College is such a great accomplishment to have in your tool belt for many reasons—whether you’re applying for a job, graduate school, or just learning life skills in general—so it’s no wonder that graduation is seen as such a huge milestone for most of us. Receiving my diploma was one of the best feelings in the world. College is not easy, so when you push through, having a degree to show for it is worth a thousand words, if not more. This is especially true for seniors this year, who are anxiously awaiting the moment they finish their degrees and overcoming the many hurdles that come with graduation, including a pandemic with an unforeseeable timeline.
But your senior year is about more than graduating. College as a whole is about more than graduating. Graduation is an important milestone, yes, and I would encourage anyone to celebrate it in whatever way they can and would like to, but graduation is not the point of college.
The point of college is exploration.
This does involve growing your professional skill sets for work, not to mention earning a degree opens many doors for you, but exploration in college is so much more than that. College is one of the few times in your life that you get to truly explore yourself.
College is a time you get to learn about your interests. That one math class you’re struggling in? Maybe once you overcome that hurdle, you’ll learn to love math in a way that surprises you. Or maybe that one English class you have that you thought you would love because you’re good at it actually turns out to be really boring and you want to study a subject that challenges you more. Maybe after learning more about the computer science degree your first year before you declare a major, you find that you’re not interested in your computer science degree after all, but theatre sounds really interesting, and that improv club meeting you went to really sparked an interest. Maybe you get halfway into your communication degree and then realize that you want to double major in anthropology after you attended a guest lecturer from one of the department’s teachers. You learn these things and more, which you never would have considered had you not taken the classes required in your major or ones that served to fill in your credits for your major.
College is also a time when you learn about people from all walks of life. You may meet young folks who are just starting out their lives, living in your residence halls, your off-campus complex, or at home with family, who aren’t quite sure what to do post-graduation. You also may meet older people, some married, some with kids, some who served in the military or had past work experience, who are looking to go back to school and have signed up to write for the school’s newspaper. You may meet that one person who knew she wanted to be a chemist since middle school and has already started tracking her path for medical school. You also may meet someone who’s been a parent for 10 years, someone who’s giving college another try because that new technical writing degree really sparked their interests. You may meet folks in between ages and with various backgrounds—international students studying abroad, first-generation college students, transfer students who went to community college or another school before coming to their current institution, and students from all walks of life. You will never meet one person in college who’s just like you; instead, you’ll learn about people from all over the world who are all attending college for similar and unique reasons of their own. And one of those reasons is definitely self-exploration.
The possibilities of what you can learn at college are beyond endless. At the end of the day, you probably won’t care what sort of grades you got, or how well you did in your classes, or even how long it took you to graduate. What I hope you’ll care about is that you made the most of your time in college. After all, isn’t life truly about living every moment you have?