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!
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.
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.
Creating a resume is the biggest wake up call of your life. Not only do you have to think of all the responsibilities you had—or didn’t have—at your last internship, but you need to find a way to stand out. Especially when writing a resume for the very first internship you’re applying for and the only work you’ve ever known is a good old fast food restaurant, it might be tempting to embellish or even lie. While you certainly have to sell yourself and prove to the potential employer that you can get the job done and done well, there are lots of tips and tricks to keep in mind when crafting your resume.
Most importantly, you have to tell the truth. Think of yourself as Pinocchio. Sure, embellishing your duties here and there might seem like no biggie. This particular interviewer might not call up your references and ask. That added skill that you don’t really have might not be needed for this job…but what if they do call? What if that skill’s needed? Adding to your resume might help get you an interview—or even the gig—but at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it. Knowing you lied might trip you up during the interview, especially if they call into question what you wrote (not that they’ll think you’re lying necessarily, they just need to know more sometimes). Honesty is really the best policy for jobs.
If you don’t have a lot of experience or feel like a particular internship didn’t give you a lot of responsibilities, don’t sweat it. Resumes should be limited to one page. Honestly, we’re in college—if you have that much more than a page worth of stuff to tell in a resume, I applaud you. Stick to the most relevant experiences you’ve had. Even if it was an award you won in high school or a major accomplishment, it can stay on—though eventually you’ll cut those things off as you grow in experience and more related qualifications. Instead of lying to fill out your one page, you can also discuss classes you’ve taken that are pertinent to the position. If you want to be a web design intern, add on your web design class. But also be weary of tacking on your whole schedule. Be choosy about what you list on your resume, and keep the unrelated or unhelpful off the page if possible.
In addition to being choosy about the positions you include, you have to be choosy about how you sell yourself. Your interviewer wants to get to know you—but in a work-based sense. Meaning keep your life story out of your resume! If you had a life changing trip to another country, great for you. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the page (unless you can add “speaks Italian” to your skill set or gained some kind of related experience while abroad). You don’t need to include a head shot, your random hobbies or even your likes about a particular internship. These things can come up in the interview—if they’re worthwhile—and that kind of talk can be saved for in-person.
The resume is all about the basics: who’d you work with, where did you work , when were you working there, what did you do there with a touch of why you’re qualified for the new position you’re interviewing for. For every internship or job you list, make sure to include all those details. Have at least three bullets for each describing—with action verbs, like “Researched this” and “Wrote that”–some, if not all, of your responsibilities. Include a skills section for specialties, like Adobe InDesign or html or any languages you may know. Don’t forget to have a section for your education, not just the school but possibly your GPA, if you’re on the dean’s list or anything that helps you stand out. You can also have an honors and awards section, which may include scholarships, any awards you’ve won, or any mentions of excellence. Every accomplishment, no matter how seemingly trivial, counts and can make the difference between you and another applicant.
At the end of the day, a resume is a sheet of paper. Yes, it is important and yes, you should spend the time and energy to make it look and sound nice and professional. But you in person is worth more than you on paper. So don’t sweat it if you don’t have any awards to your name or your skill set appears limited. Put yourself out there, let your personality shine in your interviews and don’t just let your resume do the talking.
Graduation is a bittersweet time of year. We know it’s coming all year long. In fact, if you think about it, we know it’s coming for at least 4 years leading up to it. Regardless, it’s still a shock when May rolls around and we have to say goodbye to the seniors—the ones we have looked up to and watched rule the school. Some students are sad—they already miss their friends and they haven’t even walked across the stage yet! Some students aren’t sad, but nervous. If seniors are graduating, that means they’re next; can they really be growing up that fast?
Whether or not the ceremony is filled with joy, or sadness, or just pure anxiety, graduation means different things to different students. It can affect us all- regardless of our year.
Graduation for seniors is about the next step. They are moving on and saying goodbye to their classes, their dorm rooms or school-houses, and hello to a job (hopefully), bills and real life. They are leaving their friends and meal plans and going into the real world to fend for themselves. Will they make it? Are they happy or scared? Are they wondering if they should have invested in the 5-7 year college plan instead of 4? It’s scary and different but can also be a breath of fresh air. Your senior friends can pat themselves on the back. They are walking away with an arsenal of knowledge, a college degree, and hopefully not too many student loans. Either way, they made it and should be incredibly proud. They can throw their cap up high!
