Senior Year Checklist
Transitioning to life after college (yes, it does exist) can be a rocky process. Find time between studying and partying during your senior year to do the following things, and you'll be on your way to smoothly adjusting to the working world before you even turn your tassel.
1. Buy a suit.
You're likely to wear one several times during your senior year, whether attending career fairs, giving formal presentations in class, or going on interviews. Although a suit can be pricey, think of it as an investment in your future.
2. Polish up your resume and cover letter.
Take advantage of the free advice offered at your university's career service center and always have an updated resume and cover letter on hand. "You never know when you'll meet someone who can get you a job," says Barbara Hewitt, senior associate director of University of Pennsylvania's career services center. "It can be on the train, a conference, or a networking event, and you'll need an updated resume on the spot."
3. Create a portfolio.
Many students forget about creating a portfolio to showcase their work, but a collection of notable work can give you an advantage when it comes to standing out among other job applicants. Standard for fine arts, journalism, and visual communication majors, portfolios featuring term papers, research projects, or work from summer internships can be helpful for other majors as well. Before graduating, set up an appointment with a favorite professor or advisor to get some input.
4. Go to career fairs.
Most universities host at least one career fair per year or semester, and many hold industry-specific fairs as well. But don't fill your planner just yet. Hewitt suggests only going to a career fair if you're interested in the employers attending. "Students will apply for jobs they are only marginally interested in, then the interview doesn't go well because they weren't into it, and they get discouraged by the rejection," Hewitt says. "Only interview if you're passionate about the position."
5. Take the GREs, LSATs, MCATs, GMATs, etc.
Although you might be bogged down with coursework senior year, it's a good idea to take required standardized tests if plan to continue your education in the near future. "It makes sense to take tests while in school because you're in test-taking mode, and have the ability to think quickly," Hewitt says. "Plus, after graduation some students go into a job with a lot of hours, and there's no way they will have time to study at night."
GRE, LSAT, and GMAT scores are valid for five years after your test date, and MCAT scores are valid for three years.
Go on spring break or consider backpacking through Europe after graduation (but don't blow all your money!). Once you start working full time, chances are you won't be able to take an extended vacation to travel with your friends.
7. Clean up your online presence.
Start this in September-it will take a whole year to track down, un-tag, and delete information you don't want potential employers seeing on the web, like your Xanga from ninth grade or photos from that Mardi Gras-themed frat party freshman year.
8. Gather reference information from professors and previous bosses.
"Asking for references is always a little awkward, because it's easy to lose track of professors, and they forget who you are." says Hewitt. If you aren't sure what you'll need their reference for in the future, ask them to comment on your work, and leave it open-ended, she advises. "This way, you won't have a reference for law school when you're applying to business school."
Ideally, you should gather your references while in school and keep in touch with the professors or bosses who wrote them after you graduate. Then, when an update becomes necessary, it will be easier to reach out for a more current version.
9. Go to the doctor(s) and look into post-grad healthcare options.
If you aren't going to grad school, mooching off your parents' healthcare plan comes to a halt soon after graduation. Make one last round of doctor visits during your senior year for check-ups (including the dentist and other specialists), and if there's a possibility you could be unemployed for awhile after graduation, look into temporary healthcare options.
10. If you're relocating, start looking for apartments and roommates a few months before you plan to move.
Use Craigslist, Apartments.com, and ForRent.com to look for apartments or rooms to rent, and scout potential roommates on social networks like Facebook. Also, start saving money for potential upfront costs such as the security deposit and first and last month's rent.
11. Have fun!
A cliché ending, we know, but the typical college lifestyle only lasts four or five years (for most). Take advantage of it now by enjoying your local college spots, watching daytime TV, and hanging out with the friends you've met-whatever it is that you might not get to experience as often after entering "the real world."