graduation

College Friends in the Post College World

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Attend any high school graduation ceremony across the country and you’re likely to observe the same scene; girls in tight embrace, the football team coming together for one last huddle, scores of students weeping. Instead of a scene of jubilation, many of these rituals resemble a wake as people realize that this is the death of many of their friendships. There may be a few best friends that attend the same university or a handful of delusional couples that swear their high school relationships can survive a freshman year of new guys and winking sorority girls, but most accept the reality that they will grow up and thus, grow apart.

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Though we may have a better hold on our emotions in our early twenties, the scenario remains the same. Post collegiate commencement, we will continue to grow. While the leap from high school to college mainly meant being in new surroundings, the growth that transpires after college graduation takes us somewhere much larger; the real world. Once in that real world, we migrate to many different places.

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Take for example, the case of my undergrad best friend and myself. Once outside the halls of higher education, we grew in two opposite directions. While I got married to a southern belle, sired a future sorority president and eased into domestic life at 31, she maintained the single persona, moving out of our home city and remaining a mainstay at happy hours and ladies nights any day of the week. Both lifestyles are suitable for each of us as there is no handbook on how a thirty year old is supposed to act, however the stumbling block appears when we talk on the phone. While I’m not really interested in “Oh my God, two of my exes were in the same bar at the same time last night and last night was Monday”, I’m sure she is less than excited by “I’m up to my arms in baby poop and statistics homework.” Things become even more convoluted when we are in person, as the idea of a fun night for one of us is to storm the college bar for $5 pitchers and cheese fries while the other would rather be tucked away in an art gallery for a local artist’s opening. I’ll allow you to guess who prefers what.

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The moral of the story is that while you and you’re college roomie may be as thick as thieves in the current, post college growth finds us all. In our institutional lives, personalities may be the bookends of the spectrum, but the bond is the school you call home. In the post graduate world, that bond disappears and the life blood of a friendship depends on common interest. Although there is not much one can do to stop the growth process, it is manageable. Just as there were different tables in the high school cafeteria (the jocks, the preppies, the theatre folk) so too are there tables in the post graduate world. Today when I wish to lament about my daughter’s struggle to sleep through the night, I look to my friends sitting at the “We Have Kids Your Kid’s Age, We Feel You Bro” table. When looking for companionship at football tailgate, I drift to the “No Kids, Just Career” table. Lastly, when I’m in a mood that makes me reminiscent of my days as an undergraduate, fraternity scoundrel, I dip to the “It’s Still 2003, Let’s Get Crunk” table, where I find my undergraduate best friend, with smile on her face and beer in her hand. You see reader, the trick to growing up isn’t how to keep from losing friends, it’s how to craft a three dimensional life where everything has its own, awesome place.

Till Death (or graduation) Do You Part – Selecting a Research Topic

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The topics you studied in the general ed classes of your undergraduate years were one night stands; fun for the semester, but rarely thought about after. Selecting a research topic in grad school is the equivalent of dating in your late twenties; you’re looking for something serious that through all the toils and trials, will stand the test of time.

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Picking a subject that already has a fair amount of existing research is usually a smart way to begin your academic marriage. This probably seems counterproductive as you are thinking “Why would I pick something that already has been researched to death? What could I possibly discover.”As any experienced student will tell you, the starting point of all research papers is the literature review: the portion of the paper where you cite the works of people much smarter and more accomplished than yourself. One day, some wet behind the ears first year may be citing one of your many published works but for now, your professor is going to expect a certain number of citations to earn a passing grade. So while the 14th century mating habits of the indigenous people of Utah may sound like a winning topic, if your EBSCOhost search returns only three results, you my want to venture in a different direction.

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When you reach a certain age, you’re going to want to expand your family from just you and your partner, to a few children and maybe a corgi. As with your relationship, you’ll find it wise to select a topic in which you can branch out on during your time in your program. Keeping in mind you are selecting a thesis that you’ll be with from your intro class to your capstone, you most certainly will want one that will give you the most milage. My topic area of Greek Life has spawned research projects on diversity, privilege, academic success and hazing ethics. You and your topic will be expected to reproduce numerous times during your program, so pick one that is fertile.

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The most important aspect in choosing your topic area, is selecting something you are actually interested in. As with your significant other, you’re going to spend much time with your research topic. All of those long evenings hunched over your laptop in a coffee house or late nights closing down the library will be much more enjoyable if you’re studying something that piques and holds your attention. Just as passion fuels the fires of your romances, may it incite your academic pursuits as well.

Is College Worth It?

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Some say college may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly worth your time and money. Granted, the rising cost of tuition and other college expenses isn’t cheap, but there are far more benefits to earning a degree than not. Not only will there be a greater increase in economic mobility after graduation, but college is also perfect for meeting new people, networking and landing that dream job.

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Statistically, those who graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree made  98 percent more  than those who only had a high school diploma. Those are some good odds! One study also found that those who finished at a four year institution were expected to earn 1.2 million more than those who didn’t.

The advantages of college doesn’t just stop at higher pay grades. It has overall life benefits as well. They are said to be happier and healthier due to better access to healthcare and the ability for more leisure activities.

