Graduation anxiety, is it silly to repeat the last of year of college?
June 8, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Hi Metafilter, I'm about to graduate this Summer from a college in Europe. It's for a creative profession and I'm currently honesty considering to repeat the year. Considering the circumstances (more below), would it be silly to volunteer a rerun of the year?

Ok. So I'm an international student at a college in Europe.

With the so called "foundation year", the normal course takes 4 years. After my first year (fine arts) I decided to switch departments out of interest, and was admitted to another department (graphic design) without needing to repeat the year I missed. That meant that most of my peers have an extra year of experience in the field we are studying.

But it's not like I was doing bad or anything, in fact, in my third year (the one I switched) I did quite well by the end, and both my teachers and I (which is rare) were really happy with my development, saying that my outsider perspective on the discipline resulted in some fresh work.

Now I'm in the fourth (final year) and it's been tough. The structure of the course is different, and more autonomous (we are expected to take on real assignments, but also work on our own personal projects). I had to move three times (the city I live in has a pretty bad housing situation, and while people eventually find something stable, I only managed to do so a month ago), and with beginning treatment for ADHD, related medication experiments and bouts of depression and anxiety, the year turned out to be quite unstable.

My work wasn't terrible, but I feel like I haven't given my best, and to compensate for the year I missed, I took on a lot of assignments, ignoring personal projects. I regret this now, but also came to terms with the reasons for it.

Now I'm one month away from graduating and I feel like I'm absolutely not ready, and scared that I will regret graduating on a bad note. Compared to other students, that managed to more constructively work on their own projects and balance applied work, I also feel I simply don't deserve graduating.

So I've been considering, at the option isn't very unrealistic. My college is cheap (I guess in the US this wouldn't really be an option) and it wouldn't set me back very much. Talking to my parents resulted in my mother supporting ("Yea do it, you're still young") and my dad getting incredibly angry at the tought. They are ones financing this the past 4 years, with me working this year to share the costs. I could easily finance myself tough, because I still have the right for a work related scholarship (socialism yay).

It's nothing too strange in my school (the school is considered good, btw), one girl has already made the decision to redo it, and this year we've had three people who had to repeat a year previously and one who took a year off for interning. They're all doing pretty good now.

With finally a stable housing situation, and the lucidity (hopefully it's that) that I'm making this decision with, I feel like it would be a big relief for me to do it.

What do you think?
posted by ahtlast93 to Education (13 answers total)
I don't know anything about your discipline, but at first blush it sounds to me that it's less about your talent and skill set and more about you wanting to postpone the inevitable.

You're graduating, it's time to put your exucation to work in the real world.

No one feels perfectly prepared at graduation, but all things in their time. You'll go out in the world and you'll work. It will be different than school. People will be difficult to work with, your coworkers may be unpleasant, your ideas may not always meet with approval. But that's life.

Another year will just be another year. You have very little to gain.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:27 AM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with Ruthless Bunny. Graduating is scary, but it seems there's not a lot you can learn by repeating the year.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 AM on June 8, 2013

Response by poster: There might be. My college is not really about learning given course work, but more about projects we do, which are then criticised. It'll inevitably be a different (whether good to repeat or not) year, with different mentors and different things I will produce.
posted by ahtlast93 at 7:33 AM on June 8, 2013

Professor here. If you are at all in doubt, talk with your professors now. I wish more of my students would do this. Those who do are often rewarded in multitudes. I'm not saying everyone should do it, and it may just be nervousness, as Ruthless Bunny indicates, but having transferred, and feeling very stressed are two signs I'd take very seriously.
In my view, graduating should be fun, and your final project should be one you remember proudly and happily.
posted by mumimor at 7:33 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

A repeat year might involve different mentors and different things you produce, but so will whatever you do out in the 'real world'..... there is no way you could EVER take enough repeat years to cover each and every situation that could come up in the future; all any school can do (and it sounds like yours already has) is prepare you to face those options.
posted by easily confused at 7:37 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does your school offer academic counselling? Or is this something you can talk to one of your mentors from this year about? Because it really seems like the particulars of your situation -- is the work you did a professional enough of a portfolio for you to go out and get a job? is there a lot more theoretical/critical learning you would get out of another year of the program? -- are going to make a difference here.

It doesn't sound like there's a huge financial hit to be taken here if you remain back another year, and it might give you a big boost to your confidence in your skills, plus a chance to showcase them in a better portfolio.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:52 AM on June 8, 2013

If your goal is to graduate ready and able to get work in graphic design, the answer to your question is in your portfolio.

If your body of work is not of a level that would make you hirable -- and you think that another year of projects to add to the portfolio would make you hirable -- then repeat the year. If you have enough solid work to get real client projects, or an in-house job, after graduating right now, then repeating the year would just set you back in what you could be doing in the real world.
posted by dayintoday at 8:04 AM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just to be clear - you are about to actually successfully complete this year and obtain whatever degree/qualification you are supposed to obtain with this course, you are not about to fail your last year? This is entirely about voluntarily repeating the last year of the course?

