Why does leaving school (or college, university, job, the family home for the first time)—feel both so good and so bad at the same time? Why, when things are coming to an end, to an expected end rather than a sudden surprising one, do we generally feel happy and sad in almost equal measure?
No simple answer
There is no straightforward answer to the questions above. If you asked professionals who deal with such issues they would struggle to answer too.
But, most people would agree that it is human nature for us each to look forward to some things and dread others. And, our feelings change over time too. Also, what one person is dreading will be fervently desired by someone else.
Looking forward to leaving (or not)
So, if you were to look around a typical classroom in the first term of the final year of school, you might find:
- 1/3rd of the pupils actively looking forward to leaving school
- 1/3rd dreading leaving
- 1/3rd who haven’t really thought about it and are hiding from doing so
If you looked at the same group of people six months later, just before leaving, the proportion who haven’t thought about it would have dropped, but the balance will still be almost equally split. But, many who were dreading it are now looking forward to it and vice versa.
Looking back, having left
After leaving most have mixed feelings about it. If you could check back with the same now ex-pupils a month or so after leaving positive and negative feelings will be found in almost all of the people. They will mostly be happy to be doing what they are now doing but sad to have left the school environment. They will have started to make new friends but miss their old school-mates. Some of the constraints they felt when at school will probably feel like freedom now.
There will always be exceptions. For people who hated school all the way through, leaving was an unalloyed joy and will always remain so. Those who loved school and the relationships they had with friends and teachers will always look back and cry at the memory of leaving.
Buying leavers hoodies – FOMO or not
When the time comes, and the option to order a leavers hoodie comes round, leavers are still unsure whether they are going to love leaving school, hate it, or be relatively un-fussed. So, at this stage, the motivation to order is often just fear of missing out (FOMO).
When pupils get to the end of the final term, almost all will be happy to have the hoodie. Whether or not the individual is more or less pleased to be leaving doesn’t matter in the end. The leaver’s hoodie is a reminder of what was: what has happened, and the people the events of the last few years were shared with.
So, while the motivation to buy might be FOMO, the feeling when the hoodies turn up is much more positive. And, every time it is worn after leaving, the great memories it evokes of events and people at school will bring a smile to the wearers face.
Quotes about leaving & school
To try to capture some of the feelings people have had about leaving, and especially leaving school, we have collated a few quotes. A few others “sneaked in” because we thought they were relevant to the topic if not directly related.
Disclaimer about quote attribution: Quotes that are attributed to people haven’t been checked against multiple sources to ensure they are correctly attributed. If you have evidence that we have incorrectly attributed a quote please let us know. If you know who said or wrote the unattributed quotes please let us know that too. In both cases, we will update the page if appropriate.
“Leaving is hard to do.”
“No matter how much you think you hate school, you’ll always miss it when you leave”
“I am happy to be leaving school but sad to be leaving the people who I’ve made all these memories with.”
“School may be hard, annoying and irritating. But admit it, you are going to miss it when it ends.”
“Leaving school and starting college is like entering a new world full of opportunities.”
“The thought of leaving school at the end of this year and hopefully going to college just hit me and its quite scary to be honest but I like it.”
“Leaving everyone behind to go to college has really made me realize who my true friends are.”
“When I say I miss school, I mean my friends and the fun. Not the studying part.”
“School is like a lollipop. It sucks until it is gone.”
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”—Marian Wright Edelman
“All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.”—Amelia Barr
“My favorite college experience was probably leaving college.”—Marshawn Lynch
“Sometimes, it takes leaving to gain some perspective. I see that clearly every time I leave Washington, D.C., and return to Indiana. I see the bizarre bubble that seems to enclose the Beltway and makes people forget what regular people care about.”—Evan Bayh
“However painful the process of leaving home, for parents and for children, the really frightening thing for both would be the prospect of the child never leaving home.”—Robert Neelly Bellah
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest thing in the world.”—John Green
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”—Paulo Coelho
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”—Dr. Seuss
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”—Semisonic
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”—Oscar Wilde
“The two hardest things to say in life is hello for the first time and goodbye for the last.”—Moira Rogers
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”—Lao Tzu
“Instruction ends in the schoolroom, but education ends only with life.”—Frederick W. Robertson
“You don’t go to university so you can punch a clock. You go to university so you can be in a position to make a difference.”—Janet Napolitano
“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”—Senator Orrin Hatch
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”—C.S. Lewis
“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”—Michael Josephson
“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.”—Anthony Robbins
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”—Mark Twain
“Your families are extremely proud of you. You can’t imagine the sense of relief they are experiencing. This would be a most opportune time to ask for money.”—Gary Bolding
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”—Henry Ford
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”—Alexander Graham Bell
“Let us never be betrayed into saying we have finished our education; because that would mean we had stopped growing.”—Julia H. Gulliver
“Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”—Erma Bombeck
“One of the most important things, especially when you’re leaving school, is to realize you’re going to be dealing with a lot of idiots. And a lot of those idiots are in charge of things, so if you’re in an interview and you really want to tell the person off, don’t do it.”—Lewis Black
“My school days were the happiest days of my life; which should give you some indication of the misery I’ve endured over the past twenty-five years.”—Paul Merton
“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. “—Hussein Nishah