What Wash. U. has taught seniors
It’s not over yet but for seniors struggling to figure out what to do with their lives—or at least for some time after they get their college diplomas in two months—it may feel alarmingly close. The pink granite walls of Wash. U. can be insulating from the world outside but at some point we all peek out and realize just what we’re facing. For some of us, it’s a tough job market and a still-recovering economy. But whether or not our four years here have prepared us for jobs come next year, it doesn’t mean we’re leaving these manicured lawns with nothing.
Across all five undergraduate colleges, students agree that what matters most might not be what they’ve learned but how they’ve learned to think. Charlotte Weinstein, a senior majoring in Chinese, said, “I see the wider skill sets obtained through a Wash. U. education, such as how to research, how to think critically or essentially how to learn, as being most useful in the future.”
Biology major Matt Kroll echoed Weinstein’s sentiment: “I think the most important thing you learn in college is how to think.”
The most applicable skill set gained from their time at Wash. U., students say, is an ability to work well in groups. Chemistry and French major Laura Hmiel said she’s learned “how to treat people, how to not treat people and how to deal with people you don’t want to deal with sometimes.”
Finance and accounting major Kevin Huang agreed. “[At Wash. U.] you get the opportunity to learn to work with people [with] different personalities. In future jobs, not everyone is going to be your friend, so this is a useful skill,” he said.
Another senior in the Business School, Stephen Hayes, also values the interpersonal skills he’s gained, saying, “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from the Wash. U. business school is a sense of confidence when approaching the business world. I feel like I can see what problems companies have and tackle them without feeling like just the ‘new guy’ who has nothing yet to offer.”
As many students are placing greater value on the general skills they have acquired at Wash. U., majors seem to have limited importance in regard to career paths. Because Wash. U. is a large university not specifically centered on pre-professional programs, it makes sense that even students with more career-focused majors, such as biomedical engineering, view their education as relevant for multiple types of jobs. BME major Amy Rosenthal said, “I feel like my major doesn’t really lead to a specific career path but allows people to be qualified to go into whatever field they want.” This wide applicability might be an asset, but it can also be daunting.
Even on the verge of passing into the post-graduation world, many seniors have yet to decide which professional field they would like to enter into. Some plan to go on to graduate or medical school, but taking a break in between is a popular option.
Martha Clark, a history major and East Asian studies minor, commented, “I don’t have concrete plans yet for next year, unfortunately, but I’m currently applying and interviewing for English teaching jobs in Japan. If that works out, I would likely do that for a couple years, and then I would probably go to grad school after that. I think it’s important for me to take a break from school for a while in order to get work and life experience.”
“I don’t really know what sort of career path I’d like to take when I’m older,” she added.
Among those students who have more concrete plans for the next couple of years, some still feel that they need more time to prepare for their overall careers. Olivia Dudek, a biology and French major, said that in preparation for a career in healthcare, “I plan on getting a master’s in public health next year, then applying to medical school. I think this will allow me to have a more holistic view of medicine.”
When asked about how her chosen course of study has prepared her for life after college, Dudek said, “I think that science courses are very difficult at Wash. U., and they prepare students well if they want to pursue a career in science or health. However, I do believe that there is a sort of naivete among the students due to the Wash. U. bubble, and I wish the students would be encouraged to learn more about the community that they’re living in.”
Overall, whether they’ve studied sciences or liberal arts, Wash. U. seniors feel prepared for life after college. Seniors might not all be sure of what they want to do in life, but they’re ready to graduate nonetheless. Abby Pribble, a communication design major, said, “I’m ready for a change. I feel that I have all the tools necessary to go out there and succeed.”