I’m 26 and next May I’ll be getting my Bachelor’s.
It’s been a long road, full of lots of interruptions (marriage, baby) and playing musical major, but I really like what I’m studying. I’m happy.
But come next May, it’s over. No more school. No more learning.
If I could, I’d stay in school the rest of my life. It’s not that I don’t want to get a real job and be productive. I just LOVE school. I can’t explain it. I like going to class. I like learning new things, even if they have no practical use. I even like writing papers (usually).
I’m already feeling this sense of … well, loss. I could conceivably never set foot in a classroom again. I NEED classes, though. I look at people who don’t read, ever, and I wonder what’s wrong with them. How do other people live with not learning anything after they get out of school? I’ll have one degree, but there are 5 other degrees I’d like to get that I could name off the top of my head. It’s like being in a candy store and only allowed to pick out ONE piece of candy.
I’m looking forward to having a career and all, but it’s like I’m going to have to say goodbye to something I have done, basically, for the past 21 years. Oh, I know I can learn stuff on the side and read and all, but it won’t be the same.
You’re not crazy. What you’re feeling is totally natural. I felt the exact same way - I was terrified to graduate from college. School was what I did well, and I enjoyed it. Why would I want to do something else? It didn’t help that a friend who had graduated a semester before me told me “whatever you do, don’t graduate.” But what are we supposed to do, become professional students and major in everything? Unfortunately we can’t.
I graduated four years ago, and surprisingly I don’t miss school as much as I thought I would. What I miss the most is the stimulating conversation that occurred every day. It seems so hard to come by now.
But you will survive outside of school. And trust me, being to come home at night and not have to do three hours of homework is a major bonus!
Abbie - You are certainly not crazy…I didn’t want to leave school either, so IN 1995 when I was 26, recently graduated from Graduate school, I took an offer to be an adjunct prof at my alma mater. 8 Years later I’m a tenured prof. and Love my job.
Also, who says you have to stop taking classes. isn’t it common practice that you can audit any class you’d like if you are alumni? It is that way here in CT. If you can…then audit any classes you want…you won’t be graded, but you still do all the assignments if you want to and you get all the knowledge - in most cases for free -
I can propose a solution for you. Why not apply for an on-campus job? I work at the main library of a “second-tier” university and enjoy it very much, even if wages are fairly low. This way I have the best of both worlds – I like my job and co-workers,I have tons of fascinating reading material, without the hassle of actual assignments! So why not see if the University library (or campus bookstore, etc.) is hiring?
A year after my graduation, I went back to my alma mater to visit my friends who were just about to take “the long walk”. Finding them all together in one place, I stormed in as the prophet of doom, urging them all to change their majors immediately. I warned them all that once they had made their leap of faith from the top of the Ivory Tower, they would discover three things:
That gravity is more than a theory. It exists.
That there is a ground down there somewhere.
That when you hit the ground…it hurts!
Funny…now that I think about it, every single one of them went straight into grad school. I guess they listened.
I felt a deep sense of loss when I graduated with my B.A. at age 22. I shed tears at graduation for the life that I would never live again. I missed it deeply for those first couple years when I was trying to find my place in reality.
But you move on, and you build a new life that is just as satisfying. Now, at almost age 29, I’m on the verge of finishing my M.A., and I will leave grad school in a cloud of dust once I get that diploma. I feel like I’m getting too old for this stuff.
You are normal. Many big college towns have large populations of people who never leave. Many have companies who hire grads like this, for relatively low wages, to allow them to stay nearby.
Graduating does not mean you have to give up school. There are lots of community colleges who give classes in all sorts of things. You now know how to learn, so you can become an expert in some subjects by study in a library. Family does sometimes get in the way.
I’m lucky. I was in grad school 7 years after by undergrad degree, and I’ve been doing research like jobs for most of my career, so it’s like I’m in school without having to worry about tests or doing grant proposals. I learn new things all the time.
I understand the OP, I did post grad research for much the same reason. But I saw from other Post Grads and Research Assistants that in UK at least it wasn’t a very good way to live a life. The pay was low, and the research contracts were far from guaranteed.
So I made the decision to move into the ‘real world’ of company employment. What I found was this ‘real world’ is much more challenging than college life, and that in itself makes it feel more worthwhile. that said I still miss the access to college life and research facilities (like the college Library and journals section.)
I’m not sure I knew a lot of people who did want to leave school. I loved college. Then I loved my master’s program (in library science, which isn’t exactly highly academic; sort of a cross between trade school and grad school).
So, yeah, take community college courses. Or, set yourself learning goals, which is what I do. Pick a subject and read up on it, with the goal of reading something every day and in a disciplined fashion. To be really cool, keep a notebook, take notes and write down themes etc., and so on.
I loved school, and I do miss it sometimes, but my life is so different now, and it’s a really good life. I like what I do. And I try to read a lot, too.
No worries. I was 26ish, 320 credit hours, 4 schools and 2 BAs. They literally sat me down and said that I have taken all the general classes I can and could have a minor in Geology if I wanted. I kept taking Geology for the field trips even though I was an English major. Hah!
Once you get out, you’ll find that you may be doing something different. I was supposed to teach high school, now I manage partners for a software company. You WILL have a blast. And you can always take classes in the future.
Funny…this time around I’m enjoying school a lot more than I did my first attempt, but being in a better program and with far more interesting instructors has made all the difference.
Doesn’t mean I’m not eager to graduate (5 more weeks!), though – but I plan on more school next year. It’s something I enjoy and do well…and it’s natural to not want to give that up for fear of the unknown.
Well, without a student ID, the guys running the chem lab won’t let me play with all the fun toys.
Seriously, though, you’re not crazy. Graduation was one of the most depressing points of my life, mainly because I had no confidence in myself at the time. I worked and took night classes for the next year after that, and walking past my old dorm never failed to really get me down.
I loved undergrad. Finally getting that Engineering degree was the proudest moment of my life. I stayed on for grad school and enjoyed the first year. By the middle of the second (and last) year I was tired of it and couldn’t wait to start my first real job (and start making money.) It ended for me at the exact right time.
Anyway, college was great but the stuff after college is great too. You’ll be fine.
It’s normal, no matter how confident you are about tackling the world outside.
Any way you slice it, those who find real joy in a “life of the mind” have to feel a pang at leaving the sequestered green fields. Or even the weedy ones. It’s a question of time as much as breadth of exposure.
Not to worry. The passion doesn’t go away, it just settles into a different niche, and not a lesser one. In fact, it’s pretty mind-boggling how all that knowledge jumbles around in tantalizing, frustrating near-patterns. It can just learning into a new gear, from student to apprentice.
Beware the lure of “professional student.” After a while it’s very sterile. It isn’t enough to just soak in. Real academics are far from just dazed, happy consumers of knowledge. IME few envirnoments are as cut-throat than the average college campus. (Hell, after two masters degrees, local government was a relaxing cake walk. Of course I chose to do it in a library. :D)
You won’t leave the life of the mind behind, Abbie. You have the itch. You’ll just find rich new avenues to explore.
But it’s the itch that matters.
Well, for the first 12-18 months out of college, I wanted to try every scheme I could think of to get back into college. Then once one succeeded, I realized that there were some things I wouldn’t sacrifice to go back to college, and set forth determined to find a career.
So far, I’ve figured that it helps tremendously having co-workers who enjoy intellectual discussions.