quarter-life crisis

What Senior Year of College Really Feels Like

I’m reaching the end of my second-to-last semester as an undergrad, and it seems that almost everyone I know (myself included) is going through a major quarter-life crisis. This year has brought with it a mix of emotions for many of us that are unlike anything we’ve experienced before, as we urgently question what we want to do when we graduate and struggle with the idea of what it means to grow up.

Often in high school, senior year ultimately boils down to a prom dress, a few questionable hairstyles, a last-minute SAT exam, the wait to hear back from college admissions, and the hope that your one guy “friend” will decide he’s crazy about you and, in a gesture as grand as any high schooler can imagine, send you carnations on Valentine’s Day. (Later on, of course, you forget the exact breakdown of your SAT scores, discover that your high school crush was interested in men the entire time, and recognize that prom was never a defining moment in your life as pop culture would claim it to be.) Although it feels incredibly important and all-consuming at the time, senior year of high school eventually fades into a distant memory that you’ll later claim to have hated all along.

College, meanwhile, becomes an exciting time of self-discovery and opportunity. You meet the friends who make you feel infinite, join organizations, and attempt to figure out what you’re good at and how to develop yourself professionally. You still fall for the types of guys your parents warned you about when you were in high school, only now they own suits and are a little harder to identify at first glance.

Senior year is a new ballpark, because while college itself is a glamorous night downtown with your best friends, senior year is a mess of emotions and scribbled-out schedules and lunch plans canceled in favor of finishing that last paper. Senior year is that moment when you realize that you might be too old to wear heart-shaped sunglasses or your Holly Golightly tiara in public, but you still store them in your closet with the quiet hope that maybe you can put them on one day when no one is looking. It’s the time when you stop accepting the advances of guys who only text you after 10 p.m. because – dammit – you’re an intelligent, complex individual who deserves to be taken to a nice restaurant or museum once in a while. Your most used topics of conversation with friends, family, acquaintances and the guy in the checkout counter at Publix? 1. Post-graduate plans (or lack thereof); 2. Where to buy business casual clothing; 3. “I AM SO STRESSED OUT RIGHT NOW.” In fact, your stress is both a source of pride and a source of grief for you.

I firmly believe that senior year of college comes with all of this craziness because it is a time of transition in our lives. We are uncertain of what the future holds, so we start to look backward with a mix of nostalgia and regret as we attempt to decipher the past four years of our lives. Perhaps four years from now we will look back at college in the same superficial snapshots with which we look back at our high school years today. Perhaps we’ll wake up one day and things will suddenly make sense, or maybe we’ll simply need to do a little more self discovery to figure out what it is we were meant to do.

From one college student to the next: I hope you are surviving your senior year and cherishing every memorable moment it has to offer.