Class of 2015. I have been looking forward to those words every day since freshman year. This is going to be my year. Well, mine and the other 1.8 million students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the US this year. Throughout my college career I thought we were all on the same road with only two exits, a job or grad school, until someone told me about graduate fellowships.
Many fellowship programs exist to fund studies, research and teaching abroad, while others offer ways to embark on long-term journalism projects or short-term positions at successful organizations after graduation. Falling somewhere in between a first job and a graduate education, fellowships are a great option for recent graduates to develop crucial career experience without going down the traditional career path.
I’ve spent my summer applying to several graduate fellowships and now consider myself something of an expert in the field of Getting Your Act Together. Here’s what I learned:
There are lots of post-graduation options. Apart from the default options of getting a job or enrolling in graduate school immediately after undergrad, fellowships exist across all disciplines that allow you to continue studying, travel abroad, conduct independent research and teach with other passionate individuals.
Northeastern has a department dedicated to helping you find the right fit. The Northeastern University Office of Fellowships is here to not only inform you of all the opportunities, but also to help you formulate a clear proposal that articulates your ambitions, talents and projects. Northeastern’s Department of Career Development also has a resource page on fellowships that you can review.
Organize your Northeastern experience and develop an entirely new elevator pitch. Speaking of articulating your ambitions, talents and projects, it’s helpful to sit down and condense your Northeastern experience into a coherent elevator pitch. Five years at Northeastern looks quite different than five years anywhere else. Streamlining classes, dialogues, co-op’s and personal experiences into a story that aligns with a proposed program is a challenge, but it can be done.
Get over your fear of networking. The idea of asking people I didn’t know to offer me advice and suggestions on post-graduation opportunities and potential careers always scared me. But it turns out what everyone had been telling me was true―people love talking about how they got where they are, and are willing to help out a sincere student. They were once in your shoes, after all.
Start early, but take your time. The number of options available to college graduates is overwhelming. Odds are you won’t find the perfect situation the first time you sit down and start looking. So start early and map out some options of where you could see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years. Keep an ongoing list of postgraduate possibilities, never deleting any of your ideas. Having too many options may be just as panic inducing as not having any options, but keeping a list and taking your time will give you somewhere to start.
So as you begin to wrap up your studies and see the “real world” looming up ahead, remember that you aren’t trapped on one exit ramp. There is a world of options after graduation, and exploring them just takes a little extra planning.
Madeline Heising is a senior Communication Studies major with a passion for food and food policy. She enjoys cooking and writing for her recipe blog, The Collegiate Vegan, while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Connect with her on Twitter @MadelineHeising.
Image Source: Cafe Workspace with Diary, picjumbo