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The Horror-Movie Reality of Senior Year

A week from today, I will be finishing up my last first week of college.  I start my senior year on Tuesday, and if you don't know how terrified I am of that...well...there you go.  While fraternities and sororities are planning "epic" back to school parties, and my Facebook feed is inundated with plans for Syllabus Week, I'm internally rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

As much as I know I should be excited (and I am...somewhere deep down, a very little bit), should be experiencing Senioritis, and should be more than ready to get out of a classroom for the first time in my nearly 22 years of life...I'm not.  At all.

For as long as I can remember preparing for college - studying for the SATs, trying to decide what to major in and where to spend these four years - I can also remember being warned.  I've had my parents, my teachers, the news, and politics all tell me that the "real world" is scarier than that horror movie you watched when you weren't supposed to as a kid.  That there are just no jobs available, no matter what your major is; that a college degree is going the way of the high-school diploma, and even a masters degree might not guarantee I'll be able to pay off my thousands of dollars worth of student debt a year from now (and I do mean thousands).

This article from the New York Times talks about how most entry-level jobs are now requiring graduate school, and that's from 2 years ago.  For a job that may very well pay less than I make now as a waitress, I have to spend 6 years in post-graduate education and thousands of dollars that I can't truly imagine ever being able to pay back - at least not before my 80th birthday.  For someone who doesn't plan on going to graduate school, who intends to be in the work-force a year from now, everything the media and "grown-ups" have to say about the world I'm walking out into is vomit-inducing, and I feel like I'm going into it blind-folded.

For the first time in my life, I don't know what the next step is.  I've always had grade levels, report cards, and summer vacations to mark where I am and where to go next.  Come May, I won't have that anymore - I'll have a diploma, and a thousand paths in front of me, most of which I may not be able to take.  For the first time, I won't have a clear plan of where to go next - and for someone who has grown up in a culture that always had the steps in front of me planned, from jamboree to college, that is probably the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced.