Something to Celebrate


Photo by Jason Ordaz

The moment you have been waiting for has finally come. Gown is on and the cap is set. But immediately after the success, the question arises: what comes next? It doesn’t matter that you spent years downing energy drinks and staying up late to study for that test, everyone just wants to know what you are going to do after. Sometimes, it’s not a question you can answer right away—and that’s completely okay.

Whether you are going for an associate’s, a bachelor’s, or a certificate, there is a lot of pressure on college students. There’s pressure to know what you are going to do after you get your degree or even if you are going to graduate on time. It’s common to think that the ideal timeline for someone to go to college is right after high school. It’s also common to think that getting an associate’s degree will take two years and that a bachelor’s degree will take four. That’s simply not the case for many students coming from minority communities. There are many factors that might prevent someone from going to school right away. Many students coming from minority communities work after high school to provide for their families. Others might not feel as prepared or that things just weren’t right for them to go right away. Whatever the case may be, it is never too late to go back to school.

When you finally go to school, you might expect to graduate in two to four years because that’s what’s expected. But I know peers who have been in school on and off because they’re working to pay off their last semester, or because something comes up and they can’t give all their attention to school. Spending more than four years to get your degree is completely okay. If it’s for self-care, financial reasons, or anything in between, doing what is best for you is what needs to be prioritized. Life takes its course and things fall into place when they need to. Yes, you might be doing this for your family or you might have someone who was your main motivator to go to college, but you are the one getting yourself through the grueling semesters, so give yourself credit where it’s due.

So, if you’ve graduated this spring and you know what you are doing next, congratulations. If you’ve graduated and have no idea what you are going to do now, congratulations. And if you are older or have been in college longer than four years and haven’t graduated yet, congratulations; your time to graduate will come soon and the fact that you are still in school is enough reason to rejoice. Remember, there is no cookie-cutter mold for a college student, and everyone must go at their own pace. Don’t feel bad because your college path doesn’t look like the ones your friends or family took. Allow yourself to celebrate in the moment the things you have accomplished. Be proud of what you have done and the things you will continue to do.

Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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