By Mairead Tuttle
After the main discussion in my economics seminar had broken up, my classmates began to trade the names of courses for which they were planning to register during the spring semester. Some were delighted to find out they would be in the same course, while others lamented how far down the waitlist they were for a certain class. I, unfortunately, could not participate in this conversation. I am a college senior who is graduating in December.
At times, I have felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the senior class at my college. While some of my fellow seniors are completing theses that they will work on until May, I did not have the opportunity to do this. Other students have gotten to know professors well over the last couple of semesters and are now able to do independent study work with them that will continue into the spring semester. There is not an overall sense of finality among the senior class because the large majority of the class has many months of school left before graduation, but there is for me.
I feel quite lucky to be graduating from college one semester early. I would not have been able to do this without the encouragement of my family and my professors. There are many advantages to finishing my course work in December. I will be available to employers about five months earlier than my classmates. I also have the chance to make my job search a full-time position in and of itself, or do in-depth research about dozens of graduate school programs.
However, these advantages do not exist without their own required effort. Graduating from college a semester early can feel like such an accomplishment that future plans fall to the wayside. It is important to be reminded (as I have often been by family members and classmates) that finishing course work in December does mean that I get the spring semester off; it means that my post-college life starts five months before everyone else’s. It is important to adequately prepare for this situation.
Having the extra time to apply to graduate schools makes no difference if your application cannot be complete. Make sure to take tests like the GRE or GMAT either before you begin your final semester of school or immediately after you finish to ensure that you are in the “test-taking mindset.” Also be sure to reach out to professors or mentors about letters of recommendation while you are still on campus. While your professors will (hopefully) likely still remember you during the spring semester, it can help to have an in-person conversation about your plans.
The fact that you will have more free time come January than the rest of your classmates does not mean that you should push your job search until that time. Some industries, like finance, will have already stopped hiring for the academic year once you are finished with your classes. You also have the opportunity to pursue full-time spring semester internships, or even part-time internships that you were unable to do previously because of their geographic location. Of course, these internships will also be hiring early in the fall semester and you should be aware of them. I have tried to split my job search time between entry-level jobs and spring semester internships and have found potentially rewarding positions in both categories.
I know that there are some traditions and senior year rituals that I will miss out on because I will not be with my fellow seniors during their final semester. To combat this, I have looked back on the traditions that I have created for myself during my three-and-a-half years at school and made a point to do them all one last time before the end of December.
Mairead Tuttle is from Pennsylvania and is currently a French and Economics major at Mount Holyoke College. Through her economics classes, she found a passion for business, and hopes to someday work on the management side of the fashion and beauty industries.