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Columnist Eliza MacKnight argues that it's OK for students to take a break after graduation instead of heading straight into the work field. 

The excitement of graduation comes every spring on college campuses nationwide, celebrating the many graduates who are ready to step out into the real world and contribute to society by pursuing whatever it is that they’ve found a passion for. For many, with that comes the pressure to find a job they can dive head first into right after the end of their college career.

There’s no question that going through the typical job hunt and interview phase is inevitable for all soon-to-be rising graduates. That is, after all, what most students attend college to achieve in the first place. However, going straight from school to a full-time job isn’t the best fit for everyone, and there shouldn’t be any type of negative attitude toward that.

Receiving a college degree symbolizes roughly 16 years of straight schooling for a majority of people, and for many, the day they’re handed their diploma means it’s time to take a break. It’s no secret that college is hard, and while most people do dream of having a career in the field they love, it’s not uncommon for post-grad students to feel burnt out.

Maybe for them, finding a full-time job or continuing on to further their education even more is overwhelming and not ideal. Working so hard to finish college just to be forced to continue this rigor within the context of a job or post-graduate education is what causes a lot of people to lose interest in what they once felt passionate about and excited for a future in.

American society expects everyone to go straight from undergrad to a job, where they’ll remain until they retire. That’s an extensive amount of time to continue day to day with the same routine, seeing and doing the same things over and over.

There’s so much to see, do and explore, and most students can agree they’ve had to miss the opportunity to travel and adventure because of the restrictions being a full-time student places on both budget and time. This isn’t fair. In a society where the expectation is to settle down and provide for a family and kids soon after finishing college, the first few years post-grad are some of the only ones in which one can be self-serving and not feel guilty about it.

Graduates work so hard to get to where they are, and they deserve to take a break — to do what makes them happy, to be spontaneous and plunge into things they never before expected to do.

A college degree means a lot more than the completion of a certain list of classes. It also symbolizes adulthood and the ability for the person to be self-sufficient and make their own choices. Everyone gets told their whole lives exactly what to do and who to be — sometimes taking risks and branching out is the only way to truly find oneself and be happy within these societal structures.

If that means taking a few years after graduation to figure out the next step, that should be encouraged, not looked down upon. The people who aren’t afraid to take the biggest risks, after all, are also the ones who aren’t afraid to make the biggest impact.

Eliza MacKnight is a sophomore psychology major. Contact her at macknieg@dukes.jmu.edu.