Senior Scaries: An Open Letter to the Class of 2023

By Hana Rehman

Dear Seniors,

As Harvard spray paints the Yard green once again to schmooze the Class of 2027, our own class seems to have moved firmly into an era of excitement and festivity. The time until graduation, now fewer than 50 days, continues to shrink — and so does lecture attendance. Unlike in years past, this spring brought us thesis photoshoots, freshman roommate reunions, and one last chance to romance longtime crushes. It’s a time of popping champagne and posting detailed LinkedIn updates, of reveling in the paradox of being simultaneously young to the world and wise elders in the eyes of underclassmen. While this space for celebration is certainly well-deserved, I also want to carve out a bit of space for something else: uncertainty.

Four or five years ago, we were at a similar point of transition, saying goodbye to our classmates and teachers as we donned caps and gowns. For most of us, the path was crystal clear by April. We knew we would be moving to Cambridge, living in age-old dorms, and spending the next four years diving headfirst into a liberal arts education. Those who didn’t yet know Harvard was in their future were likely still certain higher education would be their next step. This time, though, the arrival of Commencement means we begin charting our own paths, and finding the right direction is not as straightforward.

Of course, there are those among us who just buzz with anticipation for the fellowship or graduate school program or finance job they have lined up. But I promise more seniors than you might expect are still trying to figure it all out, whether that means looking for a job or deciding between offers or searching desperately for the right housing, the right roommate, the right way to maintain a relationship when “long-distance” comes to mean across the country instead of from the river to the Quad. There are so many decisions to be made right now, so many logistics to iron out, and there’s no guarantee that the grass will be greener on the other side — even a spray-painted green a la Harvard Yard.

Moving from college to the real world can feel like running full speed around a corner with nothing but the hope you won’t crash immediately. “You’re a small fish in a big pond,” they told us when we got here freshman year. Now the pond is about to grow infinitely bigger, and if you’re not fully content with your plans or rock-solid in your optimism, you may be left wondering, “Am I doomed to the life of a smaller and smaller fish? Did I work this hard just to be swallowed up in a sea already brimming with near-replicas of me and my accomplishments?” Four years of college and plenty of knowledge, just to be swept aside, unseasoned, like a plate of Red’s Best Catch in the dining hall tray return. That can’t be right.

It can be demoralizing to hold onto this uncertainty when it seems like everyone else is cruising down the collegiate home stretch. It can be even harder to admit it exists, pushing back against the fear of judgment or the worry of detracting from someone else’s well-earned spirit of celebration. But “semper veritas” requires a commitment to even the scariest of truths, and the truth is that change is uncomfortable and difficult to navigate.

So maybe some of us will take a bit longer to work out exactly what life will be like post-college, and maybe I will keep looking like a deer caught in headlights whenever a well-meaning underclassman starts asking for specifics. That’s just the name of the game. Before we know it, the Yard will finally have its real summer grass again, and we’ll all be on our way, figuring it out as we go.

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