For juniors, graduation is odd. It means your friends are leaving, you’re getting older, and somehow, someway, you’re next. In the blink of an eye you went from being a new kid on campus and barely making your way from class to class and now you’re just two short semesters away from the stage walk your friends are facing. There has to be a mistake? How would you have missed something as huge as three years of college? Could the old saying be true, and time really does fly when you’re having fun? Or, have you just been so busy working and studying that the last 6 semesters have slipped you by? Breathe. You will make it just fine. This is the last summer before your big year. Enjoy it, relax. When you return in the fall, it’s your time to shine and prepare to ride the rollercoaster of your senior year! It’s filled with emotions, ups and downs, and plenty of “real world” anxiety.
Sophomores are excited by graduation. They think to themselves, and announce of their facebook pages, “Whoo, I’m half way done with my college career”. Little do they know the next two years of their lives are about to pass by even faster than the previous two. Sophomore year was exciting. You finish the year, go home for summer and come back an upperclassman. It’s a strange but exciting feeling.
Freshmen might feel just about as weird as the seniors do when graduation rolls around. Didn’t they just graduate? How can it be May already, there is absolutely no way a whole year has past? Freshmen spend the year soaking up all that college has to offer. They study hard, meet new friends, and experience a whole new chapter of life. When May hits after their first year there really is no other option other than to just reflect and think back on everything you just spent the last 8 months doing. How did you do? Did you like it? Did you make it? How were your grades? Will you ever make it to where those old kids are in their college robes?
No matter what year you’re in, or how far you’ve made it in your college career, there is no denying how fast time flies. You made it through another year and summer is here once again. It’s quite an accomplishment and shouldn’t be taken lightly—even if you aren’t the one in the robes (yet—you’ll get there!).
Now is the time to breathe. Relax. Enjoy your summer, keep working hard—no matter what year you’re in, and stay positive. The 4 years of college are supposed to be fun, challenging, rewarding and exhausting all at the same time. It will fly, so you may not be the one the stage this year, but your time will come. Be prepared!
I’m reading Beginning and Intermediate Algebra
Right about now, you’re probably crawling out from underneath a pile of library books, term papers, and exam notes, feeling like you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. And you’re right, the school year is almost over, which means that if you’re a senior, you’ll be graduating soon. Congratulations!
While you should reward yourself for completing your degree program, don’t take a break for too long. There are many other details that need your attention now that school is winding down. To make it easier for you, we’ve put together a College Graduate checklist that will help make the transition in the “real world” a little bit easier.
5 Things Every College Grad Needs After Graduation
Job Search Tools
You might have already started your job search, but if not, now’s the time. For a successful job search, you’ll need a polished resume, 3-4 professional references, and a strong professional network. If you’ve never compiled a resume, you should be able to get some free guidance at your school’s career center. Professors, former employers, and student organization supervisors all make great references, so check in with those individuals now to see if they’ll speak on your behalf. As for networking, start with references, colleagues, coaches, and anyone else you’ve collaborated with in the past four years. Contact them about your job search, connect with them on LinkedIn, and pick their brain for any tips or job opportunities they know of.
If you’ve been living in the dorms the past four years, one of the first things you need to do before graduation is line up a place to live. Finding an apartment that fits your needs and price range can take a few weeks, so get started now. Make a list of what you want, what you don’t want, and start contacting apartment companies. Don’t forget that you’ll need money for a security deposit (anywhere from a month to two month’s rent), basic furniture (this is where futons come in handy) and to get the utilities (electricity, water, gas and cable) turned on in your name.
While you were in college, chances are that you were on your parent’s health insurance. The good news is that you can stay on you’re their plan for a few more years, until you’re 26, so if the internship or job you’re starting after graduation doesn’t offer a plan, you’re covered. If you do decide to switch insurance plans to what you’re employer is offering, make sure there are no gaps in your coverage, as that can currently affect your ability to receive treatment for pre-existing conditions.
A Work Wardrobe
Even if you luck out and land a job at a company with a relaxed dress code, you’ll still need a good suit or two for client meetings, corporate events, and business trips. Business clothes are expensive, so maximize your dollars by buying one or two suits in neutral colors, like black or gray, and variety of dress shirts in a different colors.
I know retirement probably seems very far away. But now is actually a crucial time in your retirement planning. Putting away a set amount each month, no matter how small, can have a huge impact on how much you’ll have when that golden day arrives. If you’re employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, getting started should be pretty easy. If not, you can meet with a financial advisor and get started on your own.
I know the items on this checklist might seem overwhelming, but with the help of those who have gone before you (parents, an older sibling, an aunt or uncle) it’s all very doable, and the sooner you start, the easier your transition will be. Good luck!
Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you.