The most important things college seniors should do during their final fall semester
This post is sponsored by the GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council), the makers of the GMAT exam, but our opinions are our own.
After the fraught college search, the stressful dorm move-in and the many tearful goodbyes, your young adult has hopefully settled into an amazing and productive four years as a college student. But we all know that college is just the preamble to “real life.” And, before you can even adjust to your kids being college freshmen, in the proverbial blink of an eye, they are seniors, and college graduation is looming large on the horizon. Here is our best advice to them.
Make sure that you are on track to graduate. Make an appointment for a pre-graduation check with your advisor and go over the classes you need to graduate and to complete your major. There is no greater buzz-kill than finding out that you are a class short during spring semester! If you are off track, find out what you need to do to get back on track. Also, see if your school offers a graduation seminar to help prepare you for what awaits you.
Find A Job
Seniors, hit the job market hard. While not always possible, if you can have a job lined up by the time second semester rolls around, you will be able enjoy your final semester. Here are some tips:
- Set up or update LinkedIn and update your resume.
- Participate in mock interviews to hone your interview skills.
- Don’t shy away from taking take full advantage of the career counseling services offered at your school. They are there to help you.
- Work your networks, including your school’s alumni network. Don’t be afraid to use whatever connections you have, because you will find that relationships are critical to success in the real world.
- You will soon need work/interview attire. By shopping throughout the year, you will take the sting out of buying a completely new wardrobe next year. It will be less overwhelming and more affordable, especially since you can still use your college discounts at many retail stores.
- Don’t worry about that first job being the perfect job. The reality is that by the time you are a few years out, most people have changed jobs and already gone on to something else. So, don’t become paralyzed with indecision. While taking a certain job may involve closing some options, it will open others.
Apply to Graduate School
Now is the time to decide whether you want to apply to graduate school directly after college or if you want to put it off for a few years. Either way you will need to do the following:
- Decide which standardized test you need to take and start preparing. Right now, you are in study mode and you are accustomed to taking exams. In addition, anything you’ve learned is still fresh. If you think you might apply to a graduate business degree program, take the GMAT during your senior year while you are still in a studying mindset. Even if you are working on a senior thesis, you will have more time now than you will have when you are working full-time.
- GMAT scores can be banked for 5 years, which is certainly enough time to decide about furthering your education. If you take the GMAT now you can safely tuck the score away until you need it, so take it now and apply to graduate school when you are ready.
- In addition, you save $100 on the GMAT exam if you take it while you’re still an undergrad and that discount is good until December 31, 2018. You can register now while you’re in school here and then schedule the exam during a 6-month window.
- If you take the test as a college senior and you don’t get the score you want, you still have plenty of time to go back and take it again without any pressure. Students have told us that they regret not having taken the test sooner. As one recent college grad said,
“My parents wanted me to take the GMAT my senior spring, but I wanted to do things with my college friends and I had an internship, so I thought I didn’t have the time. Now that I am working, I know I REALLY don’t have the time to study. After working hard 9-5 every day, the last thing I want to do is study when I get home. Plus, I am out of practice on studying, especially math.”
The Senior Stretch
As a senior you may have decided that you are comfortable with the friends you’ve already made and the activities you’ve become involved in. You are tempted to rest on your laurels and you’ve fallen into an easy rhythm. But these should be years of stretching and growth, so with your remaining time continue to reach out to new people and continue to engage in new opportunities.
During these last two semesters, take a class that interests you but has no relationship to your career aspirations. Take a class that terrifies you. If you’re a math major take an art history class and vice versa. This is one of the last times you will have access to great classes, great professors and the luxury of time to enjoy learning about something completely out of your comfort zone. If you are worried about taking a really difficult class, exercise your pass/fail option.
Embrace Opportunity/Enhance Resume
Do everything on campus that you have never done before. That fantastic art museum on campus, go see it!! Do things on campus that you wouldn’t normally do (plays, concerts or sporting events that are not usually your thing). Your campus has so much to offer, take advantage of it all. Does your school offer any freebies that you want to take advantage of one last time?
Take on leadership roles in campus organizations or find a part-time internship. In addition to valuable learning experiences these will be welcome additions to your resume.
Senior year make sure you have forged a close enough relationship with a faculty member that even when you are a couple of years out of college they will still know you and will be happy to write you a recommendation for work or graduate school. Hopefully you have already initiated this type of relationship (and it’s OK if you haven’t!) because now is the time to strengthen that tie and ask for a recommendation or let them know you will be asking at a future date..
Get a credit card in your own name, use it and pay it off promptly every month so that you can build credit. It’s very important that you establish a good credit rating so that when you do get out of school you’ll be able to do things like buy a car and rent an apartment. Prospective employers may check your credit rating for what it tells them about your level of maturity and responsibility.
Start getting your student loan pay-off information if this applies to you. It is best not to be surprised by how much you will be paying monthly.
Take time to visit your friends at other schools. It’s always interesting to see other campuses and this is a good time to plan that road trip you’ve been putting off to visit your friend at another school. You always end up missing something during your weekend away, but no one will remember the 3rd of 4th Hawaiian party. They will remember visiting a friend at another school.
Plan to take some time off between school and work. Now is the time to start thinking about a two or three-week break (or longer if you can afford it) during winter break or after graduation. Who do you want to travel with? Where can you go that you may not be able to get to after you start working?
Have fun!!! Appreciate waking up every morning without work and family responsibilities. Part of relishing these last days is to maintain a healthy balance between your academic life and your social life. Take a road trip with a group of friends or do other social activities you’ve been too busy to do.
Your college years may not end up being the “best years” of your life as you’ve so often been led to believe, but these years are years of growth and opportunity, both socially and academically. They will undoubtedly have an outsized influence on who you eventually become so embrace these times and these experiences.
The transition from school to work may be challenging, but it’s a challenge you will be ready for when the time comes.