Dealing with the pressure to have a perfect fourth year

Nice to meet you, I'm leaving


It was May 18, 2017 — exactly one year prior to the beginning of my graduation weekend May 18, 2018 — and my mom booked a hotel in Charlottesville so that my family can watch thousands of other parents’ babies and me walk down the Lawn in a likely-overpriced piece of fabric. It was on that day that graduation became a tangible reality in my future.

Throughout my first three years at the University, it was easy to forget about the day when I would eventually leave it. Filled to the brim with classes and social events, my days sailed by — each one coming more quickly than the last. But when I first stepped foot on Grounds this past August, something was different. Now, even if one eye may be focused on today, my other is always fixated on May.

I’m not alone in this feeling either. People talk about the “last” this or the “final” that all the time. Suddenly, we feel a pressure to make every single second perfect, for we know that we will never get a chance to repeat it again — unless by the time we are old and gray we have created some version of college for the elderly, and we can take another crack at it as “senior senior citizens.” Let’s be honest, that would be pretty awesome.

Anyway, since Senior Citizen Tech hasn’t opened yet, we are faced with a very important question in our pursuit of perfection with our time — how do we allocate it?

I have many friends who have taken a variety of approaches. In regards to their futures, some friends hit the ground running, applied to a million opportunities and are now sitting pretty because one finally came back from the void. Others, on the other hand, prefer to keep that eye fixated on the future firmly shut, hoping that all of the questions about what they are doing next year might magically disappear. The same is true for classes, too. Some friends care, some don’t. If you couldn’t tell from my previous column, I fall into the latter category.

Where things get really interesting is how people decide to allocate their time between different people. I have friends employing all sorts of strategies on this front. One friend decided to spend the fall of his fourth year as a probationary member of the Jefferson Society to meet people. Another friend almost exclusively spends time with people she didn’t know before this fall because she considers her other friendships cemented into place and therefore feels that she doesn’t need to worry about them. A third friend seems to have lost almost all ability to speak and now can only be heard shouting, “No new friends!”

Personally, I think there is a balance to be struck. You have an entire year — or at this point, half a year — left in Charlottesville, so you are bound to meet new people. Embrace those relationships! Spend time getting to know these individuals you were lucky enough to meet. But, at the same time, don’t take the friends you already have for granted. Continue to build on those connections and create more memories together, because you can never be sure when you will see them again after your upcoming disaster of a post-grad trip to Europe.

There is no secret recipe for the easiest or best approach to your final year of college. Everyone treats these last few months together differently, and sometimes that will lead to frustration. You might feel cut out or overwhelmed by a particular friend. You might be exhausted from repeatedly sending your resume into a void and never receiving a reply. You might even question the entire purpose of going to school in the first place.

Your final year of college is completely characterized by FOMO — the fear of missing out. Every night you go out, you’ll wonder if you should have stayed in and been productive. Every night you stay on your couch, you will daydream about all the fun others must be having without you. Even if you are perfectly content doing whatever it is that you are doing, you will worry that something else is happening that you shouldn’t be passing up.

My advice?


Stop worrying about what you should be doing, what others are doing or what others think you should be doing. Your fourth year is yours, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s unrealistic to imagine that it could be. It will be littered with mistakes and lessons just like every other year of college, and that’s okay. Find a balance that works for you and allocate your time accordingly. Your fourth year might look different from that of your best friend, but that doesn’t mean that you are doing it wrong. It just means that you are doing it right for you. 

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