I went through it during Reading Week. My roommate went through it while visiting home. My other roommate endured the crisis multiple times. More than a handful of friends in my year have had the life-changing, personal-reflective, future-thinking, and purely terrifying experience that I hereby dub: The Third Year Crisis.
What is it?
The Third Year Crisis is that/those moment(s) in an individual’s third year of undergraduate life when one realizes, hey look, there’s only one more year of this “school” thing… wait, what am I going to do after that? Said individual will then enter the 10 stages of The Third Year Crisis, and emerge from the chrysalis a somewhat new being… maybe.
The 10 Stages
- Failure to Ignore: When one realizes one can no longer brush off the question of what to do after undergrad. “Only one year left… wow that’s not that far away, I guess I should start thinking about things after that for real.”
- Attempt at Denial: When one realizes thinking about things is starting to increase blood pressure and inner turmoil and tries to go back to thinking about whatever one was thinking about before the Crisis started. “Hm… I can’t really think of anything… oh well, I mean a year is still a bit of a long time right?… Yeah… 12 months…”
- Panic: When denial fails. “Oh my gosh, that’s not a lot of time. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? I’m not ready for this.”
- Considering Job Prospects: When one tries to find a logical career path built off one’s program of study. “Let’s take a quick look at some job options via the Career Centre… ” Followed by “Oh, they require another degree” or “Oh, this isn’t really something I can do” or “Well, that sounds boring” or “I really can’t see myself doing that every day” or “There’s no way this can pay for that 40th floor penthouse I’m going to buy.”
- The Grad Studies Thought: When the prospect of facing the real world is just too much and one considers postponing entering the work force by continuing to learn. “Maybe I’ll just do some graduate studies and get that other degree? At least I’ll have more time to think about things.”
- Regret the GPA: When one’s GPA is nowhere near the average entrance GPA of one’s ideal graduate school and the panic is replaced with regret and bitterness. “WHY DIDN’T I KEEN HARDER FIRST YEAR?!”
- Bitterness and Mental Anguish: When one stares at one’s transcripts, but without really reading it because those numbers have already been ingrained into one’s mind and are chewing away at one’s last little bits of sanity. “What am I doing here? What am I doing with my life? Who am I?”
- Personal Reflection: When one starts thinking about everything one did in life and how he/she got to his/her current point. This is the best part of the Crisis and once you reach this stage I highly encourage you to speak to family and friends and strangers. “So I always thought I loved learning about <insert subject here> but I think what I really love isn’t just the subject but it’s implications in the world and in my life… You know, when I was only 6 years old… ” or “Yeah, I changed my mind… I don’t like this any more… but now I’m not sure what I like.”
- Seeking Help: When one finally reaches a better self-understanding/confusion, help is usually sought either in the form of Internet searches, conversations with upper years, or appointments with a Career Counsellor. “So I figured out something about myself, but what do you think about me and my current situation?”
- The Next Step: When one somehow manages to get a blurry to 20/20 clear idea of what one needs to do next. This may or may not be accompanied by a better understanding of oneself. “EVERYTHING SUDDENLY MAKES MORE SENSE.”
Steps subject to repetition in or out of order.
- The Career Centre
- Career Cruising
- A prof who knows you well
- Your Registrar
- Family (if you’re close enough with them)
- Fourth years (and up) who have gone through this
- Friends going through this (caution with this – the two of you may throw each other into further spirals of despair)
- Your goldfish (the best listener)
At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is what makes you happy. Do you want to help people? Do you want to be grand? Do you want to settle down with a happy family? Do you want to travel often? Do you want a job with constant changes? Do you want to have a predictable week every Monday?
What kind of life do you want in the end? Because life isn’t just about studying.