You're a senior and you have this whole college thing down, but you're breaking out in cold sweats. You're not sleeping at night and you can't eat. You're checking your voice mail every five minutes, and you haven't been out in two weeks.
And it's only November.
|Sam Sailer / Staff
||College senior Jeff Matty hits the books preparing for the LSAT. Hoping to attend a good law school, Matty chooses to sacrifice fun now so it pays off later.
The seniors are freaking out. This whole "life after college thing" is kicking into high gear and the pressure is on. Do you feel alone in the post-graduate nightmare? You're not. Whether it's applying for jobs or graduate school or just figuring out what to do next year, almost every senior is stressing about something.
College senior Lisa Denmark, psychology and French double major, is in the midst of completing lengthy graduate school applications. Senior year isn't turning out as planned. "I have this constant reminder that I have this enormous project to do," she said. "No matter what else I'm doing, I always feel like I have to get home and be productive."
Each portion of a graduate application is an added pain. As far as recommendations go, Denmark said, "You have bigger classes in college and relationships with teachers are not as close as in high school." On top of the recommendations — many schools require three — there's the dreaded personal statement. "It's not just like getting an ‘A' on a paper," she said. "You have to write an essay that makes you stand out from a pool of hundreds of people."
Denmark said the Career Center, which is supposed to help, can be overwhelming. "I thought I was pretty well set, but they made me feel like I had so much work left," she said. The accumulation of things to do can be physically taxing as well. "I'm sick," she said. "I have a cough that won't go away, and I have no appetite."
In addition to future plans, seniors still have to deal with the present. Denmark's teachers and her boss both expect to be her first priority. "Yet, here I am a senior and I'm supposed to be having a good time," she said.
College senior Jeff Matty said he's in a similar situation. He is a political science major on the law school track. "Nothing else but law has ever even remotely interested me," he said. Preparations for the Oct. 7 LSAT kept him busy for the first part of the year and things have not calmed down even after the test. "I've been in the library four or five hours a day," he said. "I've really settled down. In order for me to do my best, I'm sacrificing some of my senior year. I figure it's worth it for the next 30 or 40 years."
Seniors are forced to evaluate the past three years when proceeding towards the next step. "I made some very poor choices in college," Matty said. "My stress involves looking at how much time I wasted and how much time I have left to fix it."
Other seniors are caught in the mayhem of résumés — Jobtrak, Emory's online résumé forum — career fairs and interviews. And stress is a contagious disease. Business School senior Shilpa Chepuru wants to go into consulting, an increasingly popular field. "B-School seniors are high drive career oriented," she said. "You have to be if you want to get a job in business."
Chepuru has to balance her class work and job search with her position as co-president of the Consulting Club. "Being president is beneficial because it helps me network, but it takes up a lot of my time," she said. "I don't have a social life anymore."
After awhile, stress does take its toll. "I've been ridiculously stressed for the past couple of months," Chepuru said. "I haven't been sleeping very well; I average about four hours a night."
Chepuru noted that not all stress is bad. "There's sort of a thrill to the stress," she said. "I like being proactive. And what I've learned from this — what it boils down to — is just learning time management."
It's important not to get overly anxious just because of others, Chepuru said. "Don't go nuts because someone in the Business School is," she said.
Other seniors agreed that stress is a chain reaction. "It really scares you when other people are on top of things," said College senior Sara Lipman, who is looking for a job in market research. "It makes you think that you're doing something wrong or you're doing it too slowly. We all feed off each other's stress."
Some juniors have jumped on the stress bandwagon. "I have to secure my internship because it's a critical step for getting a job," Business School junior Simon Chen said.
College students looking for jobs in business often feel slighted. "I'm a bio major, but I want to go into business," College senior Marin Good said. "The College isn't helping me, so I ask the B-School kids."
The good news is that, according to recent surveys, the job market is in good shape. A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that everything from starting salaries to the number of employers visiting college campuses has significantly increased. Even the liberal arts majors, who traditionally struggle more finding a job right out of college, are included in the upward trend.
Despite a thriving economy, how does one deal with the nauseating, ever-present anxiety of going into the real world? There's no definitive answer, but there are some resources available at the University. Don Cornwell, internship coordinator and career consultant, recommended using the Career Center as a guide. The counselors there can help break down the steps needed to get organized — but be prepared to do most everything yourself and be prepared for a tough road.
Realize, as many seniors already have, that looking for a job is no easy task. "A thorough job search will take three-to-six months," Cornwell said. "It's not a process that happens overnight. A job search can become a full time job in itself." But, according to Cornwell, 50 percent of graduates don't have a job lined up. So you're in the norm if you have one come graduation or if you don't.
Counseling Center officials suggest students don't hesitate to use the Counseling Center, which offers stress clinics. "Don't get anxious about being stressed," said Chuck Lawe, the clinical director of the Counseling Center. "That adds more stress. Ninety percent of stress is self-induced by perception."
Lawe also said that it's important to understand that stress is natural. "A person has learned a great deal in college; the course work has taught him or her to produce and be productive," Lawe added.
There's also nothing wrong with taking time off. "Take a backpack trip across the Rockies to sort things out if you need to," Lawe said. "It can be an important part of getting focused."