live television against racist epithets written on students’ doors.
Seniors, we’ve now been doing this for almost seven semesters. I know we are tired.
I’m not going to tell you that it is going to get easier because I think we know that it will not. I will tell you, however, that if you’ve made it this far, you deserve to recognize two things. First, that feeling of exhaustion, frustration and burnout is valid — college was never supposed to be easy, but I don’t believe it was supposed to be this hard either.
Secondly, however, I want you to know that these are the feelings that build up resilience. In the face of hardship — whether it be that of academic courses or fighting for student rights — it builds up resilience to continue moving forward. That is what I am using to prepare for my last semester of college.
I know this was one of my longer columns, but I hope this was helpful. And to the class of 2023: I wish you all the best these next few months — cause we all better walk across that stage after these last few years.
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