Students faced with tough decisions

Andrew Boerema

Andrew Boerema

As students approach the end of their undergraduate programs, a very important choice is presented to them. This is the choice of whether to continue education in a graduate program or to enter the work force.

Each year, hundreds of students from SDSU make this choice. Two students from the Computer Science department, Zachary Plovanic and Derek Fernholz, recently made their choice for this year. Plovanic made the decision to continue on to Purdue University, whereas Fernholz will be working for IBM.

Fernholz said he wanted to pursue Web design and development, but there aren’t any good graduate programs in that area. Also, the benefits for an advanced degree are low because employers are more focused on a work portfolio then on academic history.

Plovanic, on the other hand, said that his choice was motivated by his love of learning at SDSU. “I have managed to maintain excellent grades throughout college, and I enjoy doing it,” he said. “I figured, why not stay in the academic world and pursue a more advanced degree.” Plovanic added that he doesn’t see himself in the work force in the future, but in a more academic setting as a professor.

To prepare for going into the grad program, Plovanic stressed the idea of working hard in school and starting preparations early. “You definitely want to secure any internship you can during your undergrad years, preferably one that is research-oriented,” he said.

He also put heavy emphasis on grades. “Keep your grades up. All of them. It shows that you know how to work hard at everything you do.”

As for Fernholz, he said that employers value real work over education. “If you go for an interview with a high school diploma and a great portfolio of work you have done, you will be hired over someone with a master’s degree 75 percent of the time,” he said. “Of course, you have to come across as a team member as well.”

For Fernholz, the decision was almost made for him. With the lack of graduate programs and few benefits of having an advanced degree, it really wasn’t a hard choice. In Plovanic’s case, he said the idea of being a poor college student for another four to five years was the only thing that gave him pause. In the long run, Plovanic believes the benefits will make up for the costs.

So, all in all, which is the right choice? It really has to do with what you see yourself doing in the future. For those who see themselves in work-oriented jobs, gaining real-world experience is key. In many cases, an advanced degree is the wrong way to go for this kind of person because the costs far outweigh the benefits.

For those who see themselves in a more theory-focused job, graduate school is definitely the way to go. Research and teaching are great examples of this. As students enter their junior year of college, they should sit down with advisers and consider the course their future will take. Getting internship experience early on is great for any future, but in many cases, getting started on personal projects is key.

#1.882554:3111531409.jpg:life_sb-003.jpg::Stephen Brua