For most teenagers, college is the next step in life after high school. You fill out several applications, receive a few acceptance letters, make the choice of which college or university you wish to attend and soon enough, you are are packing your bags and off to a new adventure.

Dorm life is exciting for a little while, as you and your roommate turn the room into your own sanctuary. You invite friends over for movie nights and study groups, bicker about whose turn it is to do the dishes and then run off to attend the week’s festivities after classes are over for the day.

Parties are fun for a bit, but they become less of a priority and more of a pastime, as you become more invested in your classes. Now your time is filled up with deadlines for projects and presentations, along with pulling some all-nighters in order to study for those big exams that make up the majority of your grade.

Before you know it, you are putting together your portfolio and filling out job applications months before graduation. Then graduation is finally here, and you wonder how you got to this point so quickly. All of the memories come flooding back, and you wish you could have made more, but time did not allow for it.

Everyone is asking what the next step is after graduation, and you give them a good response, but in your head that may not be what you truly believe. Now you are faced with a harsh reality that consists of paying off your student loans, along with a few more responsibilities that come with life after college.

For one particular student, she decided to further her education while stepping into that adult life that we will all have to face sooner or later.

Morgan Ray was a student at the University of West Alabama from 2012 to 2016. During her time here, Ray was also an athlete. She lettered in varsity volleyball all four years as a Tiger, while majoring in exercise science.

“After graduation, I started working at a doctor’s office, and now I am currently enrolled at Lipscomb University, in Nashville,Tennessee, in their master’s program for Nutrition and Exercise Sciences,” Ray said.

Ray had a reasonable response when asked about her transition from college life to what she is now doing. “At first when I was working, it was a whole different feeling to go to work every day with long hours and being responsible for more things, but now being in school again it is the same as when I was at UWA,” Ray said. “I just carried the responsibilities I had from work with me.”

However, Ray did admit the most difficult thing to deal with was not having her mom to do all of the little things for her, forcing her to do more on her own. On the flip side, her easiest decision was actually moving to Nashville on her own, because that has been something that she has wanted to do since she was in middle school.

Now that graduation is near for many of us, it is time to make decisions on our own that are in our best interests. Will we always make the right decisions? Probably not. Although, we will not know what is truly right for us until we decide to make a move and learn from others who have been in our shoes.

“My advice to future alumni would be to look for opportunities and experiences to build up a resume,” Ray said. “Also, relax if things start to get stressful. Just remember things will work out and tomorrow is a new day. And if you want something, work as hard as you can. Hard work pays off and does not go unrecognized.”

by Abby Ames
Photo credit to: Morgan Ray

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