Your undergrad is a marathon, not a sprint

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

Learning how to find your own pace in completing your degree and enjoying the ride

Every semester, around the time of fall and spring graduation, I get uncontrollably excited. It brings me back to June 2017 when I crossed the Concordia convocation stage for the first time. It was definitely a bittersweet moment. Bitter, because, as you near the end of your degree, you still may be unsure about what to do next. Having already graduated once and looking forward to my next graduation in June, I can assure you that the feeling is normal.

But that’s a topic for a different article. I am here to talk to you about the sweet feeling of achievement. Of accomplishment. The satisfying feeling of completing something you’ve given so much of your time to, that has taken the last four years of your life.

What makes it so sweet though? In the memories you’ll look back on from those four years, what will come to mind? Will you think of the tears you shed and the all-nighters you pulled? Maybe. Will you think of how much of a coffee addict you’ve become? Definitely. But then comes everything else. Trust me when I say all those non-academic memories will put the biggest smile on your face.

Keep in mind that everything outside the classroom is just as important as what goes on inside. But while you’re an undergrad, it’s easy to get lost in your books, and the pressure to finish your degree as quickly as possible can be strong. It’s important to recognize that sometimes life gets in the way, and that’s OK. I’d like to share with you some insight as to why it’s absolutely crucial to take your time and finish your degree at your own pace.

Remember, university is not a race. There seems to be this preconceived notion that if you don’t finish your degree in the minimum allotted time, you won’t succeed as a student or in life. Wrong. There is no time limit. Although you may feel pressure to graduate as soon as possible, remember the only person working for your degree is you. Find a pace that suits you.

Remember, you’re here to learn. You’re attending university because you want to be here, so there shouldn’t be a timer. Rushing through your degree too quickly will leave you more confused than when you started. Take the time you need to retain all you’re learning and ensure your experience is not one big blur.

Remember, the path isn’t linear. Part of the pressure to watch the clock while completing your degree comes from the outside. External expectations to pick a field early on and jump into the workforce immediately are bogus. Now is the time to explore different subjects and find your passion. Just because you chose one field doesn’t mean you’re not meant to do another, and it surely doesn’t mean you can’t do another. If you don’t like your program, change it. If you’re adventurous, take a page from my book: do a double major and master two fields you’re interested in at once. The options are endless, and they’re all yours for the taking.

Remember to find your balance. Make sure to take advantage of the undergraduate experience. When life gets in the way of your studies, take it as a blessing. Find the silver lining. These four years are an opportunity for you to grow both intellectually and socially. You will learn so much about yourself as a student and from other students, so enjoy everything

Concordia has to offer. Get involved, join a sports team or student association, meet other interesting people. Step outside of your discipline and your comfort zone. Now, as you approach the milestone achievement of graduation, and when you walk across that convocation stage, I hope you look back on some of the memories that put a smile on your face. When you do look back on your three or four years as an undergrad student, your experience will leave the biggest impression. So take all the time you need. Don’t rush the journey, and enjoy the ride.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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