School’s Out Forever

And how to deal with the panic that'll ensue

schools outFor many, going back to school is done with sighs and groans and dreams of summers to come. For people like me, rising college juniors, it is done with all the emotional stability that Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes show on Twitter.

Collectively, we college juniors and seniors are a mess. But to be clear, not the kind of mess that needs to be swept under the rug. We are a mess because we are intelligent and resourceful people who understand that the world outside our hallowed college halls is quite different from that within. We want to go and stay all at the same time. We are ready for responsibility but terrified of disappointment. Personally, I am petrified that I’m going to have to join the traveling circus after college.

Less than six months ago, I informed my parents that I was changing my major from psychology to English with a minor in political science. Apparently, I told them, I wanted to be poor and happy. They informed me, slightly less poetically than I am writing here, that if I was happy, I would never be poor. That being said, here are some ways for you, and your parents, to make it through those last few years of college with your sanity intact, if not entirely functional.

  1. Make a list.

    Write down everything you want to accomplish before graduation. I realize that this sounds exceptionally boring, but these days technology makes even the most mundane of tasks a lot easier. I use the app Clear to easily make lists. When an item is complete, I simply swipe my finger and the item is crossed off. And keep in mind that this doesn’t need to be a strictly academic list. If there is a university band you want to see, add it. If there is a show at a local theater that closes soon, add it too. Make a goal of finding a new church to visit for Mass each week. This is a great way to see what your community and campus ministry has to offer. Need a little help? Check out Busted Halo’s Church Search. Keep in mind that making it to graduation isn’t only about sailing through your classes. It’s a commitment to learning from the experiences you can have outside the classroom, too.

  2. Build up your resume.

    Employers are looking for someone who is well rounded and, above all, a go-getter. Join a club. If you’re into singing a cappella whilst riding the unicycle and your college doesn’t offer such a club, start your own. Employers love to see that you don’t take no for an answer and are willing to spearhead projects that others might shy away from. If you’re looking to get off campus for a while, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, after-school program, or hospital. Every time you get involved, you can boost your spirit, as well as your resume.

  3. Start a conversation.

    Your university or college is full of offices and people who are ready and willing to give you advice. There are offices for career counseling, volunteer opportunities and religious life. They are there to make things a little bit easier for you. The people in those offices are hired to help you find an opportunity that fits your needs. Searching for your vocation? Trying to choose a career or discern a calling to ministry? Ask for their help. But remember that they are only there to guide you and to make you aware of what’s out there. All the heavy lifting and follow-up is your responsibility.

  4. Breathe.

    That’s right. In and out, in and out. Amidst all of this planning, it is easy to forget about taking a moment to just enjoy life and remember all of God’s gifts. Prayer and meditation will bring you closer to God. Also, keep in mind that the power of prayer is infinitely helpful when life in the fast lane is putting you in a spinout. Look to God for guidance as you make those big “what’s next” choices because only God can handle all of our college grad crazy. Head to church for a time of quiet reflection, remember to say thank you for your blessings, and pray for those who don’t have the opportunity to go to college.

  5. Treat. Yo. Self.

    According to Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari, one of the best ways to treat yo self is with fine leather goods. For those of us who can’t rock a leather vest with a matching bandana, find other ways to thank yourself simply for being yo self. Go watch a movie and spring for the IMAX theater tickets or eat a cannoli or 12. Either way, you deserve a little something just for you. And not just because Parks and Recreation told you to; because I told you to, also. And we never lie.

So, good luck and keep breathing. School may be out forever, but your life is only just getting started.