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Graduation day—Saturday, May 11 — is fast approaching, and the pressure is on for seniors to figure out what exactly they want to do for the rest of their lives.
Although the question of their career choice will no doubt plague the minds of seniors in the nights to come, they will also have to decide whether to continue their education at Liberty University, find local employment or search for employment elsewhere.
According to Katelin Downing, graduate student assistant (GSA) for the Church Ministries Department at Liberty, sometimes a student’s decision is practically made for him.
“The (GSA) job was offered to me out of the blue,” Downing said. “Normally, the position of a GSA is a very difficult one to procure. There is a very long application process, and many more applicants than positions. However, I was offered the job without even applying for it. It was very much a God thing.”
However, not all seniors have opportunities like the one offered to Downing, and actively asking for God’s guidance is another way to provide students some clarity for the future.
“I prayed about where I should go next with my education,” Jennifer Boyet, GSA for the Liberty University History Department, said. “The only place I had peace about was studying in (Liberty’s) history program.”
To Liberty students like recent-graduate Alexandra Machita, however, sometimes the decision to stay or go is an obvious one.
“I really didn’t have anything keeping me here,” Machita said.
Most of Machita’s family lives in Pennsylvania and Maryland, she said, although she does have a few friends living in the Lynchburg area. It seemed more practical to leave, especially given that she did not have any housing or job lined up near the university.
“It would have felt weird, sticking around after most of the people in my class had left,” Machita added.
According to Machita, her choice to leave Lynchburg was entirely her own.
“The decision to move to Baltimore wasn’t a difficult one,” Machita said. “I lived (in Baltimore) last summer, and it was the most viable option I had next to moving back in with my parents — something I really didn’t want to do.”
Boyet also made her choice largely by herself.
“It was purely my decision,” Boyet said. “My parents were supportive with whatever I chose, so they didn’t sway me one way or another.”
Not all graduating seniors face the future with the same surety exemplified by Machita and Boyet. For Downing, there is much to be gained through asking the advice of family, professors and friends.
“Both of my parents and (my) professors had a large part to do with my decision to stay,” Downing said. “One of my undergraduate professors was the one who offered me the position as a graduate student assistant. He really opened the door for me to stay in Lynchburg.”
Downing said that her decision was heavily based on the valuable advice of her parents and teachers as well as the advantage of the full-ride scholarship offered to GSAs. However, Downing also said that her friends played a significant role in her decision to stay.
“Knowing that many of my friends were staying in Lynchburg to finish out their degrees definitely added to the appeal of staying here,” Downing said. “Many of my friends here are like family to me, so it was difficult to think about not living near them any longer.”
In Downing and Boyet’s experience, the benefits of working as GSAs at Liberty are numerous.
According to Boyet, she enjoys learning about the education system as she assists a Liberty professor with his classes. However, it is the people at Liberty who appeal to her most.
Downing also said that she enjoys her job, especially because it gives her an opportunity to meet new people and be a part of new types of ministries.
“(My job) allows me to be involved in an aspect of ministry I had not experienced before,” Downing said. “My coworkers have become some of my best friends.”
When deciding what to do with their future, some seniors also depend on the influence and advice of their professors.
“They played an important role in my ability to become a GSA, considering two of my teachers wrote my letters of recommendation,” Boyet said. “Also, the people who chose and hired me were former professors of mine.”
One of Downing’s teachers in particular had an important influence on her current position at Liberty, but she also owes a great deal of gratitude to all of the professors in her department.
“Well, one of my undergraduate professors offered me the job and is currently my boss,” Downing said. “Without the professors in the department I work for seeking to be given GSAs, my job would not exist.”
For Machita, her teachers had no direct influence on her current job, but they did play a vital role in her overall development.
“None of them connected me with a job or anything so concrete as that,” Machita said. “They basically just did a great job teaching me. They helped me improve as a writer, as a thinker and as a human being in general.”
Liberty English professor Karen Prior argues that “every job will contribute to your future career — whether it’s the job you want or not.”
According to Machita, she currently has a work-from-home internship that has taught her invaluable lessons despite not being in her field of study.
“I’m so grateful for my internship and what it’s teaching me, though I’m not sure that I want to continue in this field,” Machita said.
Prior stressed the importance of internships in networking—something that Machita has experienced firsthand.
“I took part in the Washington semester during my time at Liberty University,” Machita said. “Though I’m not pursuing the same type of work I did in DC, the internship did help prepare me for life in the ‘real world.’ It showed me the value of networking.”
“Don’t be afraid to take a job that isn’t in your career and stick to it for a while,” Prior said. “Work is honorable and will always bear fruit in unexpected ways—(it) builds character and expertise. It’s amazing how you can draw on the