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It’s year four and I’m graduating … When did this happen?!

By Alex Valeri, 4th-year English major

The past few weeks as I walked around campus, I noticed a lot more fresh faces than usual. Queen’s was abuzz with frosh, it seemed! But then a thought struck me: Are other students getting younger or am I simply getting older? I immediately rushed to the closest mirror—no wrinkles, no bald spots, not even a grey hair. Despite the lack of these outward signs, I was forced to confront a very difficult truth: it’s year four and I’m due to graduate in May. So when exactly did this happen? A lot of my fellow fourth years may be feeling the same way. Here are some signs that you may not have accepted that this is the final year of your undergrad:

  • When people ask, “How do you feel?” you still respond in a high-pitched yell, “I feel so good! Oh! I feel so good, oh!” with the accompanying hip thrusts.
  • You still attempt to use your student card to pay for your coffee runs at Tim’s.
  • You still wear your tam so it covers your ears—it gets cold during the winter!

Fourth year means a lot more pressure on you to do well in your classes, to get involved with your favourite club or activity, and spend time with your friends. Some of us may be on the job hunt, looking to do grad work, or maybe wanting to do some travelling. Regardless of what is on the horizon for you, it can be difficult to balance the work that needs to be done in the present and the work that needs to be done to secure your future. Here are some tips, not just for fourth years, but even for other students—this will be you sooner than you think!

Start Early: Getting started as soon as possible will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed as deadlines approach. Even just skimming through a school’s website or reading up on the application process can help prepare you. It’s definitely a good idea to start studying early for the LSAT and MCAT if you think a career in law or medicine might be in the cards for you.

Access Your Allies: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask a friend or a professor to check over your resume or application statement before submitting it. Visit Career Services for extra information or attend a university fair. Talk to your Teaching Assistants or professors for tips on grad school and don’t be afraid to reach out to these schools themselves! Sending an email or inquiry their way shows you are interested and passionate about their program as well as helping you find the information you need.

Budget Your Time: Put aside an hour one day a week to work on your application, study for your test, or apply to jobs. Book this time off in your weekly schedule or add to your weekly to-do list. That being said, don’t drive yourself crazy if you have a really busy week full of assignments!

And…Don’t freak out! Thinking about the future can be overwhelming. Just before you start hyperventilating, remember that you can do this! When you were in high school, the idea of university was probably terrifying and look, you got through that! Take a deep breath, keep your end goal in mind, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

Overall, no matter where you’re heading off to next year and no matter how many grey hairs you may or may not have, you’re never too old to ignore the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Hisgett under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.