Ah it’s senior year… you finally made it! It’s almost graduation time. All the new beginnings, closed doors and memories over the past four years have brought you to where you are now. It is now time to think further about your future. “Where do I want to go after undergrad?” “Who do I desire to be?” “Should I attend graduate school?” – These are just a few of the many questions and dilemmas that we have to face as we get through our senior year and beyond.
As a fourth-year student myself, it can be hard to go through school and life wondering if everything that you have worked for is even worth it. You may feel lost and unprepared. You see your friends and peers securing internships and jobs, applying to schools, acting as though they have life completely, 100 percent figured out. So should you, right?
No! We are all figuring it out. Whether you know what you specifically want to do post-undergraduate school or know where you are going to live after, or don’t - everyone is on their own life journey as well as academic, mental, emotional and social. Regardless, no one knows what the future holds, even if you have your life together, which is relative, at the moment. And if you feel as if you do not, whether you are anxious about internships, graduate school applications, how you are going to start really “adulting” moving forward or if you are able to, take a step back. Write down each of your goals and ask yourself what you can do to achieve them and when. Remember that ‘when’ you achieve your goals is relative to you. Do not let pressures from society make you feel that you have to obtain your dream career right away, buy your own place or have your life “together” post-college. And despite what our media and society portray, having your life in order is also subjective. Having your life together could be getting a degree and living with your parents after you graduate. It could be moving out of state to start a full-time career. It could be working a minimum wage job while attending graduate school to be a therapist. Even if you are not in the most ideal situation, that does not mean that your goals and dreams are out of reach just because you feel behind your peers, or essentially society’s expectations.
When planning out how to accomplish your goals, start small and then go deeper. According to a 2021 article from Positive Psychology, goal setting has many benefits, with research by Edward Locke and Gary Latham suggesting that “working toward a goal is a major source of motivation, which, in turn, improves performance”. Locke and Latham also encourage following these five goal-setting principles in order to maximize success:
Write down everything that you want to accomplish, even if you feel wary about the outcome or possibility to achieve a certain goal.
For each goal, write down ways that you can challenge yourself to make them happen. Start small so you are not too overwhelmed. Finding ways to challenge yourself can make your short-term and long-term goals feel more rewarding.
Stay committed to the outcomes you want to achieve during and after college. It will help you stay motivated and keep yourself accountable. And while you should always be open to change and doing what makes you happy if you are not, giving up should not be the first option.
Continue to hold yourself accountable as you work towards your long-term goals and short-term goals. Monitor your progress and remember to change what doesn’t work and praise yourself for what you do accomplish.
5. Task Complexity
Make sure that the tasks you work on to achieve your goals align with how relatively difficult it is to reach those goals. Do not push yourself too hard or too little, otherwise it will be much harder to accomplish them.
Whether you are a senior or going to be in the future, it is important to make note of your goals and ambitions now. It is a good way to stay motivated, optimistic, accountable and confident about your future.
My biggest advice as a senior is to not be blinded by the illusion of time. Four years can go by just like that. And while it can be more difficult to find internship opportunities and/or have the knowledge to realize whether a certain major or career path is meant for you during your first few years of college, do not let that stop you from exploring your interests and getting to know your professors, TAs and classmates. This will save you a lot of time, energy and possibly money – as you may even get to graduate a semester early - as well as benefit you in the long run when it comes to getting accepted into graduate schools and obtaining internships. So while you are spending time getting to know yourself, others around you (who are possibly feeling just as confused) and about campus life, make sure that you are enhancing your existing skills, cultivating new ones, networking and searching for internships and job opportunities along the way! That way, you will feel less stressed and more prepared for the more salient challenges you are going to have to face when you reach your senior year.
And while you make connections, you will find those who happen to be in the same boat as you. This is not an easy time. But you can also develop a support system and work towards cultivating and achieving your goals together. It will help you stay accountable and committed.
At the same time, do not hesitate to reach out to us here at Bodhi Counseling if you need additional guidance and support on how to navigate school, your personal life, “adulting” and more before and during your last year!