Leah’s Lens: Any post-graduation plan is a successful plan

Leah Boone, Opinion Editor

Graduation season is on the horizon and many graduating seniors have spent months thinking about the future. When one graduates high school, there is a large stigma surrounding not immediately attending a four-year university. While this stigma is not as prevalent after college graduation, there is still a negative light cast on any plan that is not graduate school or employment. The feeling of shame or embarrassment should not be associated with any post-graduation plan, as they are all equally as beneficial and valuable. 

There are multitudes of negative connotations surrounding being in college as well as what to do after it, and it can often feel extremely overwhelming when one does not fit into these categories. If college is not the best years ever experienced, students often feel like they have failed in some way. If one does not immediately go to college after high school, they are often deemed lazy or unmotivated. If a major is changed multiple times or a post-graduation plan is not completely thought out, it could be seen as falling behind. These are just some of the stereotypes and expectations placed on college students, causing them to be under immense pressure. 

The largest flaw in the stereotypes surrounding post-graduation plans is the inaccuracies embedded within them. If students are not employed directly after graduation, they are actually in the majority; on average, college graduates are not employed until three to six months after graduation. 

Another inaccurate stereotype is the ease with which students can obtain a job directly after college. Although many students attempt to line up entry level positions after graduation, this name is incredibly misleading; 38.4% of entry level positions ask for more than three years of experience. While some college graduates may have an internship or a few months of work experience under their belt, this still does not meet the requirements for some entry level positions. This requirement often puts a large roadblock between college graduates and immediately becoming employed. 

It is unfair to pin this on students as it is completely out of their control. If one does not have enough experience for an entry level position, it is very difficult to find a job that pays enough to afford to live alone. In North Carolina, entry level jobs on average pay around $28,000, and the average nationwide is around $33,000. This average salary is not nearly enough to sustainably live off of. It is wrong to judge students for living with roommates or parents out of college when entry-level jobs pay so little.

While gap years are often met with negativity from others, they have proven to be very beneficial for students’ mental health. College can be one of the most life-altering experiences, but it can also be one of the most difficult. Taking a gap year between college and the next step in life is not only acceptable, but also a beneficial experience for many young adults. It can help to save money, have a better understanding of what one’s goals are and take a break between two challenging periods. 

There are many different paths one can take after graduating from college, and each of these unique paths is equally important and equally opportune. The main focus in life should not be to find the post-graduation plan that satisfies everyone; it is a very personal decision and should be made based on what brings happiness. Whether it is graduate school, an entry-level position, an internship, a job back at home, a gap year spent percolating on next steps or anything else, graduates’ plans after college are entirely up to them and all equally successful.