If paying for college is an issue, there are many avenues you can take to make the situation less of a burden. There are a whole range of scholarships offered to incoming freshman based on what you are majoring in or your age. Checking the colleges’ webpage will give you a better understanding of what is being offered.  Another route is through loans that can be found with low interest and financial aid. If you are working during the school year, many loan companies will allow you to pay the interest on the loan; cutting the price upon graduation.

In the end, college is an investment and with all investments, there are possible risks. But what can be more important than an investment in yourself?

Graduation Bucket List: How Your Final Year in College SHOULD Be

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You’ve made it this far.  You’re one year away from graduation, and aside from feeling anxious and excited, you’ve also got that bittersweet feeling that won’t go away.  Where will your friends be next year?  Where will you be?

Well, don’t think about that right now.  Make your senior year something memorable, something you will value for years to come.  You don’t want to remember your senior year as the year you worried about everything coming after it.  Consider these three points to make your final year the best it can be:

1.     Commit a moderate amount of time to studying

Whether you’re under-loading on classes your final semesters, writing a thesis, or taking a normal class load, you still can’t forget that your last set of grades are just as important as the rest.  Spend a considerable amount of time making sure you get your work in by your deadlines (no Senioritis, thank you!), and if you happen to slip up a couple times, just don’t make a habit of it.  It’s important to keep up your grades and sense of commitment to your courses.  After all, you’re going to need that same type of discipline after you graduate.

2.     Be sure to get out and have fun

Sometimes people focus too much on work, and don’t get out with their friends to have a good time once in a while.  Don’t overdo it (partying all nights of the weekend every weekend is a bit excessive for any year of college).  Find a good balance between work and play.  That is true for your college experience in general.  By senior year you should have a good grasp of that—however, most seniors are newly 21 and might go out more often than before due to less drinking restrictions.  Just have good sense and judgment.  You know how much work has been required in your last three years.  Be sure to go off of that so you can gauge how much time you’ll need to commit to everything else.

3.     Stay in your extracurricular activities

If you start to feel burnt out of everything you’re involved in after class, think hard about what you still want to be involved in.  Being in a club or other campus organization for multiple years is a great way to gain experience in that field and also looks good on a resume.  But don’t stay just for the resume boost.  Unless you realize the groups you’re involved with are no longer of interest to you, I highly recommend retaining your level of commitment to them.  Don’t get too lazy your senior year, otherwise you could end up quite bored.  It’s all about maintaining a sense of consistency across your four years.

You want your senior year to stand out, but you also don’t.  Find that equilibrium.  Be sure to study hard, but also to play hard, and graduate from your school with a bang.  Your last year should be the pinnacle, representative of the most recent and lasting memories you have of your undergraduate career.  Make this one count!

Should Fine Arts Majors Pursue MFAs?

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We’ve heard it before.  You’re sitting perhaps at the library, in the dining hall, or somewhere else around campus and you hear the conversation between the biology/pre-med student and the art major.  They’re having a “colorful” argument about who’s bound to get the higher-paying job.  Sometimes it’s not a specific conversation you hear, but just a general consensus at school that pre-business, pre-law, and pre-med students will naturally earn more money in the long run.

When it comes down to it, this could be true a lot of the time.  Working in a much-needed field usually renders an opportunity to land a job sooner and with higher benefits.  So for us arts majors (I’m currently studying Creative Writing and Dance at my school), we are left with a dilemma:  are our futures unsecured?

Not necessarily.  When you get creative (literally), you’ll find that there are a lot of opportunities you can have as a fine arts student.  Just because you may not be attending a conservatory or an arts school doesn’t mean you won’t have job security (and likewise, just by attending one of those schools doesn’t always guarantee you will have job security).

In the end, it comes down to your own abilities and skills.  However, some people think that’s not enough, and hence we introduce the Master of Fine Arts option (MFA).

There are various reasons that arts majors prefer to go to graduate school for an MFA.  The benefits include:

The opportunity to harness your skills in an educational setting for a little while longer

The possibility of more job security if the employer is looking for someone with a higher degree than just an associate’s or bachelor’s

The possibility of more job security if the employer is looking for someone with a higher degree than just an associate’s or bachelor’s

The potential for higher pay

The ability to teach at a university (graduate degrees are required to do so)

It’s great for your resume in general

Many MFA programs (like in Creative Writing, for example) will cover much, if not all, of the cost to attend

However, given the possible benefits, there are also drawbacks to consider when looking at programs:

The cost to apply (application fee + ordering official transcripts, if required)

The cost to attend (if not enough financial aid is offered)

If a future employer is choosing based primarily on talent and skill, an MFA does not always cut it (great for the resume, but only your work samples will push you to the top)

Even with an MFA, if an employer would like to see someone with experience, your education level does not always suffice

As a rising senior at my university, I am also in this dilemma.  It requires quite a chunk of change to apply to these programs.  I also need to consider the fact that an MFA might help my resume, but based on where I apply to work, I could also need prior experience in my field.

The Solution? 

Feel free to apply to a few MFA programs your senior year, perhaps the ones you want to go to most.  If you get into some, that’s great—but if not, you now have plenty of opportunities to gain experience in the working world.  Your GRE scores are good for five years as well, so you don’t have to retake that graduate school exam during that period of time.  Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, after you decide to go for an MFA later on your employer may pay some, or all, of your tuition.

Many MFA programs, after all, are like employers in a sense.  They like to see someone with experience in their field as well—and both have the ability to benefit you in the course of your career.