A child is born in the United States every 8 seconds. There is one immigrant that arrives in the United States every 29 seconds. Both the child and the immigrant will go through various experiences in life within the confines of our society, with all its perfect imperfections. Both the child and the immigrant will grow up in this country, on the exterior coasts or in fields of the Midwest.
Education will become a priority to them, but maybe not for their siblings. They both get relatively good grades. Then, in the latter years of high school, both the child and the immigrant are introduced to the idea of advanced education. They both decide to go to college. The college they chose is UNCG. They are sitting to your right and to your left in your 9 a.m. class that you dislike. You are currently a sophomore.
You, the reader, now have a group of friends that are a little bit different from the friends you had in high school, but you like them. One of them is very dramatic and somehow ends up in the middle of everything and tweets all of his or her problems. You have another friend who is pretty chill but he or she seems to slack in their education and you have never perceived yourself as a slacker.
That child, sitting on your right in your 9 a.m. class, feels like a slacker. But the immigrant, sitting to your left, has been keeping himself afloat, only because of that little voice in the back of his head that resembles the immigrant’s father’s voice, saying, “If you do not get straight A+’s, you will live an unfulfilling life.”
None of you have never lived outside of your houses until now. And it is different. All three of you have heard someone having sex as you made your way back to your dorms. All of you are confused on how to feel about your RA, going from hating them to liking them in a couple days. All three of you enjoy the diversity UNCG has to offer. All three of you had some sort of fling with someone in your dorm building two weeks ago that ended with one of them screaming, another crying and the other not caring, which made you cry.
In four year’s time, all three of you graduate under completely different majors, only seeing each other occasionally in the EUC and hearing about each other from friends of friends. All three of you end up in the 33.4 percent of Americans who receive a bachelor’s degree.
For the last four years, things were certain. You all had a schedule that you were to re-create at the end of every semester for the upcoming semester. The child born in the US studied abroad in France. You were on e-board for three years for an organization and interned for a summer. The immigrant helped a professor with research for a book she was writing.
All three of you are struggling to find a job. You all have applied to many places. All of you are being pressured by your parents and all of a sudden, the feeling of uncertainty begins to creep in. All three of you know that the unemployment rate for college graduates is only 2.5 percent, but more importantly, all three of you also know that between 30 to 40 percent of college graduates are underemployed. You also know that UNCG was ranked 201 in the U.S. News National Ranking in 2018. All of you begin to question yourself.
“Was it worth it with the debt I am in?” the child born in the U.S. asks. “Does my education compare to someone’s who graduated from a more expensive and private university?” You ask yourself. The immigrant child asks himself nothing because he is too busy getting yelled at by his father due to the fact that he ended with an A rather than an A+ in the 9 am class. His father does not know that UNCG dropped the A+ his last semester, meaning his child will end up living a fulfilling life.
I paint this picture because life seems very clear-cut at the present moment, but once I look beyond college, I sense- as many enrolled in colleges and universities across the nation do- uncertainty. Uncertain that I will get the job I want, uncertain if I will be happy or not, uncertain that all of this will be worth it. So, I sought out some friends that graduated and asked what the experience was like out of college so far.
“I felt really free for about a month, and then I started to panic about finding a job,” Katya Davis, a Spring 2018 graduate from UNCG, said. Davis is trying to live abroad, so her situation is a little bit different than most. Nevertheless, it has been hard. “Almost every one of my friends has found a really good job, so it’s hard for me to think about it sometimes.” As life seems to move around her quicker than she feels as though she is moving, the perception of lagging behind is one that is hard to avoid. Getting adjusted, away from the uncertainty of things, isn’t easy either. “A few months after [graduation], I felt like I had left a bubble of intensity…and it’s still taking time to adjust to that.”
Some graduates have to adjust tremendously while other graduates have to do only some slight changes. Alec Butz, a 2017 graduate from Forsyth Tech, had little to change. Because Forsyth Tech is a community college, the social bubble which 4-year universities create for students wasn’t very noticeable for him. This gave him breathing room to earn more money. “Because I worked while going to school, the work world doesn’t scare me,” said Butz. For Butz, getting where he wants to be is everything, and he will do whatever that takes.
Even though these two graduates differ within their educational experience, they have parallel messages for undergraduates who feel uncertain: start early and know what you’re up against.
“Companies cannot survive without their workers, so know your worth,” Butz said, reminiscing on his own experiences in the workforce. Davis agreed, maintaining that you need to know what companies and jobs are looking for. “Don’t wait till the last semester to start the job search, because you’ll be so overwhelmed with work and graduation things that you’ll put jobs in the back burner.”
To combine both Butz’s and Davis’s advice, “don’t wait” and “don’t settle because work will be a big part of your life, so find where you are happy.” Finding a job and striving for the future you want out of college is like puberty: for some, it comes early and for others, it comes a little bit later. But we can all start now, settling our fears, our doubts and ultimately, the feeling of uncertainty.