Soft market motivates students to consider graduate programs
By Anonymous Contributing Writer
Friday, November 15, 2002
Many attempts have been made to get the class of 03 ready for life after "the hill." The annual senior countdown this fall, hosted by the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) marked to first event. Here students were given facts and figures in addition to networking strategies to get them started or in other cases, to help them continue their pursuit. Due to the constant fluctuation of the job market and increased competition for graduate school admission, making a decision will be tough, yet the number of students who continue their education stays fairly consistent. Sixty-five percent of St. Olaf graduates attend graduate school at some point. Within the last several years, graduates who go straight to school have equaled between 20 and 25 percent and those who decide to go straight to work have equaled approximately 40 percent. The second attempt at getting seniors thinking about planning ahead was the Standardized Test Drive where an estimated 161 students expressed interest. This was a significant number in comparison to the last time CEL hosted these free practice strategy sessions for graduate exams contributed by the Princeton Review of Minneapolis. The tests that become part of the reality for students who are serious about continuing their education include the GMAT for business, the LSAT for law school, the MCAT for medical school. The GRE counts towards any other professional degree program that one is applying for. "The hardest part," said director for the Office of Career Connections Pat Smith, "is in researching schools. It could be so time-consuming and detrimental if done at the last minute." The CEL provides both peer advisors and a computer system with specified variables to consolidate options for schools according to special interests such as location and the population of the school. "We also have email aliases set up as another means of networking between students and employers," says career counselor Colleen Nugent. The other major concern is deadlines. "Mapping out time when planning post-graduate degree applications in addition to pinpointing exactly what you want to do can get crucial," said Nugent. Matt Pennaz '03 thought about how he would prepare. "I set goals for myself and practiced so I could focus where I needed help the most. Practice really helps to allay fears and nervousness," he said. "The number of students going to grad school always depends upon the impact of the economy," said Smith. Last year, employers attending the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers hired at a rather moderate rate of 75 percent. The latest news is that 10 percent of those employers currently want to hire even less than last year. This fact stands that when the job market is not so promising, more people consider graduate school. On the other hand, the competition for getting into grad school gets stiffer and admittance becomes harder. Applicants are pressured to have everything perfect and this could be harsh for last-minute planners. Through all the anxiety, Noelle Noah '03 emphasizes knowing one's self in order to "take time to study and to have a life." "The weight and pressure of realizing that this test determines your future is scary. But it is important to have a good perspective in order to keep sane," Noah said. "People should remember that they are studying on how to take a test, not necessarily on the information," said Pennaz. Besides working or going to school, one could volunteer, get an internship or even explore the newest portion of the CEL, the Finstad Office for Entrepreneurial Studies. The Office for Entrepreneurial Studies gives an alternative "leg up" for students who have ideas about starting their own business. Internships are a great option, especially if one is unsure about their chosen career path. "Internships provide training in the work world and allow students to obtain a history of interest in a particular area," said Smith. Smith stressed the specificity of graduate courses and the importance of ensuring that your decision be the right one. In this context, "think of where you are headed long-term," said Nugent. It is an expensive investment and could be costly if one decides to change their mind. In a general sense, it seems that many seniors are pursuing graduate exams even if they do not plan to attend grad school the following year. "I want to make sure I have an outlet, so I am applying while looking for a job," said Michelle Hoffner 03. Students who are planning to attend later can also go ahead and take the exams and the scores will be held for up to five years.