Life After College: Three Ways to Prepare for What’s Next

There are many paths to choose from after graduating college, including graduate school, entering the workforce, traveling, or serving your country in some capacity. Similar to high school, the more time you take to prepare for your future, the less difficult those decisions may be. Luckily, your college or university will have plenty of people and resources that can help you find your ideal path after graduation. Here are three major options to choose after college: 

1. Continuing School: Keys for Graduate Education

Many professions, such as law or medicine, will require some graduate coursework before you can even apply for the job. If you chose one of those as your major, you probably already knew those requirements.

The appeal of college as an undergraduate is as broad as possible. For graduate course work, it should be much more specific. When considering a graduate program or school there are plenty of different questions to ask. Does my current school have a the right program for my interests or do I need to attend a different school? Does my program have additional requirements (GRE, LSAT, etc.) that I must complete beforehand? How many students does my program accept? Is there any funding available for me? Do I have to attend classes in person or is there an online track? Addressing these before applying are fundamental to picking the right program. The sole purpose of these programs is to provide more professional experience that can help in your career and increase your earnings. Knowing what works best for you and what works best for your future is an important part of the decision making process.

2. Tools to Pick the Right Career

The two outcomes that colleges value the most are how many people graduate and how many of them are employed after graduation. They place an extremely high value on these and have many resources dedicated to helping students in their next phase of life. As a senior, you should know what’s at your disposal. Here are three resources to consider:

1. Opportunities for Your Major – Every college has a connection with their local area that includes partnerships and research opportunities. They often build good relationships in the community because those who partner with the campus can hire new talent from recent graduates. Therefore, many major programs will have information about offers exclusive to your academic discipline. Get in contact with your department head to see what opportunities they may have available to you.

2. Your Career Center – Every university has a dedicated career center that’s sole purpose is preparing students for gaining employment. This can be limited to resume critiques or more involved like mock interviews and setting up networking opportunities. This is a valuable resource because they keep in contact with alumni who can give information about what it takes to make it into a career field. This helps the career center prepare students for a specific need such as working on a portfolio for an art school or mock interview questions from previous applicants. The more information you give them, the more they can assist you in finding and securing a job opportunity.

3. Attend a Career Fair – The career center will go above and beyond to help you prepare for what to do when you are applying for positions. They will also help with the hardest part, finding the companies that are hiring. Every year, companies will flock to college campuses in search of new talent to recruit either for internships or for job opportunities after graduation. Attending these is an essential step in preparing for the workforce after college. Many companies will stay and do first rounds of interviews based on the resumes that they receive. Keeping that in mind,  you should check for a list of companies that were invited and prepare copies of your resume to hand out. Bigger universities will also have industry specific fairs or online job fairs, so check to see what your campus has to offer.

3. Alternative Forms of Employment: the Choice to Serve

If graduate school or the traditional workforce do not immediately jump out to you, perhaps you are interested in the chance to serve, either through religious organizations, non-profit sectors, or through the government. One of the best and most secure ways to travel internationally is through service like a mission trip or through the Peace Corps. Both require you to stay and serve a community for a period of time ranging from weeks to a few years with the Peace Corps. Either option can be extremely rewarding for those who choose these options.

If you are planning to stay in the U.S., there are similar ways to serve through AmeriCorps programs or through fellowships that target underserved communities.

Another admirable option is serving in the armed forces. The military is always looking for new recruits and those with a college education become instantly valuable, given chances to rise up in the ranks faster than those who immediately enlist out of school. Talk with a recruiter if this is something that interests you.

Three Tips for Picking the Right Graduate Program

During your undergraduate studies, you are given time and space to determine what career path is right for you. One in three students will change their major during their time in college! While that is okay for a bachelor’s degree, you don’t have that same leniency with graduate programs. Graduate programs provide a lot of value and are required in many career fields. It is important that you find one that is worth your time and money. Here are three things to consider when making that decision.

1. Consider your desired career path and goals.

Woman looking out of an open window in front of her computer, pondering the paths she could take in life.There are many benefits to advanced degrees. Increased earnings, switching careers, and even personal goals can be a part of the decision to pursue a master’s degree or higher. To truly make the smartest choice you should factor in everything that you can. The primary benefit of a graduate education is very specialized knowledge that can benefit you or your career path. This can be as simple as a school principal versus elementary teacher. It can also be very specific like choosing a course that uses a unique coding program for one sole purpose. Take inventory of what your goals and needs are, then look at what various schools can provide you. Course listings are provided that give a synopsis of each course offered.

2. Fit your lifestyle.

Enrolling in an undergraduate program should be about the skills you will learn and the value you will receive from your education. Your graduate program doesn’t have to win you over with a nice gym or club sports, the program is the selling point. Therefore it is best to find what works the best for you and your profession. Location is a very important first factor to determine. Some programs are only offered in specific regions, like marine biology on the coasts. However, if your program can be more universal then you should focus on what makes the most sense. If a middle school in Springfield accepts teachers from Missouri State or Drury then you don’t necessarily need to go to Harvard or Yale for grad school.A black woman leading a business meeting and pointing at an easel of paper.

You should determine how your current schedule can accommodate the courses you’ll need to graduate, as well as your schedule. Many people begin graduate programs after having a full time job so they have to build their graduate class schedule around the demands of a job. This can mean taking courses solely online versus going to some in person throughout the week. The important thing to remember is to do what works for you and your schedule.

3. Build a long-term plan.

There are far more circumstances that you have to account for when planning your graduate education. Many people pursue this degree while working in their career field, so there is only a finite amount of time available. A black man mapping out something on sticky notes on a window. Additionally, while scholarships and grants for pursuing a graduate degree are available, there aren’t many of them, so financial decisions should be part of the process.

Before pursuing a grad program consider what is needed and at what timeframe. If you are looking for very specific instruction, make that a priority. If you are just getting the program but have no pressing need, then build your schedule that can maximize your ability to achieve and is the most financially advantageous.