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What comes next: advice from professors to graduating students

Mar 15, 2017 Nadiya Safonova

As the year is coming to an end, another wave of graduating students is making plans for life after Mount Allison. For many, this is a time of uncertainty, and making choices about the future can be daunting and stressful. A few Mt. A professors have shared post-graduation advice with the Argosy.

Owen Griffiths, a professor in the history department, suggested taking time off school, reflecting and seriously thinking about where to go next. Griffiths pointed out that many of us have been living in a continuous school cycle since kindergarten. A change of environment, pace and perspective can offer an opportunity to break out of these routines, Griffiths said. “Unless you’ve gone to university in a different world than the one you grew up in, go experience more of the world and see it through other people’s eyes.”

Griffiths’s recommendations for how to spend time off school included traveling and subsidizing travel costs by working or teaching English or other languages abroad. “I think it is very important that we put the experience of our growing-up in a broader global context,” Griffiths said. When trying to find a job, Griffiths said, focusing on personal interest is important.

Griffiths also suggested studying independently during time off to learn about individual passions that you might not have explored in school.

“If you’re not sure why you’re going to grad school, or what you’re going to do there, don’t go,” Griffiths said. He emphasized the flexibility of the Canadian education system, which has few barriers to re-entering post-secondary education after a period of time off – so don’t be in a rush. “To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, ‘time is on your side,’” he said.

The graduating student faces decisions about grad school, travel and employment. Jeff Mann/Argosy

Griffiths reminded students that undergraduate success can translate into grad school funding. Above all, Griffiths said, “remain open to all possibilities.”

James Devine, a professor in the political science and international relations department, had similar advice regarding grad school. Devine stressed that a student should only be going to grad school if they want to. “Not being ready or committed to it is wasting time and you’re going to be wasting a lot of money,” he said. Devine said it is important to think about personal interests, be proactive and make careful and conscious decisions.

Devine said it is a good idea to take a break from studying if you feel the need. If a student is volunteering or working, it should be in an area of interest and should contribute to long-term goals. “You’re better off picking something you’re really interested in and doing a good job of it,” Devine said. “I think you have a better chance of success that way.”

David Fleming, a physics professor, recommended “not stressing too much” about the next steps after undergrad. “If you continue to stay interested, engaged and keep learning,” Fleming said, “what you want to do will become evident in its own time.”

Fleming also recommends staying open to opportunities prior to grad school. If students don’t want to go to grad school before finding permanent jobs, Fleming said, they should explore work terms abroad related to their interests.

Loralea Michaelis, a political science professor, stressed that the decisions you make during your undergraduate degree will not impact the course of your life. “What I tend to tell students is that they’re still in their early twenties. All the decisions they’re making are revocable,” she said. “You can pick the wrong graduate program, you can live in the wrong city, you can even marry the wrong person – and because you’re in your twenties, you can take a lot of that back.”

Michaelis encouraged students to pursue graduate school immediately after their undergrad if they are able to do so, especially if they can obtain funding. “Why wouldn’t you go to school if someone is paying you to?”

Different professors offered different opinions on what to do after graduating. You can now pick and choose from their various pieces of advice as you please, creating your own eclectic mix of post-undergraduate life decisions.