Under pressure

The countdown to real life after college

By Sarah Stubbs
@sarahxstubbs

We have four weeks of class and five weeks total left in the semester before we start our summer breaks. The countdown is exciting but thinking about the amount of work that is to be done over the next five weeks is daunting – and I’m not just talking about school work.

I find that I’m not alone in the “OK, we just have to make it through this week” mindset as an ambitious college student (and this semester alone has been especially hellish). This phrase becomes more and more frequent the closer you get to graduation as classes become harder and the stakes get higher.

There is a lot of pressure to do well in school and get great grades, but in my opinion, there is even more pressure to excel at everything else that you do outside of the classroom so that you might have a stand-out resume and impressive one-liners in interviews. This is the real stressor.

As college students we are perpetually self-conscious – asking ourselves if we are good enough to get the job, internship, or grad school acceptance letter. We ask ourselves, “Am I doing enough?”

In this day-and-age we are supposed to be simultaneously furthering our professional development (creating your brand, finding your niche, etc.) and personal development (specific hobbies, passions, meaningful relationships, faith, health, wellness, etc.). We are expected to make great grades, network, hold part-time jobs, have social lives, and have plans for our futures.

It’s exhausting.

Over winter break, I didn’t do a very good job at resting my brain. I picked up some extra shifts at work and when I wasn’t working, I put my nose to the grindstone and researched different internships, fellowships, and scholarships. I updated my LinkedIn profile, worked on my website, and re-vamped my resume. As I began to apply to internships, I became more and more anxious and worried.

I increasingly put more and more pressure on myself. I literally thought that if I didn’t get an internship lined up for the summer in between my junior and senior years, I wasn’t going to get a job after graduation because I wouldn’t have enough experience or connections. It sounds crazy – but I guarantee that I’m not the only one with crippling anxiety about racking up as much experience as possible.

Perhaps I was too ambitious while choosing which programs to apply to because I haven’t had any success yet. I only applied to paid internships because I know that I can’t afford to take out a loan just to live if I had to work for free this summer. But paid internships are hard to come by in journalism, so most of the applications I filled out were extremely competitive.

Rejection letters are the norm in my inbox. I’m still holding out for a couple internships that I could still possibly hear from, but for now, it’s looking like that’s not the case.

This will be me third column mentioning my Dominican trip (sorry, it was just that awesome), but I have to say that this anxiety totally disappeared when I was in the DR. I had a revelation that a lot of the thoughts that I gave so much of my energy to did not really matter.

I’m no longer worried about not getting the big internship this summer. If I get one, that’s great. If not, that’s great too because at the end of the day, I’m lucky enough to live in the US, have the loving support of friends and family, go to an amazing University, and be a leader on campus with the Pulse and several other organizations and honor societies. I’m blessed to have the ambition, passion, and drive that I have.

One of my advisers told me that even if I give my brain a break this summer and reenergize for my senior year, I’m still going to be OK after graduation. I think she’s right.

So even if I spend this summer catching up with some of my general education courses I’ve put off to pursue my double major, reading tons of books, and waitressing my butt off in hopes of saving for a Europe trip after graduation, I will be happy and grateful for whatever lies ahead.

The opportunities are endless – especially with my dual majors in the college of liberal arts. I’m confident that I’ve gained a variety of skills over the past almost-three years at UF and at my smaller internships that are marketable and I’m glad that I still have a year and a couple months left before “real life” begins when I walk out from under the arch.

If you’re anxiously watching your inbox like I’ve been all semester or if my overall experience in thirsting for experience resonates with you, know that we work too hard to not be successful. Everything happens for a reason.

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