Life after college offers both challenge and opportunity

By Chris Shores

Matthew Harrison/Collegian

Undergraduate commencement is just over two months away, and the big question remains: do you know what you are doing after college?

Some students will tell you they know exactly what they want to do.

Kamellia Keo, a pre-med major, recently applied to Teach for America, an organization which looks to fill the void of quality teaching in urban areas.

“My general idea is to work for a year or two so I can save up money and go to grad school,” said Keo. “If I were to get the position, I would be trained over the summer to get my certificate and begin teaching in September [for] a two-year program. Not only is it a paying position and I would get a teacher’s salary, but…they also offer an opportunity to get a master’s in education.”

Keo said that she ultimately wants to go to medical school, but doesn’t currently have the funds to apply. Teach for America would provide both a salary and a different kind of experience.

“I’ve always loved teaching and working with students, but I think it’s just a way for me to kind of see if that’s the route that I want to take,” she said. “If it’s just something that I really enjoy, I would love to pursue it.”

Other students may not be so sure about their future aspirations.

UMass Career Services gives students the opportunity to begin setting up their future career, before they are out in the real world. Through a variety of workshops and resources, students can learn about future internships that may apply to them, ways to get involved around the campus in something relating to their major, and how to build a good resume.

Ginger Goldsbury, associate director at Career Services, said that early action is key when it comes to planning, and that students who don’t get involved on campus have a more difficult time finding a job when they graduate.

“Here, we like students in their first or second semester to get involved in career planning,” said Goldsbury.  “In today’s world, you need experience to get the job you want,” she added.

Part of that career planning involves internships, something that B.J. Roche, a journalism professor, stresses in her Journalism Launchpad class.

“Everything people think they know about job hunting is wrong. Simply putting your resume out there isn’t going to be enough,” said Roche. “You have to do an internship, establish connections and cultivate relationships.”

Her Journalism Launchpad class, in its second year, puts students to work through a variety of exercises. These exercises include telling ten different people about prior work experience, learning about 401(k) and retirement plans, creating multiple drafts of a resume and working with credit reports and salary negotiation.

Roche prefers students who gain experience throughout college, helping them stand out even more when they graduate.

“People procrastinate, and they need to realize the sooner you deal with the work and plan, the better,” she said. “The other good thing about internships is that they may show you what exactly you don’t want to do,” she added.

She also added that simply being an intern isn’t enough, and that students must work for what they want.

“The usual feedback I get is that kids don’t put themselves out there,” she said. “People aren’t just looking for work, they also want ideas.”

Some students will be involved in careers outside typical jobs.

For instance, the students who are enlisted with the UMass Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC), have their paths already set to an extent, said Lieutenant Colonel Andre L. Hinson, professor of military leadership of the UMass ROTC.

Combining basic training and physical fitness with their academics, cadets will graduate from the program after four years with several options they may choose from, he said.

They may go into active duty, which is a full-time job for six to eight years, remain on active guard in Massachusetts or go into the Army Reserve. Cadets also receive full tuition to any school they attend, said Hinson.

Students who graduate enter the army as a Second Lieutenant, should they choose to go into active duty. The UMass ROTC is also one of the largest contributors to the National Guard.

Hinson said cadets are well prepared to secure a job when they graduate. The ROTC has partnerships with certain employers that can get cadets guaranteed interviews and possible employment.

“The possibility of getting employment with these companies is very high, because they look for the experience that the cadets have,” said Hinson.

Others will go to graduate school or some other form of post-undergraduate education.

Pearline Ngauv, a microbiology major, is enrolling in an accelerated master’s program in the Microbiology Department.

“[In] fifteen months, I will have my master’s degree,” said Ngauv.

While the prospect of remaining a full-time student may look appealing, Goldsbury warned against it.

“I’m worried about the students that come out of school with so much debt. Grad school only adds on to that,” said Goldsbury. “Delaying a job for school isn’t always the best option.”

Caroline Duffy, a senior biochemistry major, is excited to go to graduate school and has no problem with becoming a “professional student.”

“I want a Ph.D because Ph.D’s are more typically funded. All the programs I applied to have some sort of cash stipend and insurance package,” said Duffy. “[The college] expects you’re going to be there for six years. They want you doing what you’re doing every single day and not having a job to worry about,” she said.

Duffy said that not all graduate programs offer these financial packages, but programs in the life sciences are able to provide funding because grants are awarded by organizations such as National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation. She said the current economic situation is just another reason to stay in school now.

Other students may go to graduate school long after their graduation, such as Sarah Menesale, who graduated from Boston University in 2003.

“I want to go to grad school to change my career path,” she said. “I spent more than five years in journalism and now want to become a school librarian. The only way to work in a school is to get your master’s.”

Menesale said she is excited for graduate school as it will make better opportunities available for her.

“It will change my future in that, once I graduate and hopefully find a job, I will be in a career with a steady salary,” she said. “Having a built-in pay raise every year will be great. I did not experience that in the field of journalism.”

“I can’t wait to be financially stable, especially at this point in my life,” she added.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected] Cameron Ford can be reached at [email protected] Tim Jones can be reached at [email protected]