The Chronicle of Post-Education: College Graduate Contemplates Career and Real Life Decisions

About this time last year, I was grumbling over the mass e-mails from the School of Humanities about graduation. “I’m not ready to think about gowns and caps and announcements!” I said and skimmed – then deleted – all of those e-mails. “I’ll read them next year,” I told myself.

Well, here I am in that “next year” I kept telling myself about: a Winter 2011 graduate of the School of Humanities in Literary Journalism and Global Cultures. Hooray! But that’s when I realized … “all of those e-mails” actually weren’t many e-mails at all. “So what’s the first step with all this graduation stuff?” a friend asked me a few weeks ago. I stared at him blankly.

“You got the e-mails, right?” I asked. (Yes, I was trying to fake knowledge here.)

“Yeah, but it’s kind of confusing.”

“Oh,” I said. “I’ll … get back to you.”

Future (and especially soon-to-be) graduates, here’s a bit of fact for you: The UCI Commencement website (www.commencement.uci.edu) is your best friend. Rely on it for everything.

The Commencement website is where you’ll find information about the time and date for your school’s ceremony, answers to questions about diplomas and tassels and a form to reserve your tickets.

If you’re graduating in June and reading this and wondering, “Tickets?” then you might want to jump on the website and figure out what to do, because ticket reservations close on April 15.

Because the ceremonies take place inside the Bren Events Center, tickets are required for admission. They’re free, but limited to a certain amount, which depends on the size of the graduating class in each school.

Then there’s all that business about gowns and caps and tassels … Honestly, I missed out on Grad Expo because I had work or class or naps to catch up on.

After all, I already discussed borrowing a gown from a friend who graduated last year (why buy a gown for myself when I’ll wear it for one day and then move on?) and the Commencement website tells me I can get my cap and tassel separately anyway.

So with Grad Expo behind us (kind of) and our applications to graduate filed, what’s left to do but prepare a countdown to the big day?

Well, here’s an obvious bit of counter-advice: seniors, if you still have classes in the spring, don’t check out quite yet! I know you’re feeling the senioritis, but you still have a couple of months left of school.

For the rest of us who finished in the fall or winter, the question seems to be: “Now what?”

No, seriously. I’ve been a student for 18 years of my life. I have no (immediate) plans to go to journalism school or pursue enrollment in any sort of graduate program.

After the consecutive years of school, I think it’s time for a break. Although I’m done with classes, my commitment to various on-campus jobs has me in Irvine until the graduation ceremony in June. I’m fine with that – I need this time to figure out the answer to what comes next.

I’ve done an adequate job of dodging my parents’ e-mails that have been laced with anxiety and worry: “What are you going to do next? What’s the plan?”

Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this: don’t panic. I have a plan to come up with a plan, and I’ve got a month or two to do it. You’ve trusted me to survive for four years while living over 300 miles away from you – trust me on this one: I’m working on it.

Navigating the graduation process itself isn’t an easy task, but the bigger, more daunting task is really navigating the foray into the world of internships (most likely unpaid) and life after college. “The real world,” as so many people like to call it.

Do I think college has adequately prepared me for that world? Yes and no. “How so?” you might wonder. Well, just keep coming back week-to-week to read the chronicles of a new, lost and anxious graduate.