I know nothing of your field but I do work with a lot of graduates. In graphic design I imagine you are supposed to produce a portfolio of work as part of your course which allows you to pursue whatever comes next? Have you got such a portfolio? Will it allow you to pursue whatever is supposed to come next? Or is the quality of your work not as good as you'd like it to be? If that is the case, is it realistic that the extra year will allow you to do produce higher quality work to bolster your portfolio?

If you don't need to produce a portfolio of work do next steps for you come down to grades? In that case would you realistically imrpove those by repeating this last year?

Or do you really just not feel ready?

Both grades and or a portfolio are intended to signal to the world that you can deliver at the required level. That gives them a basis to hire you and train you further until you're useful to them or else to be willing to pay you outright for a piece of work. And the question really has to be if you are in a position to do that this year or not. If not, will another year help, or would your time be better spent finding something else to earn a living whilst pursuing your creative work as a hobby?

If you just don't feel ready that's fine. You're not. No graduate is ever actually able to walk into the work place and do a job without further training. I imagine graphic design would see you in the workplace for a few years until you decide to freelance..Clearly the level of training will vary hugely but it does cost an employer money to take a new person on board, always. And the less experienced the person, e.g. grauduates, the more of a leap of faith is it gerenally.

So work out what exactly you're worried about. And what exactly you hope to achieve by doing the last year again. And then yes, go and talk to your professors, guidance counsellor, careers advice people to validate your assumptions.

Based on reading your question I can't tell what worries you and what you'd gain by repeating the year other than a vague hope that you'll feel more ready in 12 months.

There may be tangible benefits to repeating the year for you but based on your question these are not clear to me. So try to pin down what exactly you're scared about and talk to the people at your insitution to get a feel for how realistic all these ideas are or not. That's the point of mentors, not just to critique your work but to also advise you in situations like this.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:21 AM on June 8, 2013

Nope, I wouldn't do it. You're never going to feel more prepared unless you have some real world work experience. I would take the support of your family and take the year to do internships and personal projects, if there's no heat on you to get a full time gig.
posted by thirdletter at 8:58 AM on June 8, 2013

I'm in a creative field (animation) and I redid an entire year of courses instead of graduating immediately because I knew my work/portfolio was not ready and would not get me a job. I do not regret doing this.

It was difficult for my family and friends, who were not familiar with how creative jobs work, to understand this. Because really, grades and graduating and what courses you took, etc, literally mean nothing in creative fields. The only things that matter in getting a job in a creative field are the quality of work that you are able to produce in a timely manner, the people you know, and your personality/attitude/disposition.

But like others have said, from your post it sounds more like *you* are not mentally ready for this big life change that is about to happen, not your work.

If I am mistaken, or you are unsure about the quality of your work, then seek out as much critique and advice from your teachers who have experience doing the real world work that you want to do. Tell them you're considering taking the last year over, and ask them to be very, very honest with you about the likelihood of your current body of work's ability to get you a job in your field after you graduate.

If you do redo a year at your university, make the absolute most of your time there. Not just in the work you create but also with the teachers, advisors, and other students you work with. Networking at the college level can be extremely helpful to your career later on.
posted by Squee at 9:19 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Now I'm one month away from graduating and I feel like I'm absolutely not ready, and scared that I will regret graduating on a bad note. Compared to other students, that managed to more constructively work on their own projects and balance applied work, I also feel I simply don't deserve graduating.

what does graduating on a bad note mean? if it means you feel you haven't done enough personal projects then know that when you are done with school you will have tons of time to do those personal projects on your own and you can even ask your design friends, or others with a good eye, to critique your work. i say this as a self-taught designer. it might be good to talk to your academic advisor about your portfolio, but really it sounds like you are probably just scared to enter the big bad world of work. please know it isn't that bad. if your portfolio is up to snuff get out there and get a job. saying you don't feel you deserve to graduate sounds like perfectionism rearing its ugly head. don't listen to it.
posted by wildflower at 3:40 PM on June 8, 2013

I also think you should graduate and get out into the world. But if you choose to stay another year, you have to take responsibility for that and not let your parents finance it.
posted by kimberussell at 4:30 PM on June 8, 2013

Response by poster: It's in the work. Grades hardly matter in graphic, it's the portfolio.
And I honestly feel my portfolio wouldn't be up to snuff. In fact, most people start working freelance right out of school, but also, most people attending my school are older and occasionally have more years of experience.

With the current work I could show, I believe I would be able to get an internship here or there sure, but this year my work lacked the energy and enthusiasm it used to have and aside from one small project, wouldn't showcase my skills too well.

My school also has a range a facilities and possibilities that I feel I haven't used well, and the whole year felt somewhat stuck. I know for sure that these possibilities won't be as available in the "real world", but can still be used to showcase my skill in a portfolio.

Honestly, I don't think I'm too scared of the big bad world out there, in fact, I'm having a kind of doublethink situation where I really want to get out of school as soon as possible, but also feel I could get a lot more out of it to develop my work.

Graduating on a bad note just means that right now I am absolutely not happy with the works I will graduate with. I think some of it can find itself in a portfolio, but overall doesn't show too well. And I think graduation should be a happy time, where I finish confidently with a work I can be proud. Right now I feel less confident than I did a year ago.
posted by ahtlast93 at 1:25 AM on June 9, 2013

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