Use Senior Year of College to Prep for the Future
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your senior year of college. Whether your a 4th-year senior (or 5th), this year is a milestone many people do not reach. It’s time to make the most of it in order to set yourself up for a stable and prepared future.
With graduation near, it can be easy to develop ‘senioritis’ and sluff off on the important stuff. My advice to you: don’t. While you may only need a few more classes to complete your degree it’s in your best interest to use any spare time to get set up for life after college.
In case you haven’t heard, the rumor is that the ‘real world’ begins after college. After college is when the realities of debt hits, culture shock happens, and the job market either becomes your best friend or worst enemy.
The best thing you can do during your senior year of college is to be as prepared as possible to tackle life the day after you graduate college.
1. Decide on Future Education
Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, are you done for good or are your continuing on to graduate school?
If your plan is to be done with school for good, or at least for a while, senior year of college is the best time to start figuring out your career path.
If you know that you have no interest in pursuing further education, start making a list of jobs you want to apply for. In preparing for this process, don’t sell yourself short.
If you don’t think you qualify for a job or have any shot still plan to apply. You never know what will happen if you don’t at least try.
If you do plan to continue on to grad school start preparing and applying to various graduate programs. Each school has different requirements so you’ll want to make sure you aren’t waiting to the last minute.
Additionally, you will most likely need to apply for jobs as well. Graduate school isn’t cheap and most of us need to pay our own way.
Finally, if you aren’t sure whether or not you want to continue with your education, it’s perfectly fine to take some time off. I personally took 3 years off before I started my graduate program.
School can cause quite a big burnout and sometimes all we need is a little break.
2. Gather Letters of Recommendation or Professional References
Now that you are in your senior year of college, you most likely have a few favorite professors and professional mentors.
Start a conversation with them about providing letters of recommendation for graduate school programs or references for jobs you want to apply for.
These type of letters take time to draft and most professors and bosses don’t like to feel rushed when creating them. You’ll want to give them plenty of time to complete this.
You’ll also want to make sure you are asking the best people possible. These letters may very well decide your future plans so you’ll want a person who takes their time to really emphasize the value you would bring to a graduate program or job.
If you feel like you don’t have any professional people in your life who can do this for you, use your senior year of college to get to know your professors and bosses better.
Stop skipping out on networking events just because it makes you feel out of your comfort zone. The more you put yourself out there, the better odds you’ll have when looking for a job.
Most colleges set up various networking events for their seniors to attend and there are plenty of other events you can find on your own.
If you’re feeling too shy or nervous, grab a friend in the same major as you and go together.
Some events will be extremely helpful and others may not be helpful at all, but you never know who you may meet.
If you have a business card or a resume, feel free to take that with you. If you meet someone that you want to keep in contact with you’ll want to leave them with something to remember you by.
Finally, if you do meet someone worth keeping in contact with, send them a followup email within a week reminding them who you are. This way you can start a paper trail and feel more comfortable when you reach out to them weeks or even months into the future.
4. Internship of Value
I can’t stress enough how important internships are. During my senior year of college, I took an internship that I knew would be easy. It didn’t add any value to my future and I did it just to get it over with.
On the other hand, my fiance took an internship in his field of work and ended up with a job right out of college.
If I could go back and change anything about my time in undergrad it would be to find an internship of value.
The main reason I didn’t want to go and find a better internship is because most of them are unpaid. To me, that was counterproductive because I’d be missing work to go work for free. I wish that hadn’t been my mindset.
Internships can be extremely valuable tools that provide students with experience. We all know that most jobs look for experience. A valuable internship can provide that.
Additionally, a valuable internship can provide great contacts and references. There are so many benefits to having an internship of value. Don’t be like me and sluff off on this aspect of your senior year of college.
Put yourself out there and find a great internship that will serve your purpose and future.
5. Make a Professional Resume
Your senior year of college is a great time to perfect your professional resume. The keyword here is professional.
I see a lot of resumes come through my office and it’s embarrassing how bad most of them are. Most of the resumes I see look like some cute, Pinterest hipster resume. Those get easily skipped.
Take the time to get a solid resume put together that looks and feels professional. Having a resume prepared also saves time when you have to give your resume out on short notice.
Hopefully you can apply for jobs within your field, but, if you find you need to apply for other types of jobs it’s crucial to tweak your resume beforehand.
Nothing looks worse than a resume where the intro statement or job history doesn’t fit the position someone is applying for.
To learn how to make a professional resume, click here.
6. Start Applying for Jobs
You may think that waiting until after you graduate college to apply for jobs is best. False. Start applying now!
If you wait until after you graduate, you run the risk of having months of no work and no income. That gets burdensome real fast.
Instead, begin applying as soon as you feel like your resume is ready.
Unfortunately, the job market isn’t always the best. Most likely, your first job out of college won’t be your ‘dream job’. Studies also show that only approximately 27% of college grads work in a job related to their field.
That’s a depressing percentage that can also make job-hunting exhausting.
I suggest spending some time applying for jobs in your field and then expanding out. You can only search for a job for so long in your field before you have to accept an unrelated job.
But, let’s hope you have great luck and are able to find the job you want right away!
Recommended: How to Cope With College Post Graduation Stress
7. Save Money
This step is crucial. Savings money during your senior year of college will make you feel so much more secure after graduation and when your student loan bill comes.
If you wait until after you graduate to begin saving it will be hard to get and stay ahead. Start saving now!
Not only will you have your student loan bill to pay for, but you will also probably have to pay other bills such as rent, car, phone, and so on.
Don’t let yourself drown in poor finances. Instead, use your senior year to build up a healthy savings.
To learn how to save money, read 6 Easy Steps to Save Money for the Future
8. Chase Your (TRUE) Dreams
While you may be getting a degree in a field of work you enjoy, chances are that isn’t your true dream.
Think of it this way. If money wasn’t an issue, how you spend the rest of your life? Once you figure out the answer to that question, typically your true dream reveals itself.
Your senior year of college is the perfect time to work toward your true dreams. While your young and have the time, start a business or invest in some sort of side hustle that brings you joy.
Whether you decide to start a side hustle or a business of some sort, make sure you invest the time during your senior year of college so that 10 years from now you’ll be glad you started when you did.
Senior year of college is a great time to make lasting memories and prepare yourself for the future. This year also tends to fly by so make sure you’re prepared and staying on top of things.
Best of luck to you during your senior year!