Maximizing the final semester of senior year


Sam Schoenbauer

Samantha Sween, a senior at SDSU, busies herself with studying to kick off her final semester.

Kylie Carlson, Reporter

The calendar just flipped to January, and for students in their final year of college, this is a long-awaited sight.

The first glimmer of the “light at the end of the tunnel,” if you will. 

This final semester serves as the exciting passage between the structured days and classes students have become used to, and the beginning of their career. That being said, the final semester can be daunting. 

Samantha Sween is a South Dakota State University senior from White, SD studying leadership and management of nonprofit organizations, as well as consumer affairs. 

“There is so much I’ve done to prepare myself for life after college, but it is still overwhelming,” Sween said.

Sween wants to work in development and volunteer management. Her goal is to work for Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants the wishes of children with critical illnesses. 

“Currently, I’m on the job hunt,” she said. “I’m applying for any job that remotely sparks my interest that I am qualified to do.”

Over the course of her final year, Sween has been updating her resumé and cover letter, as well as practicing her interviewing skills. She also recommends other students check in with their advisers now to make sure that they are on track to cross the stage at graduation in May.

Graphic design student Mark Plante from Brainerd, Minnesota, also has been using his final year to get ready to take on the challenges of a career. 

“The last semester of college is about coming into your own and honing your skills,” Plante said. “I know I have my job and the real world ahead of me, so I’m focusing on those things and preparing myself for real-world application.”

Plante’s goal is to work in the graphic design department of a major company, preferably with an organization that deals with sports. He is also on the hunt for a job, sending out applications while trying to improve his skills along the way.

To help prepare for this big jump, students can visit SDSU’s Office of Career Development, inside the Student Union. The office offers advice on resumé, personal statement and cover letter editing, interview practice and overall career advising. It also hosts career fairs to help students find jobs or internships, facilitating new connections and opportunities for students.

Patrick Mazzocco, a career education coordinator in the Office of Career Development, recommends that students research and find the resources that are available to them, both on and off campus. Academic advisers, faculty advisers, student organizations and alumni networks all are important steps of career planning that are available to students. 

Knowing how to use these resources, along with networking connections made in classes, internships or through events, open the door to many new opportunities for students. 

The Office of Career Development and its resources are available to SDSU alumni, too, keeping “Jackrabbits for life” ever at heart. 

“Even after students graduate and they’re not paying students anymore, five years, 10 years from now, if they’re still struggling, they can utilize our services,” Mazzocco said. 

Whether students are planning on pursuing a full-time job or graduate school options, there are tools and services to help students prepare. 

The office holds drop-in hours during the week on Tuesdays from noon to 2 p.m., Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. Students also can make appointments online through Handshake.

While the academic side of graduation preparation is important, getting ready to be a functional adult is another important step.

Kassidy Kann is a Jackrabbit alum from Harrisburg who made the transition from a student to the professional world in 2020. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a minor in fine arts. She is now a communications coordinator for POET, a biofuel production company in Sioux Falls. 

Recalling her last semester at SDSU, Kann said she focused on her graphic design coursework and networking. Her program also allowed her to get outside of the classroom and make the real-world connections she needed to begin her career.

While she felt prepared for the work she is now doing, she found her “real-world” experience and education to be lacking. 

“I wish I had done more research on the real-life aspects, like buying a house and paying my taxes,” Kann said. “I felt prepared for my career but not the fine-detail things that come along with it.”

Kann also says having goals and high expectations for yourself at this point can be a good thing, but going easy on yourself is key.

“Coming out of college, you have really high expectations of getting your dream job in your dream city, which might not always be the case,” Kann said. “Just take everything one step at a time and know that nothing is ever permanent, and you will continue to grow as a person and find what makes you truly happy.”

Mazzocco has a similar view on life post-undergrad. He reminds students that it’s important to have a realistic understanding that it can take a while to adjust to life after college.

“It’s going to feel like starting over …” he said. “But that goes away really quickly. It’s amazing how quickly you’re able to build another support group, support network and community wherever you are.” 

One final piece of advice Mazzocco has for this year’s graduating class is to not be afraid to do things that are unconventional or change plans.

“Write all your goals in pencil, not permanent ink. I think as long as you’re always working toward something, that’s what really matters. I would really argue that you’re never less tied down than you are at 22 years old,” Mazzocco said. “I would take advantage of that.”