Being an almost college graduate makes you feel like the littlest fish in the biggest sea.

Options surround you.

The requirement of decisions drowns you.

It’s the most exhilarating and terrifying feeling.

On the one side, you feel unstoppable, like you could rule this big sea.

On the other side, fear, doubt and the unknown can drag you down into that dark abyss.

And then of course it feels like everyone you talk to feels like you should have everything already figured out.

All right, swim to the surface and take a breath.

Don’t rush it.

Don’t just automatically decide to go to graduate school because it feels like the easiest transition.

For some majors, graduate school is all but required and that’s great.

For other majors, grad school is there solely for a future in academia.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out into the work field.

You’re going to learn more from experience than you would ever learn in a textbook or classroom.

Secure that experience under your belt. Everyone is going to have to start at the bottom and work their way up.

May as well start fresh off of that college train.

I struggled with the idea of going to graduate school or going into the workforce. Ultimately my decision to go straight into the workforce stemmed from my industry on choice, communication, only really needing a Bachelor’s degree and the opportunity to gain experience, which is necessary in my job market.

Jut be sure you’re making the best decision for you, no matter how scary it may be. And one day we’ll become the big fish in the big sea.


After missing application deadlines, and scrambling to find my “purpose” on this planet, I came to the conclusion I would spend the year working odd jobs, being a person who pays bills and essentially learning how to take care of myself.

I didn’t come to this conclusion by choice, exactly.

If it was up to me, I would be going to graduate school right out of college. I need more education in the field I want to pursue (Shakespeare education outreach). Plus I like school.

If one or more of these statements were untrue, I probably would not be pursuing more higher education. Graduate programs get expensive and if I didn’t have the curiosity and dedication to follow through, I’d be wasting not only my time but my instructors’ time.

I also don’t see this as the worst thing that could happen to me, though. My parents didn’t expect me to work a part-time job while in college (although I did work summers) and as a result I’ve never simply existed as a regular tax-paying citizen.

I don’t look at this as killing time while I wait to go to graduate school, however. I think there are plenty of life lessons to be learned in figuring out how to make ends meet while I don’t have any dependents and still have a little cushion in my parents and figuring out what kind of life I want to live before launching myself into a rigorous graduate program that will require all my time and attention.

I was never taught the value of living a normal life. I always felt like there were expectations of grandness. Now I want to take advantage of my time and learn to experience the magic of a perfectly normal, quiet life.


My goal after graduation is simple: become a photographer and make a decent living. When I researched what that actually takes, I found the job market extremely competitive.

With so many talented students that can do the same thing as me, and maybe even better, it was time to think outside the box. I knew I didn’t want to spend money on grad school so I took an internship with APSU’s PR and Marketing Department.

Three years later, I acquired hands on experience in photo, video, and social media content development.

University Photographer, Beth Liggett, became my mentor and an impressive reference for my resume.

She went to art school and basically taught me everything she learned there.

The only difference is, I got the same education for free. It was hard work, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.

My next move was to find a job I was confident in applying for.

When I got my first phone interview, I was shocked and almost too nervous to answer.

They arranged an in-person interview during spring break, and I eagerly agreed thinking it would be worth it.

I rushed to Dillard’s and bought a blouse that said, “I’m totes profesh, but also fun to work with,” packed my bags and drove five hours.

The interview went well, and in a week I received a rejection letter in the mail.

The letter said the only thing standing between me and the other candidate was, you guessed it, more experience. Though I didn’t land the job, I learned one thing. Experience outplays any degree.


The numbers, odds, statistics, real world knowledge and practically everything else give us reason to doubt our ability to find and land our dream job right out of college.

And that is OK.

As it stands, we’ll graduate and still be in our early 20’s with plenty of time left to rule the world and have sense of purpose and direction.

We may change careers two, 10 or 40 times before landing on something that sticks.

Which, again—is okay.

Graduate programs could open us up to new and different possibilities we never considered while undergraduates.

Or we could reconnect with a mentor from these formative years who newly inspires us to go back to our roots at APSU.

The point is to not have all the answers right now and to remain open, curious and yes, maybe a little afraid.

Not afraid of the future, though—afraid of remaining stagnant and disallowing ourselves to grow.

Being cynical is easy.

Putting in the work, taking the time to self-evaluate and letting yourself follow a trail that might not seem practical but feels right is taking a risk that cynicism nips in the bud.

Nihilism and cynicism are cheap, cowardly cop-outs and we’re better than that.

We owe ourselves more than that.

Sure, we’re being dealt a terrible hand in terms of the economy.

And OK, millennials tend to be a little idealistic, but we need that idealism to propel ourselves forward into a revamped economy and quality of life for ourselves and future generations.

Keeping in mind you’re paving a way of life not just for yourself but those beyond your grandchildren or great-grandchildren if you’re so lucky. It is a great motivator to go forth and change your world.

We are still just talking about life after your undergraduate work is done, but keep in mind just living a mundane life and making obtuse choices that don’t matter. You’re creating a legacy.

Make one you’re proud of.