This post is sponsored by the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) but the opinions are our own.
After the fraught college search, the stressful dorm move-in and the many tearful goodbyes, your child 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 freshman, in the proverbial blink of an eye, they are juniors and seniors, and will soon be thinking about college graduation.
College upperclassmen tend to think that they’ve got everything figured out. We asked a few of their older, wiser, working-age siblings what advice they would give their younger siblings from their perspective of having, “been there, done that.”
The most important things juniors and seniors should do before college graduation
As upperclassmen you may have decided that you are comfortable with the friends you’ve made and the activities you’ve become involved in. 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.
2. Study Abroad
Juniors – study abroad. The opportunity to live and learn in another country and immerse yourself in a foreign culture and language may never come again. Enough said.
3. Job Search
Seniors – your older siblings want you to know that in order to ensure a relatively stress free senior year, you should hit the job market hard. Be proactive so you can have a job lined by the time second semester rolls around and you can just enjoy. Set up LinkedIn and work your networks. Don’t be afraid to use whatever connections you have, because you will find that relationships are critical to success in the real world. Also, now is the time to take full advantage of the career counseling services offered at your school. They are there to help you.
4. Graduate School
- If you are thinking about graduate school, now is the time to decide which standardized test you need to take and to start preparing. Right now, you are in student mode and you are accustomed to studying, preparing for exams and being accessed. 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 the spring of your senior year while you are still in studying mindset. We all know that it is simply easier to study while still in school. You can find a friend to study with and keep each other accountable. 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 June 30, 2018. You can register now while you’re in school, and then schedule the exam for 6 months from now.
- 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.
With the time left at school 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 in a while that 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.
6. Embrace Opportunity
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.
7. Credit Rating
Get a credit card in your own name, use it and pay your balance 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
By 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 who you are and will be happy to write you a work or graduate school recommendation. You need to get to know this person well enough that you will be comfortable emailing them after graduation.
9. First Job
Don’t worry too much about that first job being the perfect job. It is easy to feel like this is the first time you have had your worth tested in the real world and that creates a lot of pressure. But 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 stress about this too much. Also, don’t become paralyzed with indecision, while taking a certain job may involve closing some options, it will open others
Take the time to visit your friends at other colleges. 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 weekend but 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) 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. Embrace these years by squeezing everything you can out of this experience.
The transition from school to work may be challenging, but it’s a challenge you will be ready for when the time comes.
Photo Credit: DaytripperUniversity