As many students prepare for another semester of classes, some students are preparing for life after college.
The Academic & Career Planning Center (ACPC) has seen an increase in first-year students already having a number of college credits completed via dual credit courses offered in high schools. This trend has the potential to raise the semester graduation rates, Stephen Ward, ACPC Director said.
The issue with graduating early, Ward said, is that students have to begin preparing for future careers that much earlier. Ideally, he said, students would start talking about career plans their sophomore year of college, not senior year.
“We want students to … really start thinking about what internships they should do, putting together a resume and thinking about what a job search will look like,” he said. “They need to narrow down so the process at the end isn’t as tedious senior year.”
Heather Johnson, ACPC Assistant Director, said employers are typically looking at May graduates as potential employees in October or November, meaning major positions are being filled almost a year in advance.
That is one challenge the ACPC tries to assist students with, Johnson said.
“If people are proactive and attend the different events that we have on campus and come when we bring different employers on campus, they can network,” she said. “Obviously around this area, networking is a gold mine for getting a job.”
On Monday, the ACPC sponsored an internship fair in the Muenster University Center that hosted a variety of employers from the surrounding areas. Students should be taking advantage of fairs like this, Johnson said, even during their freshman year.
“Every time that we have an event, I email it to every student so they should read their email, then they will know every event that is coming up and what’s going on and taking advantage of the different events on campus,” Johnson said.
If students want to graduate early, they need to be in contact with their adviser early to enroll in the classes necessary. Some courses are only offered during one semester and if that is the case, advisors need to be aware as soon as possible, Johnson said.
“Their advisor can help them adjust the four-year plan to three-and-a-half years if that’s their goal,” she said. “There are also some classes that are only offered once a year so as soon as they make that decision to graduate early they should work with their advisor to make sure it is possible.”
Ward and Johnson agreed there has been an increase in students starting college with dual credits already on their transcript. They said this could add pressure on students to graduate earlier, but Ward said it is up to the individual.
“Economically, the quicker you get into the workforce the quicker you’re going to pay off loans. Any time you have out in the workforce, your salary is going to be higher, so there are some advantages of that,” he said. “I think students have to balance the economic positives against the social side.”
College is a busy time, with classes and social life, and sometimes students don’t take their future career plans seriously, Ward said, but taking time to meet with advisors is just as important.
“We don’t see as many students as we think we should,” Ward said. “There is a lot of stuff going on and we understand that but it is part of going to college. If you ask students why they are going to college, in the beginning, it’s to get a good job.”
Johnson and Ward said graduating early can be a positive choice, but isn’t for everyone. Johnson said she discourages students from overloading their schedules just to graduate early.
“I have had students come in who said, ‘Oh my friends are graduating early. Can I do it too?’” she said. “If they have to take 18 credits every semester to graduate early, they probably won’t do as well in those credits and so then they need to balance that.”
Whether they are graduating this year or in 2023, Ward encourages students to take advantage of the ACPC.
“I do want to remind students of the resources they have at their disposal,” he said. “There are resources here for putting together resumes, job searching, intern searching and various things.”