5 Essential Tasks to Complete Before College Graduation
How you spend your senior year of college can significantly affect your career prospects after you graduate. Here are some tasks to keep in mind as you finish your degree and prepare to enter the “real world” after college graduation.
Whether it is your fourth or sixth year as a college student, it is natural to feel burnt out, exhausted by your studies, and overwhelmed by the thought of your impending future. Don’t worry! There are several things you can do during your final year of college that can help you make a smooth transition into the professional world. This article outlines simple, feasible tips that will guide you through this pivotal phase.
1. SOLIDIFY RELATIONSHIPS
The relationships you cultivate during college can be the foundation of your professional network. You want to solidify and strengthen these connections, not let them wither in the busyness of your senior year. If your current network isn’t as strong as you’d like, it’s not too late to build it up. There are a plethora of opportunities for light networking during your senior year. Building a solid community around yourself is likely to not only benefit your future but may also provide you with a more enjoyable and connected experience while you’re still a student.
The relationships you build should include your professors and fellow classmates. Many students continue to keep in touch with their professors and fellow alumni for years after graduating. A professor might provide you with guidance once you begin looking for work or even provide a letter of recommendation. Also, keeping in touch with your fellow classmates may provide you with a networking connection you never anticipated to need. When seeking networking connections, note the friends and professors who make you feel most comfortable and heard.
Senior year, if not before, is also great time to take advantage of your college’s alumni network. Many colleges offer events such as alumni career fairs that may give you an opportunity to meet alumni in person who may be pursuing careers that you’re interested in. Check with your college’s career office to see what alumni resources it offers. You might also want to check to see if your college maintains an alumni database or hosts alumni networking events. Another way to find and connect with alumni is through LinkedIn or other social media.
Some colleges have a designated alumni center. If that isn’t the case at your college, it is likely to have a career center that can connect you with alumni, as well as provide career workshops, advice, and counseling. As you build your network, you may also find a mentor, whether a professor, academic advisor, or alumnus, who may be able to help you identify and achieve academic and career goals, assist you in senior-year class selections, advise you on what internships to pursue, and provide future career advice.
2. BUILD YOUR RESUME
When you begin looking for a job after graduation, you might find that some employers are looking for soft skills, such as creativity, work ethic, and initiative. Being a college graduate from an accredited degree program may convey many skills and qualities in itself, but you will further demonstrate them senior year by working part time or getting more involved with clubs, internships, and volunteering.
In your last year of college, consider becoming more involved or taking on a leadership role in a club or other extracurricular activity, or volunteering on campus or in the local community. If time permits, consider jumping into a new activity—perhaps your school paper or journal If your college or major incorporates constructive volunteering opportunities into your curriculum, take advantage of them now.
More importantly, internships, while time consuming and at times not financially fruitful, are often viewed favorably by employers. In fact, students who participated in internships are estimated to have a 12.6% better chance of getting a job interview compared to those without internship experience. While not all internships may be aligned with your interests, they can be beneficial in terms of gaining work experience, making connections, and perhaps even redirecting your career goals in an unexpected direction.
If internships or extracurriculars are not possible because you work part time, don’t worry. Working while in school can show potential employers your work ethic, initiative, and time management skills. Also, working while in school may allow you to explore entry level jobs in your field and gain valuable work experience, apply theoretical coursework in a practical setting, and network with your employer and co-workers. Developing a good relationship with your employer can lead to an offer of full-time employment and a good reference.
3. SUBMIT YOUR WORK
By the end of your college career, you may have produced research papers, case studies, or creative projects for your various classes. Depending on the scope, type, quality, innovativeness, and ownership in such work, you may consider submitting it to a journal, magazine, or website for publication. Publishing a piece of work — even if it is a small publication or website — can be a great addition to your resume and/or portfolio There also may be connections you can forge in the process of these projects, as you may need to conduct interviews, or consider others’ advice and feedback in the process. Indeed.com, a global job search platform, provides great tips on how to get your work published as an undergraduate student.
4. BUDGET AND SAVE
It is important to set a realistic budget for yourself during and after college. If you haven’t followed a budget before, senior year is a great time to start. Whether your parents are helping you with your college expenses, you are participating in work-study, or you have a steady part-time job, no one is exempt from the advantages of budgeting.
For students who move off campus, as many seniors do, budgeting can be even more important. Moving into an apartment can bring on new expenses, such as housing supplies, groceries, furnishings, and transportation. Taking on the responsibility of managing your finances — and perhaps paying bills like rent and utilities for the first time — should help prepare you for more financial responsibilities post undergrad.
While it may seem impossible, your last year of college is a great time to start saving and budgeting for life after college, especially since many students need to start paying student loans less than a year after they graduate. For some people, the state of their finances can affect their general well-being. Some ways you can prepare for your financial future and general well-being are saving money, building a good credit history, and choosing the student loan repayment plan that best suits your financial situation.
5. FIND YOUR BALANCE
There will always be some action you can take to better yourself and your future. It is easy to get caught up in finishing up senior year on a strong note, preparing for graduation, participating in various graduation activities, finding a job or preparing for grad school. But it’s also important to find balance between your personal and professional goals. Chances are, you’ve been learning how to balance your academic and social life for the past four years of college — and this in itself is preparation for the perpetual circumstance you will encounter as you work various jobs in the future. Don’t forget to live in the moment once in a while, take time for yourself, and enjoy your college life. Your years of undergrad are coming to an end: hold them dear and value them.