The Worst Question You Can Ask a College Senior

ÒWhat are you doing after graduation?Ó


Welcome to The Spectrum's second-annual Commencement Issue!

Not thrilled to be here?

If you're a senior without definite post-UB plans, I don't blame you, because you'll soon be (if you're not already being) bombarded with insecurity by that most probing question: "What are you doing after graduation?"

If you can't answer it, you shouldn't worry. Trust me.

I was in your same position last year.

(For those few who haven't been rabidly following The Spectrum all year long: I graduated last May. I was asked to return to the newspaper in October due to a staffing emergency. For more details, see "The Interview That Never Was" at ubspectrum.com.)

Less than a year ago, I had no idea what I was going to do with my English degree and journalism certificate. When people asked me the dreaded plans-after-graduation question, I would sardonically deadpan, "Walk the Earth" - Jules Winnfield-style.

I was as stressed as any of you might be right now. It was a confusing time. I had been very busy as an undergraduate; between maintaining good grades, working 40-plus hours per week for The Spectrum, working another outside job, playing bass and managing for a rock band, and doing my fair share of college partying, I never thought much about what would come next. There were so many exciting things going on in the present - why worry about the future?

As commencement approached, though, I began to acutely feel the force of what I perceived to be the freight train of Real Life, fast approaching, ready to crush me beneath its unforgiving tread. Will I actually have to move back home with my family? Where am I going to work? Am I going to be stuck in Buffalo forever?!

I became jealous of friends who had lined up jobs and could calmly answer all those dreaded questions. I became cynical about the four years I had just spent in college. All that work, and for what? I should have majored in business, or engineering, or pre-med.

We each had to make a PowerPoint slide for our Honors College graduation ceremony, and they wanted everyone to write his or her post-graduation plans. I actually wrote, "Walk the Earth." At one point or another, I was probably serious about that.

I skipped the main commencement ceremony. What's the point of going? It's just a piece of paper, and it hasn't even earned me anything.

I was supposed to be feeling happy about graduating, but instead, I only felt depressed. I pretended to join in the celebrations of my success-bound friends, but I only ended up drinking too much, a sort of unconscious rebellion against the idea of "becoming an adult" at the snap of a university administrator's finger.

Fast forward to today. Yes, I moved back home. Yes, I worked dead-end, boring jobs that had nothing to do with my college major over the summer. Yes, I returned to work at my college newspaper, even though I'm not in college.

Is that anyone's dream scenario? Of course not. Was it embarrassing? At first, kind of.

But returning to The Spectrum was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I didn't have a plan when I graduated. Some of my friends did. Of those friends, some are working at amazing, rewarding jobs, and some are at fantastic graduate schools, enjoying every minute. My situation aside, it's truly great to see them doing so well.

But others hate their jobs and feel pigeonholed. Perhaps they decided too quickly about their post-college plans.

Still more friends are still completing their undergraduate degrees. They are still alive. The Real Life freight train hasn't passed them by.

It wasn't until I left The Spectrum last year that I realized how much I enjoyed working at a newspaper. I had a journalism certificate, but Buffalo isn't exactly a journalism Mecca. As much as I love it, this city is lacking a bit in journalism opportunity.

So, in the fall, after a summer filled with great gigs for my band and about five different jobs, I decided to apply to graduate school and try another city. That same week, The Spectrum asked me to come back for a paying position in the meantime.

I was admitted to graduate school, and while I ran The Spectrum's News Desk over the past seven months, I learned more about journalism than ever before - after college. I feel so much more prepared for grad school now than I would have been had I never returned. It's funny how things work out.

The point of this glorified diary entry is to encourage seniors to enjoy their last few weeks of college instead of worrying about what will happen after they're over. If you have a job already, that's great - here's to the future and a successful career. If not, life goes on. Keep working hard, learning, making smart decisions, and trusting your better judgment after graduation, and I'm confident that you'll end up in the right place.

Email: luke.hammill@ubspectrum.com