Uncertain Future Awaits Graduating Senior

Well everybody, happy New Year. Seniors, it’s officially time to start worrying about what you’re going to do after spring finals.

While I’ve been thinking about the ominous future for several years now, it has suddenly dawned on me that, come June, I will no longer be a student. Even if I decide to apply myself to graduate education to postpone my career path, I have to do something during the down time. This realization provoked a few minor panic attacks during my otherwise restful winter break:

What am I going to do with my life? How am I going to get into medical school? Do I really want to be a doctor? Do I want to spend the rest of my life pipetting microliters of solution? Should I run off to Guatemala and work with street children instead?

I’m sure the rest of my fourth- and fifth-year brethren share most, if not all, of the above sentiments. Even if you’re not seriously considering the plight of Latin America’s children, you’re probably trying to figure out what you are supposed to be doing with your life, and how you’re actually going to make that happen. If you already have that all figured out, please stop reading.

The hard truth is that no matter what we decide now, the odds are pretty good that we’ll make some drastic deviations from those plans in the future. You’ve already seen this in college: Half of the pre-meds decide to go into psychology, and a good portion of Revelle jumps to another college to avoid the humanities sequence.

After school, or between schools, people are also allowed to jump areas of interest. Don’t worry so much about what you’re going to do in June; chances are, it won’t be permanent.

While I hate to drag my family into my school’s newspaper, my father is a perfect, almost laughable, example of what I’m talking about. After getting a degree in business, he went to law school, graduated, and then decided not to take the bar examination. Thus, he never practiced law.

He then went into the commercial real estate business for a while. After getting bored with that, he built a boat and became a commercial swordfisherman for several years. Since then, he has revisited real estate, left real estate and formed a pay phone company. The pay phone market is crashing due to cell phone usage, so he has something else up his sleeve … I’m clueless.

My dad is a crazy example of a career switcher, and he enjoys being self-employed more than I ever will, but it’s an interesting case nonetheless. If he can go from law school to fishing in a span of two years, then I can change my mind about what I’m doing, too.

My point here is that even though we’ll all graduate from UCSD with a great education, we don’t necessarily have to use the knowledge from our degree. We can be flexible. I have one friend who is graduating with a degree in biology and plans to work with the high school students at her church. She won’t be using her biology knowledge in that occupation, but that intellect will sure help her if she decides to go back to school and do research, so her education was not a waste.

Your degree, whatever it is, just gives you more options for a life plan. Don’t limit yourself to your “”field,”” and don’t feel like any decision you make now is permanent.

With this perspective, it’s a lot easier to think about June. Even if the summer finds me pipetting alone in a lab somewhere, there’s always the next summer for Guatemala … or grad school. I just hope I don’t end up chasing swordfish.