A Survival Guide for Junior Year
Graduate School Decisions
As senior year grows closer, some students become excited at the prospect of graduation and the idea of never having to take tests and write papers again. But for many, it is now decision time for whether or not they want to enter the career field after graduation or head to graduate school.
The first thing to consider when making this decision is what career you want to enter and whether or not a master’s degree will help you to achieve that goal. Assistant Director of the Liberty Career Center Mark Hager emphasizes that just because graduate school is right for one individual, does not mean it is the best choice for everyone.
“It’s more introspective about what do I want,” Hager said. “Do I want to be in academics? Do I want to be out in the career field early gaining experience? I think it just depends. What I try to do, and what all the counselors try to do is we really look at the individual and it is not just a blank ‘Hey everyone in this field must get a graduate degree.’”
Graduate school can be helpful for individuals that want to go into fields or job positions that require additional education. It can also be helpful for students looking to boost a low undergraduate GPA.
“If you are looking to go to medical school and maybe your undergraduate GPA is a little weak, going to graduate school could be an opportunity for you to prove that you are strong in the content areas,” Hager said.
However, depending on the job position you are looking to get after graduation, too much education without applicable work experience could actually hurt you when it comes to applying for jobs.
“You do have to walk a tightrope of experience and education because what you don’t want is all education and no experience,” Hager said. “Career Counselors are going to be able to help you identify that and based on where you are, where you are going, what you care about, what you want to do, and where your passions lie to see if graduate school is a good option for you.”
The final thing to remember when making the decision about whether graduate school is right for you is examining whether or not this is the right financial decision for you.
“Remember it costs money, so do a cost-benefit analysis,” Hager said. “Is that education going to benefit you? Is it a long-term investment? Is it going to get you where you want to go?”
NOTE: Graduate assistant positions may help pay for graduate school and/or more loans that can add to your student debt. Above all else, enlist a team of friends and family to pray for them as they make this life-changing decision.
Finding an Internship
Students preparing ready to finish college and head into the real world may have a great resume and great connections, but what about an internship that makes them stand out?
Internships are ways to get real-world experience by working for a company to learn more about what you want to do for the rest of your life, and to network within the company and to show potential employers what you can do.
Many students will do their internships the summer before their senior year starts, or during the school year while also taking classes. Digital media student Bennett Brown did his internship during the summer with the Lynchburg Hillcats to work with a sports organization as he pursues a job in sports broadcasting.
“My internship helped me because it gave me more experience working with professional athletes,” Brown said. “That was the biggest thing for me; it was becoming more comfortable with those pro athletes and being able to interview them.”
Brown is a student worker for the Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN), and works with numerous athletes during the year. He said that the knowledge he gained from Liberty helped him in his internship, and his internship taught him new things as well.
“I have learned a lot in class, but I have also learned a lot outside of the classroom,” brown said. “We have amazing teachers who have worked in the business for years, and it is great to learn from them, but getting out there and showing what you know while also learning is great too.”
At Liberty, most degree programs require that you have at least one internship before you earn degree. In the School of Communications, students are required to participate in an internship for class credit. In the School of Education, student teaching counts toward your internship.
Recent graduate Krista Miller is now a fourth grade teacher at Rustburg Middle School. After taking all of her classes, she student-taught at Tomahawk Elementary School with a fifth grade class. She said her experience helped her for the in-class work in her new job.
“Student teaching is one of the hardest things that students in the education program have to do.” Miller said. “You take everything that you are taught and apply it to a class that you will only be with for a semester while having a real teacher critique your teaching styles and methods while also trying to teach you ways to handle the classroom.”
Miller said she loved her experience learning from her evaluating teacher. After completing student teaching, she struggled to find a job, but that made her keep fighting for something she wanted.
“Learning from her was amazing and extremely eye opening,” Miller said. “Soon after I got my degree, I was only finding teaching assistant jobs and day care positions. I was even told by an employer that I was not suited to be a teacher. After going back to my evaluating teacher and being reminded why I chose this, I landed a full-time substitute position at Rustburg Elementary and then became their permanent fourth grade teacher.”
Miller said her internship was ultimately what helped her in knowing that this is what she was called to do, but her classes at Liberty taught her how to be an excellent, caring teacher.
Rebecca Davis, a senior in the School of Communications and Digital Content, studies strategic communications. She did an internship in social media for the Winston Salem Open. She said her time in the internship really helped her get ready for the real world.
“The internship helped my education because it helped me grow and know things from outside the classroom, Davis said. “It takes the things that I learned in the classroom and puts (them) to practical use.”
Davis said she often wondered if what she was learning in class would be used in her real job one day, but after doing her internship, she realized all information can be important in its own way.
“My thoughts sometimes in class were ‘am I going to use this?’” Davis said. “I was asked to take this video of the tournament. They came to me right after and asked if I knew how to make a great caption, and I did know how to do it after learning what to do from a social marketing class.”
Davis also thinks her internship and class knowledge are both needed for her as she gets ready to start job hunting.
