It’s no secret that being a Senior at any school is the ultimate goal, but I’m so used to being the youngest in a room that raising my hand when the professors ask, “Who’s a Senior”, feels strange. Wrong, even. Being a Senior is usually the one thing people look forward to the most – you’ve probably already found your “people,” there are dedicated activities and events for Seniors, and graduation is approaching. How do I feel about it, though? Honestly, I’m terrified, and it all has to do with the fact that I’m graduating in December, a whole semester ahead of everyone else in my class.
I will admit, graduating early does have two major pros. For one, I won’t have to worry about paying a whole semester of tuition since I won’t be taking any classes in spring. I’m a planner at heart and when I started Freshman year, a part of me did want to get ahead of everyone else. I had received a few AP credits from high school to cover specific requirements, and over the next four years, it was just a matter of keeping up the advantage. I took a few courses over the summer of my Junior year and even accepted a Fellowship on campus, which gave me extra credits along with volunteer experience.
Plus, having a whole semester off will give me the time and chance to explore different academic, career, volunteer, and even travel options. Personally, my plan is to continue my education after undergrad, so having a semester off will give me a long-overdue break from the workload (and burnout) of the past sixteen years of school. I definitely want to travel if possible, especially to visit some long-distance friends and maybe even take on an out-of-state writing residency or an internship. In addition, I have two “seasonal” poetry jobs coming up that take place in the Spring, and it’ll be nice to not worry about juggling work and school, especially with the long commute I’ll be avoiding.
So, even after looking at the two biggest pros, why does graduating early terrify me? Well, let’s look back at the previous pro I mentioned: having a whole semester off. On the one hand, it’ll be a great way to avoid major burnout before grad school, but one of my biggest problems is that I feel like I constantly have to be doing something in order to feel fulfilled. I don’t know where or why I learned this, but having a semester off is daunting for that reason: Sure, I’ll be working, but it’s only for about three out of the eight months that I’ll be out of school. What if I can’t travel or don’t get accepted into an internship? What if I have nothing else to do? What if I actually fall behind my peers because I won’t be using the same critical thinking skills as often as them? These are just a few questions that plague me in hindsight.
Another problem of mine that makes facing this Fall semester as my last one at Cal Lu so difficult, though, is that I am an extremely emotional person. It’s going to be very difficult for me to say goodbye to all of my friends in December, especially my fellow Seniors. Of course, I can still visit them during the spring, but it isn’t the same as sharing classes or seeing them around campus. I can already feel myself anticipating the major FOMO of having a semester off. Even though I plan to participate in the graduation ceremony in May, a part of me still worries I might be forgotten. What plans and memories will my friends be making together without me?
Now, I’m not trying to convince anyone that they should or shouldn’t graduate early. Everyone is going to have a different college journey, along with different methods of getting through it. For me, it just so happened that I get to graduate in December and have a full semester off before going on to grad school. No matter the fear (and impending sadness) I might experience, I genuinely trust that whatever is meant to happen will happen, just like early graduation. Plus, knowing that my time will come a little earlier than everyone else means I will have even more gratitude for the people and professors I’ve met at Cal Lu. Sure, it will be bittersweet to say goodbye, but until then, I want to make the most of my final semester; I want to make this a semester to remember.