Stress of post-graduation plans starts settling in

Upperclassmen face challenges in securing jobs, graduate school acceptances

Callie Ramsey

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As students rise in seniority and begin weighing career paths and graduate programs, the different challenges and timelines of each come into focus and the stress sets in.

“As a junior who is still trying to figure out what I want to do, it can be stressful seeing others getting internships and job offers,” Andriana Bove, ‘17, said.

Director of Career Development and Associate Dean of Students John Jensen works closely with students as they consider postgraduate opportunities.

“The overarching theme is that students really need to be comfortable in the decisions they are making,” Jensen said. “Once they are comfortable, that stress dissipates.”

The Career Development Center has been seeing an increasing number of students, Jensen said, and they are coming in much earlier in the process. Career development had 1,500 student appointments in fall 2015, versus 1,200 student appointments in the academic year 2013-2014.

Career Development recently hired Molly Steele, ‘04, to work with students majoring in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields.

Students who know they want to enter the workforce immediately after graduation devote much thought and effort to securing internships and job offers before graduation. Once a student decides which industry to pursue, he or she faces a specific recruiting and application timeline.

Some industries, such as finance, which recruits in the fall of junior year, stress a junior year internship more than others. Jensen said that the finance internship is important because the industry has a high level of conversion to full time jobs from internships.

For other industries, the junior year internship is not as important in securing a full-time offer post-graduation. Students interested in consulting, for example, apply for internships early in the second semester of their junior year, and then go through recruitment for a full-time position in the fall of their senior year.

The early finance recruiting timeline may give students who are truly interested in other industries a sense of pressure to apply for finance internships before applying to the other industries in the winter.

“If a student is also interested in consulting, PR, marketing, engineering, government-related jobs, et cetera, they have to be comfortable with not applying to those banks, but applying for things they are really interested in,” Jensen said. “We help students work through those risk, reward dilemmas.

Although there are advertising internships, the industry rarely converts junior interns into full-time hires so interested students must apply or reapply in the winter of senior year.

Agencies often hire as they develop openings, so applicants are typically asked to start immediately. This means seniors trying to go into advertising may graduate without an offer.

“I think a lot of advertising students get very stressed because there is a real probability that you’re graduating without a job,” Jensen said. “Not that you don’t have a plan, or any leads, or any potential interviews lined up.”

Paige Richards, ‘16, knows that she wants to pursue advertising despite the uncertainty of the hiring process.

“It’s definitely hard waiting, especially when a lot of people already have jobs and don’t really understand that ad agencies hire so late,” Richards said. “But it’s something I’ve accepted so I don’t think I will be extremely stressed until a couple weeks before graduation.”

Richards said that since there is so much uncertainty about graduating with an offer from an advertising firm she is looking for internships in advertising. The industry is beginning to extend full time offers to interns at the end of the summer.

But applying to Ph.D. programs requires a much different process. Kelly Douma, ‘16, is applying to history Ph.D. programs and said that students select programs based upon faculty within the program with whom they hope to work, not necessarily on the reputation of the school.

For instance, Douma is applying to history Ph.D. programs that have an Early Modern German History professor because that is what she wants to research. Douma said it is important to consider whether the program is more oriented towards teaching or researching.

The application deadlines for most humanities and social science Ph.D. programs fall throughout December and early January. Students expect to begin receiving answers in February, but could find out as late as the end of March.

Douma said that although there is no Common Application for graduate programs, most applications are similar and require GRE scores, a letter of intent and a writing sample.

But the biggest complication in applying is the cost, Duoma said, who spent about $1,000 applying to programs. She said it costs $200 to take the GRE, $30 per school to send a GRE score, and application fees range from $85 to $100.

“Cost definitely limited the number of places I applied,” Douma said. “I had to balance reach schools with schools where I think I can get in.”

Stephanie Foster, ‘17, went through the law school application process in the fall. Law school applications are slightly different because they have rolling deadlines, so students may hear back as soon as two weeks after submitting an application.

Foster said that typically, however, students receive answers later because schools like to evaluate the entire application pool.

The application costs can be just as high for law school as for doctorate programs. Stephanie Foster, ‘17, said that it costs $30 to submit a CAS or LSAT score, and an application fee can range from $30 to $100.

“I was lucky enough to be given fee waivers at a good number of schools,” Foster said. “And my recommendation to anyone considering applying to law school would be to contact each school on your list and ask if they would be willing to give you a fee waiver.”

The different timelines can be a source of stress for students, Jensen said. But he hopes that working closely with career development alleviates that stress, and ensures students are making choices for the right reasons.

When asked whether the different timelines for recruiting and applying to jobs and programs influences sophomores and juniors trying to pick majors and career paths, Jensen said simply that it did not and it should not.

“For those [students] we don’t see, I think there is probably a lot of nervousness around finding an internship and there are situations where students will make a choice based on, not what their gut or their heart says, but what their friends are doing,” Jensen said. “Career Development is really trying, I am personally really trying, to change that mentality.”

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