“You should know though, that there seems to not only be a university-wide push, but a national push, to get students to graduate in four years ‘on time’. So you may have some trouble getting into what you want.” – My academic advisor.
There has always been a push. At least, for me, there was a push, and in front of me, a yardstick to jump up and touch. Every time I did, the yardstick rose and the push was stronger. If I could get credit for high school in middle school, do it. If I could get credit for college in high school, do it. There was little questioning on my part, and it soon became apart of my way of viewing the world. Will this put me ahead? Will I be able to graduate earlier, learn earlier, be better?
I’m not saying that this was bad, because I am thankful to the push and the yardstick. Working hard in those earlier years has made these harder, later years, easier. I can do more of what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. Being ahead is great. Being ahead is also socially praised.
So what about those of us who aren’t “ahead”?
There’s a push for us to be on track and get all of our tickets stamped by a certain time and be on a predefined path, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Life is not about getting tickets stamped, and so it shouldn’t be frowned upon when a person isn’t on the fast track to every checkpoint. You could decide to take your first two years of college at home in community college, because you’re not ready to leave home, or you’re not financially able yet, or you think taking care of your basics would be easier at community college, especially since you aren’t really sure what you want to major in or do anyway.
You could also be a student who has realized that you don’t want to attend the university you’re at and decide to switch. This can set you back, due to credits failing to transfer across schools. When changing majors you may have to take an extra semester or two in order to get the credits you need. Perhaps you took a year off because of personal reasons. Whatever the reason though, it is okay if you don’t graduate “on time” or get to college by a certain age. To quote my favorite not real speech “Everyone is Free to Wear Sunscreen,” the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself. Be comfortable with describing what you are doing. You’re following your own path, and that’s good.
And if you’re in the midst of college, and you think you just may need to take a year off, or transfer schools, and just veer completely off the road you were on, that’s okay. The pressure to succeed and do it within a specific amount of time is nerve-wracking. We get scared to change paths, even if we’re only making a slight turn away from the one we’re on presently. We become stuck in areas of study we don’t like, jobs we don’t care for. We start wondering if the past work dedicated to learning a certain subject would go to waste if we move. We get scared, and trapped. And we don’t take the necessary leap.
But if you really feel like you need to–just like I knew I needed to switch majors, and a friend of mine needed to transfer, and another friend had to take a year off of college–then give it some actual consideration. Mull it over, talk to your parents, and your college advisors, and your friends. Explain what’s making you feel like this. It could be something that can be rectified by the right conversation, or you could really need a change of pace. And if you do…
Take that break: It’s okay to just lie down and breathe. If you don’t feel like you can jump into the next part of everything that needs to be done just yet, go ahead and pull the all-stop.
Be open-minded: Something in your college life was not working out. Change is going to be necessary, and in order to have it, you’re going to need to explore a little.
Think about what you want: Do you want a college degree? What do you want to gain from attending college? What would be ideal for you from a college?
Make some goals: No, this is not “make a plan” – plans mean steps to be taken to a goal. You don’t need a plan yet! But if you don’t know what your goals are, then you aren’t going to make anything actually happen – and don’t you want something to happen?
Goals are good. While some of you may actually be the leaf on the wind that goes where the wind takes it (someone get that reference please), many of you (myself included) are more like grass: you sway with the wind in whatever direction it’s blowing but never actually go anywhere. Make goals that get you moving – if not physically, then emotionally, mentally, professionally. There are places to go that you want to go to, and you know where they are. Pull them out and figure out which one is first. Don’t worry about the track people want you on. It’s your life, your agenda. Be a leaf on the wind.