4. Be realistic: John Stoner is a history professor and an undergraduate adviser at the University of Pittsburgh, where he says he's seen many seniors who don't seem to understand just how hard it is to get hired after graduation or accepted to graduate school.
"You'll be looking at some of their transcripts and say, 'Well, I notice your GPA is 2.7; you don't test well; and you want to go to Georgetown Law [Center].' I don't want to be the dream crusher," he says, "but I always want to urge students toward being realistic."
Stoner says that, to "temper their optimism with realism," he urges his students to utilize university career services, to schedule time to retake tests such as the LSAT or GRE if needed, and to seek experiential learning opportunities and internships.
[Learn why nonsummer internships work best for some students.]
He asks students, "Do you feel like you have something else to offer to someone other your previous retail experience at Best Buy?"
5. Visit the career center: Seniors usually face stressful decisions about post-graduation plans, and avoiding those decisions is not going to make them disappear. In fact, Florida State's Hamon thinks addressing questions about career and graduate school opportunities head-on will make life easier for seniors.
"In the long run, I think that kind of good planning and preparation will really decrease the anxiety in the actual transition," she says.
Even if students know what they want to do, Eleanor Cartelli at the Boston University Center for Career Development thinks they should still use their schools' career services, which are usually right on campus and free.
"Great, you know exactly what you want to do," she says. "That's fantastic, but are you prepared for an interview? Are you ready to sit down one on one with a professional of that field … and are you prepared to impress them?"
[Learn how to get hired before graduation.]
Cartelli suggests that students make an appointment with career services to perfect interview skills and résumés, attend workshops, and learn about job openings, among other things. And although Hamon and Cartelli stress that students begin using these services early in their college career, they claim it's not too late for seniors.
"It's never too late to take a step back and really figure out what you might be good at, … where you might excel, and how you might find opportunities," Cartelli says.
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