How graduating seniors keep up with school while finding a career

Students preparing for graduation must put on a grand finale balancing act during their last semester at South Dakota State. 

This amount of time includes applying for jobs, internships or graduate school, while also competing with their classroom responsibilities.

But with some proactive planning and preparation, some of the stress from this transition from full time student to full time adult can be alleviated.

Susan Fredrikson, career development specialist, believes good habits and planning helps keep stress under control and can lead to designing a more desired career path.

“Spend a little time each day or each week trying to stay on top of job searches … if you’re waiting until your last semester, that’s really too late (to keep the stress levels down),” Fredrikson said.

While there isn’t one “magical answer” in preparing for graduation, Fredrikson cites key skills such as time management, prioritizing and network building that can lead to a less stressful transition period.

But even with these skills, the transition semester can still be overwhelming when trying to balance classes, work and other aspects of life.

Kae Januschka, a 2016 laboratory science graduate, believes finding a good job or internship after graduation is more important during the final semester, so classes take the backseat.

“It was a little bit difficult but you have to make it work. What happens in your last semester (is) work becomes more important than school a little bit because you have to put your priorities right and think about the future,” Januschka said.

She also believes students should take internship opportunities prior to graduating, rather than saving for the summer after, because “everyone wants experience right now out of college.”

Taking an internship does have its benefits to some students, though. Senior advertising major Allison Chamberlain believes this temporary position can give students an advantage before being on a contract.

“For me it made sense … but I think all students, all seniors should take an internship after they graduate just because it’s a little bit easier to get into that than a full time job right away,” Chamberlain said.

She, too, feels a lack of motivation toward classes during her final semester at SDSU.

Students who aren’t quite ready to graduate yet can also gain an edge on graduation by learning about their field of study’s professional environment. Fredrikson believes this is something all students should be doing before they are seniors.

“There’s a difference between working in a full-time position versus a full-time student. Get some exposure how the work world works and what kinds of expectations are out there, the deadlines are different but they’re there,” Fredrikson said.

Learning how to communicate in a professional setting, knowing workplace politics and roles as well as preparing for the lifestyle change can all lead to a smoother transition, according to Fredrikson.

Taking the time to research the job market, learning about expected benefits and salaries and knowing how to budget accordingly can all help evaluate future job offers, Fredrikson said.

With all of this information, Chamberlain has one underlying piece of advice for seniors getting ready to graduate.

“Take it one day at a time, you get done what you can and try not to stress yourself out too much,” Chamberlain said. “You’ll be really excited to graduate, like I can’t wait to get out there and actually use what I’ve learned because I’ve been waiting this long to use it.”

With similar sentiments, Januschka has “bittersweet” advice for students getting ready to move on from their undergraduate years that they’ll “miss college, but you’re also going to enjoy being out of college.”