“The tips and tools I learned in class really helped me in my internship,” Davis said. “I think the classroom and internships are important, but that internship gives you the real-world experience you need to succeed.”
All work, little play: when the going gets tough, Liberty juniors should visit the College of Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASAS) to avoid going off the deep end.
To combat the ever-growing stress of academia, CASAS offers many services third-year students can use as they near the end of their college career and begin the often dreaded search for internships and job positions.
Juniors also make the transition to being assigned a faculty mentor, who will receive the baton from professional advisors in guiding the students. According to Associate Dean of CASAS Nina Schenkle, the faculty mentors will help create the expectations of how to fully accomplish graduating requirements and keep students on track.
“There’s a number of different ways those relationships can mutually benefit both the students and the faculty member,” Schenkle said. “Often times it’s something as small as a reference for a graduate student pursuing a job. Other times it actually becomes a long-standing relationship.”
Science, technology, engineering and math majors are provided with two specialized faculty mentors that are available for juniors, as well as students of other classes. They provide focused advising specific to the major.
“It’s such a specific and demanding major, so they really want to equip these students with success,” David Hart, Dean of Residential Advising, said.
Additionally, the Dean of CASAS, Brian Yates, noted that the CASAS is crucial for juniors looking to fulfill internship requirements. The Career Center will provide resumé building services and hold mock interviews, but the program itself offers internships like the Washington and New York Fellowships.
“Students think, ‘It’s going to be in Washington, it’s going to cost a lot,” Yates said. “But really the price is comparable to staying here for the semester.”
And the Washington Fellowship is not just for government majors, according to Yates, as students with wildly differing majors can intern in organizations like Sirius XM Radio, the National Zoo or the National Park Service.
Whether it is one of the programs CASAS offers or an internship from an external source, Yates places a heavy emphasis on students using all of the resources available.
“People are always looking for experience. They lead to jobs and networking,” Yates said. “But you need to be intentional about it. With CASAS, we don’t guarantee you the internship. But we’ll coach you, we’ll help you and we’ll support you along the way.”
For more information on CASAS and the resources available for students, visit www.liberty.edu/CASAS, or visit their office in person at DeMoss Hall 1100.
Landing the internship
Internships are kind of like a test run for your future career, and they give you the opportunity to gain real-world experience while also networking with individuals that can help you to land a job after graduation.
While internships can be a very challenging and rewarding experience, the first challenge that students are faced with is trying to find the opportunities that are out there.
“Indeed.com and other job boards are not necessarily the best place to go looking for internships,” Guisseppe Cucci, placement coordinator for the Washington Fellowship, said. “Instead, check out the organizations that come on campus and recruit at career fairs.”
According to Cucci, meeting these recruiters is a great way to establish face-to-face connections with individuals who are in a position to give you an internship. Even if their company is not exactly what you are looking for, they might have an opportunity within their organization that aligns with what you want to do.
Establishing a good first impression in-person will help open the door to an internship. However, Kate Thompson, assistant director of experiential learning at Liberty, emphasizes the importance of impressing them on paper as well.
“My suggestion for making an impact and getting that internship is to make sure your professional documents are on point,” Thompson said. “You don’t want to go in with a questionable resume that is hard to read. Someone needs to be able to glance at your resume, know key things about you and want to know more.”
In addition to career fairs and helping with resumes, the Career Center also facilitates two fellowship programs that help students land internships and provide them with housing for the semester.
The Washington Fellowship is a long-standing program that allows students to get internships in the Washington, D.C. area during the spring, summer and fall semesters. However, Cucci cautions students to apply early as positions for Spring 2019 are already filling up.
Last year, the New York Fellowship was created to give students an opportunity to live and intern in New York City. The program was added not only to afford more students this opportunity, but also to offer a different kind of opportunity.
“Not only are the cities different but they attract a different kind of student and that is why we felt so passionately about this New York Fellowship,” Thompson said. “(Washington) DC is the capitol so you are going to get a lot of politics whether you want to or not. New York is different in the sense that it is heavily business and communication driven.”
Resume Tips for Juniors
Juniors considering applying for an internship or job should make sure that they have a strong resume to attract a prospective employer’s attention. Here are some things students should remember when writing a resume, courtesy of the Career Center:
- Keep in mind that an employer looks at a resume for an average of only six seconds. Students should make sure that their resumes stand out with a professional skills section at the top and previous work experience clearly outlined.
- Don’t write paragraphs for job experience on a resume; instead put the job descriptions in short bullet points.
- Quantify experiences by saying “Interacted with 24 customers a day” instead of just “interacted with customers on a daily basis.”
- End bullet points by showcasing accomplished results of previous experience.
- Keep resumes brief by only including one page per 10 years of experience.
- Tailor a resume to each specific job posting by thinking of the resume as the answer to a job description’s question “What makes you qualified to do this job?”
For further tips and resume information, visit the Career Center’s website for sample resumes by major.