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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Matriculation musings: How the last term at college feels

Matriculation+musings%3A+How+the+last+term+at+college+feels

It’s my last term, ten weeks early. Soon, my peers will be moving through spring term the way I have through this term. Maybe that includes you. Or maybe you’ve got a ways to go.

It’s weird to be graduating early, processing it alone and prematurely. I don’t know anyone else graduating this term. I’m grateful not to pay for another term, and I’m happy to be done with the formal duties of being a college student, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to do it alongside everyone else.

I have three weeks left. Week eight, week nine, and the two days of week ten, plus whatever finals. Then I’m done. No “spring break” for me. I just won’t come back to school. I’ll stay in my house a block away, looking for jobs and supporting my loved ones as they finish up. Then we’ll walk, get our diplomas, and leave. 

So, if you’re wondering what it feels like, I’ll let you in on a little recap of my winter term musings.

Single digit weeks feel different. Once you hit week two, you can count on both hands how much time you have left: nine weeks. Seventeen Tuesday/Thursday classes. Twenty-six Monday/Wednesday/Fridays. All of a sudden it’s week three. You’re a third of the way through.

In many ways, the day to day feels the same. Classes don’t taper off at the end like they did in senior year of high school for many people, so you don’t have a slow transition out; you’re writing and reading up until the day you’re done, because not everyone is done at the same time, even spring term. You’ll be okay in the mundane, because there’s nothing immediately wrong, nothing obviously different.

But in the quiet hours, when you’re left to your thoughts? When you scroll down too far on the Moodle syllabus and see how close you are to the end? When you wake up on a Monday morning and realize you’ll never have another week six? The little existential crises will set in.

Maybe they’ll be totally unobtrusive for you, but you’ll probably have one or two real zingers. They don’t have to be about school either; I had a period where I was frantically spiraling about the eulogies I may have to write in the future. Liminality, change, and life uprooting will bring up things you thought you’d settled long ago.

Life is freeform after you finish your degree. Unless you’re going for a Master’s or some other schooling in the traditional sense, this is the first time you’re not expecting to be caught in your fall by another school year. It may be the first time you reach the standard you or your parents set for your education. For me, it’s the first time in about sixteen years that I no longer had the certainty of a school start date in my future. Just a lease ending. And then an open book.

It’ll be different for you, just like it’s different for everyone. Fifth years are grieving a year later than they expected to, and bottled up anticipation of an end may have an explosive result; but it may also be a quiet bereavement, tired of waiting and ready to be really done. You were already a senior, will have watched your class with whom you entered school graduate without you, and may have a harder time celebrating your achievements. Give yourself credit. This shit’s hard. You’ve been doing it during a pandemic.

Maybe you’ll do it early like me, a fall or winter graduation with no fanfare and no companionship. I hope you find some comfort in these words. Graduation is a celebration and it is a terrifying thing, too. Write down how this feels. It may be one of those things that you can’t really remember in a few months when you’re not being forced to experience it all the time.

Time moves along at the same pace every day. Everything ends, eventually, and you’re already pretty experienced with endings, having lived on Earth a while. It’ll come when it comes. Hang in there until it does.

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