Grad Guide 2007: Click for special section.
Grad Guide 2007

Paving the Way to a Smooth Graduation

Peter Drummond, a senior in American University's Kogod School of Business, works on an assignment for his Accounting class.
Peter Drummond, a senior in American University's Kogod School of Business, works on an assignment for his Accounting class. (Rachelle Douillard-Proulx)

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By Rachelle Douillard-Proulx
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, April 19, 2007; 10:17 AM

Aaron Hake, a 2005 graduate of American University, remembers a moment of mild panic when he crossed the stage to claim his diploma. What would he do next? Was he ready for what lay ahead post-graduation?

But that mild panic could have been much worse. Hake, who had taken an intense course load in order to graduate in three years and peppered his time at school with internships, had done plenty to prepare. He soon landed a job in government relations near his Los Angeles childhood home and is now also pursuing a Master's Degree from the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development on the side.

That preparation and extra work paid off, Hake says. "Colleges are very good at talking about all of the wonderful careers you can have when you graduate from their institution, but the truth is a degree is not a free pass to employment."

The message from Hake and others who have graduated recently or work with students to the classes of 2008 and beyond is perhaps that while mixed emotions about graduation are understandable and even expected, but there are steps -- such as using on-campus resources such as the Career Center, taking on internships and networking -- seniors can take to ease the transition.

If you're just learning this now and graduating next month, you may be too late. If not, read on.

Career Center Offers Guidance, Support

Most universities work to help prepare students for post-collegiate jobs with a range of career services including assessment, resume help and on-campus interviews. Judicious use of these offerings can often land a student a job well before graduation.

"The job I'm going to do after graduation I got through [American University's] Career Web," says American senior Pete Drummond. "It started as an internship. I interviewed on campus and from interning there I was offered a full-time position after graduation. If it had not been for that posting, then I don't know where I would be today."

An early visit can really pay off, insists Marie Spaulding, job and internship counselor at American's Career Center. "The worst case scenario is the senior who comes to the Career Center for the first time in their last semester before graduation. They have missed out on all the help we could have offered for their whole college career."

Spaulding is accustomed to an influx of graduating seniors banging down her door before their last semester on campus. Many students, however, are more proactive. And some, such as American senior Susanna Reid, find other sources of assistance on campus: Reid built a network through campus work and visits to her academic advisor for "support and direction."

The Importance of Internships

Another way to prepare for a post-college career is the internship -- popular among students at all stages of their collegiate careers.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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