Post-College Plans: It’s Okay Not to Know

by The Cowl Editor on November 30, 2017


Photo courtesy of CareerBuilder.

by McKenzie Tavella ’18

Opinion Staff

Adults are always telling me, “Keep your options open,” but it seems like on Thanksgiving this advice goes right out the window. Even before I was a senior, I got asked the dreaded question, “So what do you plan on doing after you graduate?”

Now, if you are like me, you did not go into college knowing you had a calling to be a doctor or a lawyer, or any profession for that matter. I did not even know I wanted to major in psychology until my sophomore year. I am here to tell you that it is okay not to know. The not knowing may be scary and cause a few awkward moments at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but those adults were right—we should keep our options open and here is why.

Committing yourself to a five-year plan or a specific job, as your aunt and uncles practically pressure you into having, can actually be limiting. Why would you want to stay inside this box or stick exactly to the picture you have painted of what you want your life to be? Not only is this unrealistic, but it is also going to hurt you in the long run.

I am not saying do not have any kind of plan, but please do not waste your time crafting up a five-year one. I initially thought that as a psychology major, going to graduate school was my only option, the only path available. However, I realize now that my road has many forks in it. You could go to graduate school later in life, and first apply to a bunch of different types of jobs where psychology would be useful, such as a human resources representative.

Beyond limiting yourself, you also run the risk of not meeting your expectations, or the expectations of your family and anyone else you told your plan to. Say your plan is to go to graduate school, get a job and move to New York City, sharing an apartment with friends so you can afford it. You did not get into graduate school and one of your roommates backed out. Now what? You may be able to rectify this before it ruins your long-term plan, but if not, you are going to be beyond disappointed in the situation and in yourself. Expect the unexpected. It is nearly impossible to plan that far ahead, so why waste your time, stress, and effort on this?

Not only are these conversations not very constructive, but they also cause more harm than good.  It only adds immense pressure and stress to your plate at a time when you should be enjoying your final months of being in college and focusing on passing final exams. I have a biopsychology exam coming up. Yet all I could think about after Thanksgiving dinner was, “Oh my God, maybe I should have applied to graduate school when I had the chance.”

This conversation takes away from the joy of seeing your family and friends during Thanksgiving. I wish aunts and uncles would ask about any fun events you went to this semester or how you plan to enjoy your winter break. Even though this may be an unrealistic dream, it is still possible to have a successful life without having a fool proof plan after graduation.