PhDStudent.com, is geared towards graduate students who are looking for tools and resources to help them do their best in grad school. However, I feel that it’s important to also write for undergraduates who are looking forward to applying for grad school. Read the following to learn about how to pace yourself throughout undergraduate school, whether you attend a community college or a 4-year university, and how to have the right mindset about life after graduation.
When To Think About It
If you are still in the early years of your college career, thinking early about what you want to do after graduating with your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree might feel ahead of schedule. However, pacing yourself throughout your undergraduate years can help take the pressure off at the end. In addition, some preparation for graduate school can take a large part or even your whole undergraduate career (e.g., research internships, grades, etc.). If you begin thinking about post-graduation plans during your first semester or two, then you’ll feel more comfortable about your decisions by the time you’re purchasing your cap and gown. Here are a few things you can do to practically plan for graduation:
- Talk to your advisors, faculty, and staff about career opportunities in your field. Talking to people who have been in the workforce for a while will help you practice networking and will allow for you to make connections early. You never know–a professor or advisor might know a manager at a company that’s in your field. The earlier you make these connections and begin talking with people in your field, the more likely they are to help you after graduation, whether they hire you or recommend you to other companies for internships or jobs.
- Pinpoint exactly what you want to do in your career. Understandably, many college students don’t know specifically what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They tend to change their majors and wait on something to give them a sign of what they’re supposed to do in their careers. However, if you wait too long and don’t proactively explore what you want to do by taking different classes, talking with advisors and professors, and connecting with professionals in your field early, then you might end up unnecessarily graduating later than you intend. Graduating late isn’t always a bad thing, but try to proactively find out how you want to spend your life early so you can avoid late starts to your career.
- Explore your options during school. Many college students decide to work while in school, which is a great opportunity to test your skills for future careers. I suggest applying for on-campus jobs that pertain to your field; if you do your research, you might even be able to find something in your own department. If you land a job at a place that does not pertain to your field, spend your time wisely, showcasing your skills and strong work ethic, and continue to find other jobs that will help boost your resume during college.
How To Think About It
The main word that I would like to use for this section is “realistic.” I’m not saying that you can’t do anything you put your mind to, but you need to realize what you can and can’t handle. Here’s a more tangible example of realistic dreaming. Let’s say that an undergraduate student wants to pursue a career in the hotel industry and wants to build his own international hotel chain from scratch. He has heard from family that he can do anything he wants, but he has also heard from peers and professors that the hotel industry is a difficult one, and building one from scratch, let alone managing a hotel is extremely difficult. Starting his freshman year, he talks with advisors about his dream and starts building his resume for summer internships. Eventually, he makes it to his senior year with two summer internships, a part-time job working at a local hotel, and memberships in a few on-campus hospitality organizations. The hotel wants to hire him as an entry-level hotel clerk after he graduates.
He spent his college years gaining experience and skills in the hotel business, so you might think that he’s on track to achieving his dream. However, he has kept a realistic attitude about his dream. He has not given up on his dream, but he knows that where he ends up could be completely different from where he wanted to be. For instance, he now wants to attend graduate school, which he didn’t want to do before, to gain even more education and experience in the hotel and hospitality business. He still thinks his dream is possible, but only if he works for it; at the same time, he knows that different things can get in the way (e.g., school, family, finances, etc.) and that his dream might need to be placed on hold.
One of the many keys to success is being realistic with your goals and achievements, so start there, and see where it takes you. What are/were some of your aspirations as an undergraduate student? How did they change?