Op-ed: Finding purpose in the last year of college

For students, the month of September is the chance for a clean slate, as mistakes and failures of past semesters seem to shrink in significance. As I enter my final year of college, I’m beginning to think this sense of reinvention wasn’t meant for me. At this time next year, September will just be another month.

As a senior, I feel pressured to believe that, come May, I need to have everything figured out. I feel there is no option but to remain the person I am now with the baggage of my past failures, mistakes, and attitudes of college. I think to myself, “I’m going to graduate in eight months—what good does it do to start over now?”

But no matter how tempting the mindset of “I’m out of here” can be, I know I don’t deserve to “autopilot” my way to graduation, and neither does anyone else. At any point in your academic career, no matter how little time you have left, there is always an opportunity to start over and better yourself, which doesn’t necessarily mean striving for a 4.0 GPA or making the Dean’s List.

It’s unreasonable to ask every student at Emerson to dedicate the entirety of their senior year to academics, but it’s not unreasonable to ask them to have a purpose in whatever they do. Maybe you can’t dedicate 100 percent of your time to an assignment to make it worth an A, but you can put in the effort to learn something.

What if we all gave up at the end of an everyday task or activity? What if we zoned out at the end of a movie, or walked the last lap of a mile that we knew we were fully capable of running? Whenever we simply go through the motions of a task, vital components of the experience are lost. Think of college that way. If you get used to walking your final lap, you’ll never build enough stamina for a longer run, and you’ll never know how much better that final lap could have made you.

To me, the chance to improve myself as a senior means finding purpose in academic work, rather than solely focusing on my grades. Whatever time we get in the classroom is valuable. Rather than focusing on just completing my final school year, I can prioritize assignments and goals to a daily level. Shifting my focus from a large end goal to smaller, everyday assignments can eliminate the temptation of aimlessly drifting towards graduation.  

We’re so anxious to graduate and start our careers that we don’t realize how much is wasted when we substitute the work of the present moment for daydreams of the finish line. During my senior year of high school, my effort and dedication to my classes would come and go sparingly. Some weeks I would read the novel of my AP Literature class in-depth, while other weeks I would just read to get it over with. Looking back, I wonder how different my perspective would be if I immersed myself in the literature of my senior year.

We’re all paying good money—or our parents are—to be here at Emerson. For some students, the final months are here and the end is in sight. We’re anxious and maybe even a little excited for life in the real world. But what we need to know before we graduate is that there is still much to gain and to learn from our final year of college.

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