It’s hard to believe, but you’ve reached your final year of higher education, the end to about 16 years of schooling. While some of you may continue on to graduate or professional school and others may be looking towards entering the workplace--this is, in sum, an incredible milestone.
So let’s take a pause for congratulations: congratulations on entering your final year of higher education! It’s great to see that finish line up ahead. Envision it. Think about the hard work to date, and the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you cross that threshold!
All right. Take a deep breath now--because it’s not quiiiiite over yet. Let’s talk about how to make the most of your final year of higher education and beyond by starting the year off right:
Let’s talk about expectations. Part of success involves managing your expectations. You have to believe in yourself. You can do it!
It’s important to note that expectations ought to include a dose of reality: achievement involves hard work and a bit of struggle, too. So if you haven’t done the research on next steps yet, now is the time to do so. If you’re looking towards continuing your education, what are the requirements for admission? Have you taken any required tests or exams? Have you finished prerequisites for your intended program/s?
And if you’re looking to enter the workforce, what is it you’re interested in doing? Where would you like to live? For which industry or company would you like to work? Read and check out Glassdoor. What is your end goal with your career steps? These are all important parts of setting expectations that are based on both dreams and research
Have a plan and a to-do list. Expectations alone won’t get you to where you want to be--you’ve got to have a plan to get there. If you’ve done your research and are ready to start applying to graduate and professional school, get your application tools ready. Do you have letters of recommendation secured--and if so, do you have an account with a Letter of Recommendation Dossier, either via your campus or offsite through an independent vendor? What about the GRE/GMAT/MCAT/LSAT/IELTS/UCAT/BMAT/GAMSAT? What are next steps after that? Make a checklist.
The same goes for securing a job. Have you checked out your campus’ career center? Do you have a LinkedIn account? If you’re writing your resume and find writing your own job descriptions challenging, here’s a hint: search for jobs that are similar and use those job descriptions as guides for your own.
Oh, and as part of your plan--clean up your social media. This means securing an email account that has a professional-sounding address and login. It means setting to private any Facebook or Instagram photos that potential employers might frown upon. Yes, employers will google you.
Be mindful of the stakes. When everything is all-or-nothing and super-high-stakes, things can feel very fragile and stressful. For many schools, resilience from setback is a core competency (in fact, some professional schools explicitly ask you to describe a past failure in their application). But here’s the thing: detours are part of a life’s journey. And what seems like a secondary route now might, in hindsight, become part of a more enriching journey towards your big-picture goals.
Some graduate and professional schools want applicants to have taken at least a couple of years off from schooling; so what is it you want to do that is your passion and speaks to your overall life goals? If you want to go to medical school, have you considered becoming a scribe in the ER for a year or two before applying? Have you considered working in a research lab? What is your life’s passion? Embrace it. Every circuitous route and setback can lead to opportunity. Every opportunity can lead to another new door opening.
You should be proud. You’re on the final stretch. And we hope you’re both taking time out to celebrate yourself as well as making plans for yourself going forward. Whatever you do, we know you’ll set out on the right foot.