“Second semester senior year, I mean… it truly just feels like I’m still a freshman at Miami. It’s gone by so fast.”
Many Miami seniors are thinking the same thing as Caitlyn Jones, psychology and professional writing double major, as they head into their final few months of undergraduate life.
The start of spring semester marks 109 days until graduation. One hundred and nine days to make a mark here in Oxford, if they haven’t already. One hundred and nine days to spend parading around Armstrong by day and Brick Street by night. One hundred and nine days to cherish such a time in such a place. One hundred and nine days to figure out what on earth they’re supposed to do with the rest of their lives.
If that thought isn’t stressful enough, on top of finding a job, a place to live and a general plan on moving forward, seniors also have 109 days left of classes, studying, preparing for midterms and finals and all of the other normal stresses that come with being a college student.
Despite these anxieties, Jones takes comfort in coming home to Oxford one last time.
“The senior class right now is all going through the same thing, and being in Oxford is just really reassuring that we’re all gonna figure it out together,” she said.
More “first days of school” to come
Jones applied to 13 graduate schools for social psychology during the first semester of this year, and is now starting to hear back from those programs, some of which are requesting weekend in-person interviews.
“I think that’s kind of something that is bittersweet because obviously it’s so exciting being able to do these interviews, but also I don’t want to leave Oxford more than I have to,” she said.
Applying to graduate school is a long, competitive, expensive process that requires a lot of work outside of the classroom. Writing personal statements, studying and taking the GRE and preparing for interviews are among the steps required to pursue a masters degree. Even though the process takes a lot of her time that would normally be spent with friends during her last semester, Jones considers herself lucky to have found a career path that she loves so much. She is excited to help people as a future social psychologist.
“It really excites me that if I do go to grad school I’ll be able to pursue a career in something that I really care about,” Jones said. “And the professors that I had just reassured me the entire four years that this is something that I’m supposed to be doing.”
Senior public health major Divya Das is also looking at graduate schools to pursue a masters degree in public health. She spent her J-term applying to many different programs and is hoping to hear back in March.
For a lot of students applying to graduate school, this next step after Miami is a big mystery. Das said that she might get her law degree after obtaining her masters, adding on yet another stint of schooling. As for location, she has no idea where she might find herself after graduation this May.
“Living-wise, I haven’t really decided on that yet, because I don’t really know where I’ll be living,” Das said. “I kind of applied all over the United States.”
Coasting until May 18
Other seniors secured jobs last semester and are riding out their last few classes at Miami before entering the workforce this summer.
Senior business student Will Kraft is among those lucky enough to have taken a job offer in the fall, before Thanksgiving break. Kraft knows the job anxiety that many seniors are feeling now all too well.
“It was pretty stressful because they weren’t communicating before the fall career fair,” Kraft said of his employer. “So I thought I should go, but then didn’t because I was like, ‘I have a job, it’s fine.’ And then they didn’t really talk to me until the beginning of October to initially start the process, so I was super nervous through September.”
Kraft worked as an intern with Accuity last summer. Spending the summer in Chicago at the downtown office, he knew that he had found the company of his dreams. He said he knew he wanted to work for them permanently because he felt the work he did at the company was “meaningful,” which is something he knew he needed from his future employer.
As Kraft waited outside of Café Lux to leave for his first class of his last semester, he reminisced on his last three and a half years at Miami. He said Armstrong, with its construction and restructuring over the past four years, has been exemplary of his time at the university.
“It’s mainly about being in the center of all of your friends, and getting food and getting to know the place,” he said. “And then right when the career center became its own part of Armstrong, that’s when I started to have to worry about getting a job. But now that it’s all complete and everyone can use it, I’ve completed my four years, I’ve completed getting a job, and it’s time for a new chapter.”
No plans? No problem.
A lot of seniors still don’t have plans for post-grad life, and that’s okay. The program coordinator and liaison to the Office of Diversity Affairs at Miami’s Center for Career Exploration and Success, Kia Nalls, encourages everyone still looking for jobs to take 5-10 hours per week to think about and plan for their futures.
“Don’t panic, you’ve still got time,” Nalls said. “The average person works between 30-40 years of their life, so if you don’t figure it out day one, then that’s fine. But try to find something that really interests you.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds 10 different jobs before age 40, and this number is projected to grow. Nalls said it’s important to take the right next steps, but also to know that you might change your mind later.
“Where’s your trajectory going? What is it that you want to explore?” she said. “Think about it as a winding road instead of a straight line.”
Nalls encourages everyone to use the Center for Career Exploration and Success as they look ahead to their future careers. The center is located in the basement of Armstrong Student Center and offers a myriad of tools and opportunities for students to feel prepared going into interviews and applying for any kind of position, from internships to full-time jobs. The center offers mock interviews, resume help, various workshops, career fairs to meet employers, networking events and even brings in employers for on-campus interviews.
On top of the services offered at the career center, Nalls hopes students will use their spring break and other free time to explore their options, take assessments to hone in on their strengths, reach out to family and friends to build their network and shadow potential employers.
To think in such a place…
In her underclassman days, Jones took heavy course loads not realizing how she would benefit from a lighter schedule in her last semester. With classes limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays, weekend graduate school interviews won’t cause her to miss anything. Nevertheless, she is still worried about budgeting her time as a second semester senior who just wants to have fun and enjoy the last of her carefree days as an undergraduate.
“I’ll be with a group of friends, and everyone will be so happy, and I’ll just be in that moment,” Jones said. “I definitely am one that lives for special moments, and I’ve had this so many times that I’m in a group of friends just sitting, laughing, and I just think to myself, ‘I would never have this anywhere else.’”