Cynthia Sarver, Michigan State University
Like many academic advisors, I occasionally receive email messages from former students who are somewhat disillusioned by their first post-graduation jobs and speak with some nostalgia about their alma mater. After all, finding a job, meeting workplace expectations, relocating, seeking new friends, and planting roots are all hard work. This unsettling life transition is the theme of the Broadway musical, Avenue Q (Lopez, Marx, and Whitty, 2003), which was written for the twenties generation finding their way in an uncertain world. Avenue Q can be fictitiously found in the furthest and least expensive borough of New York City.
The Avenue Q song that captures the essence of this transition poses the question:
What do you do with a BA in English? What is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree. I can’t pay the bills yet ‘cause I have no skills yet. The world is a big, scary place... But somehow I can’t shake the feeling I might make a difference to the human race (Lopez, et al., 2003).
Amid the confusion and the search for personal meaning, this character (this generation?) is optimistic, confident, and willing to serve for the greater good [“When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself” (Lopez, et al., 2003).]
Reassuringly, Avenue Q credits academic advisors with making a difference in a small way in the lives of students. In the nostalgic song, “I Wish I Could Go Back To College,” a character wistfully sings, “I wish I could just drop a class or get into a play or change my major. I need an academic advisor to point the way” (Lopez, et al., 2003). I’d like to think that we do point the way for many students in both small and significant ways. As students leave the U for Avenue Q and other destinations, academic advisors must be sensitive to the reservations, the anticipatory jitters, and even the sense of denial that some graduating seniors feel and, if appropriate, invite them to share those feelings.
The Michigan State University (MSU) Alumni Association, in conjunction with the Senior Class Council, sponsors a series of seminars called “Getting Your Career Game Together. “ When they register for MSU’s eNews for Graduating Students, seniors can explore the Career Game Web site and choose to attend sessions that focus on pragmatic topics, such as "Relocating to a New Job and a New City," "Portfolio Development/Brag Book," "Managing Personal Finances," and "Consolidation of Student Loans" (www.msualum.com/careers/career-events.cfm).
Another MSU Alumni Association Web page, Preparation for Life After College, features thought-provoking passages from essays that offer encouragement, reassurance, and practical advice to the soon-to-be graduates. Examples include: "Attitude is Everything," "Instructions for Life," "No Excuses," "Your Power Grid," and "Mentors Play an Important Role on Your Road to Success" (www.msualum.com/careers/lifeafter.cfm).
My personal send-off to graduating advisees is brief and simple: “For those of you ready to start careers or graduate school, best of luck. For those of you searching for a job or a direction in life, don’t get discouraged; you’ll find your niche in the world. And as a small gift from me...here is a getting-through-your-twenties suggested reading list. [Editor’s note: see appendix at end of article for reading list.] Best wishes in your quest for personal and professional growth and satisfaction.”
Avenue Q ends on a positive note, as characters sing, “Don’t stress, relax, let life roll off your backs! Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now. Each time you smile, it’ll only last awhile. Life may be scary, but it’s only temporary. Everything in life is only for now” (Lopez, et al., 2003).
Michigan State University
Lopez, Robert (music and lyrics), Marx, Jeff (music and lyrics),& Whitty, Jeff (book). (2003). Avenue Q. Information available at www.avenueq.com/index.php.
Getting-through-your-twenties suggested reading list:
Michael Ball. (2003). @the Entry Level: On Survival, Success,&Your Calling as a Young Professional. Los Angeles: Pure Play Press.
Sasha Cagen. (2004). Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. San Francisco: Harper.
Rebecca Knight. (2003). A Car, Some Cash and a Place to Crash: The Only Post-College Survival Guide You’ll Ever Need. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Alexandria Robbins, and Abby Wilner. (2001). Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. New York: Penguin Putnam.
Jeff Taylor, Doug Hardy. (2004). Monster Careers: How to Land the Job of Your Life. New York: Penguin USA.
Ethan Watters. (2003). Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment. New York: Bloomsbury USA.
Cite this article using APA style as: Sarver, C. (2005, February). Leaving the u for avenue q. Academic Advising Today, 28(1). [insert url here]