A thin, black polyester commencement gown is a rite of passage for graduating seniors. Not to mention the caps decorated with vibrant fabrics, glitter or plain designs so mom and dad can find you in the mosh pit of graduates. At a Central Connecticut State University graduation, the Hartford Convention Center is festooned with gigantic banners of our school’s prideful colors while a band ensemble plays jazz. You line up with your peers cheering with heightened smiles in their seats; families capture this long-anticipated memory on their phones. Students sit eagerly for what seems to be a lifetime during the three-hour ceremony. After four years of walking creaky pathways from colorless dorms to ruthless lectures at eight in the morning, the moment has arrived. A grandparent or parent shouts as a sibling records the satisfying sound of your name being called. You stride across the stage, shake the President’s hand, and pose for a photo holding the certificate in your hands. Then you move your tassel from right to left in the audience while blue and white balloons fill the hall. Congratulations.
Graduation is a phenomenal accomplishment, but grueling thoughts cloud the graduate’s mind: what comes after the ceremony, parties, and sweet cake? The constant second-guessing of the outcome of your new bachelor’s degree becomes your current state of mind.
Most students enter school undecided then pick a major like Criminal Justice that they thought they wanted at the time but ended up changing because they didn’t know what was expected. Students also take into consideration that it can take them longer to graduate if they don’t fill the requirements and won’t be able to graduate in time. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once. Not many college students think about what happens after school until they are in their junior or senior year. Most undergraduates have social and financial pressure to finish in four years, so they delay the job search until after graduation. Students start booking appointments at the Career Success Center and try to find the expected volunteer work, internships, and jobs. Others have a hard time with what to expect when it comes to joining the workforce. Some graduates end up unemployed or underemployed, accepting jobs that are below their skill level and level of education. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found underemployment for college graduates has risen to 41 percent in 2019.
I reached out to a senior and a recent college graduate about their experiences preparing for the workforce. [Note: this reporting was completed before the coronavirus pandemic.]
Name: Ivette Malaga
College Year: Senior
University: University of Connecticut
I was an undecided student at UConn. I wanted to pick a major that could be applied to different disciplines. I took electives during my freshman year learning about economics, and realized there were many fields within the major one can explore, such as psychology, economic theory, math, business and finance. I committed to economics by the end of my second semester.
The Center for Career Development at UConn is always willing to help students prepare for job interviews and explore career opportunities. Our university provides career fairs during the fall and spring semesters on campus where employers recruit students for internships, co-ops, and full-time opportunities. I missed the career fair on campus because of a conflict with my class schedule but did proactive research on the employers and contacted a recruiter from the company.
Right now, I’m an intern and an employee at a financial credit union. Working there gives me a chance to be with amazing professionals who are willing to help me learn the aspects of banking, and it’s a place with great potential for career growth. After graduation, I aspire to be a real estate closing specialist or a financial consultant.
Name: Sarah Levesque
College Year: Graduated in 2019
University: Central State Connecticut State University
My passion for teaching started early on. I tutored students in Spanish and Italian in high school and college which I enjoyed a lot. I had a profound passion for foreign languages and was invested in learning more about diverse cultures other than my own. There is currently a shortage of education jobs that focus on world languages in Connecticut, so it’s always in high demand.
I was a student teaching at a high school in Bristol during my last semester in college. I gained hands-on experience and working there gave me a real perspective of what my future career as a teacher would be like. Interacting with students and the wonderful staff there gave me a smooth transition from being a college graduate. Now, I have a full-time Spanish teacher gig at Naugatuck High School.
During my last semester, I began applying to jobs through a website called CTREAP. I specified my search to schools that were looking for Spanish or Italian secondary education teachers, then to any secondary education job within an hour from my house. It was my first job, so I didn’t want to be picky. Different jobs reached out to me after I was interviewed, but eventually I was offered a position last May before graduating.
Due to the coronavirus, 2020 graduates will miss out on the pomp but not the circumstance. Online classes have taken over what was supposed to be the last months of seeing friends and professors, but the achievement of your well-deserved success remains. Universities around Connecticut have postponed their spring ceremonies and combined them with their winter ceremonies, while some will be holding a virtual commencement.
The fulfillment of being a recent college graduate won’t go away because of a change of scenery. This accomplishment will open many doors for your future, and welcome a new journey in your next stage of life.
Abigail Murillo is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine
Headline Photo Credit: Hartford courant, Brad Horrigan