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Life After Community College: Start Making Plans Now

> BY AMY BALDWIN, AUTHOR OF THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE

 

Just started college? About to graduate? It’s never too early (or too late) to start planning your next steps after you attend a community college. Your future plans may include transferring to a four-year university and completing a bachelor’s degree, or they may consist of entering the workforce immediately. No matter your choice, the following information will help you prepare today for tomorrow’s possibilities.

 

Go to Career and College Fairs
One of the easiest steps to take in planning for your future is to go to the fair—not the kind with the deepfried funnel cakes and kettle corn, but the kind with university representatives and potential employers. Even if you are not yet ready to take the plunge into the workforce or move to another institution, take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about what is expected of you when you are ready. Announcements about these events can often be found on your college’s Web site, on bulletin boards, or from other central places of information.

 

To make the most of these fairs, make a plan of attack before attending. For transfer fairs, be sure to speak to universities that you may attend. When talking to a university representative, ask him or her about admissions standards and special scholarships for transfer students. Also, ask about scheduling a tour of the campus or making an appointment with the university’s advisors; before transferring, you will want to be familiar with the campus and key people who can help you complete your degree.

 

For career fairs, it’s best to dress for the job you want and to be selective about which employers you visit. Yes, that means store your backpack in your car, trade your T-shirt in for something dressier, and prepare to talk about your career goals and abilities. Target only those for you and your long-term goals. Providing these potential employers with your résumé is a great way to make a connection. Within a few days of the fair, follow up with an e-mail or phone call if you hit it off with a potential employer.

 

Get “Career Ready”
Career and transfer fairs are not the only opportunities your college may offer to help you make the change from successful student to satisfied employee. Your college’s counseling, advising, or career center may provide résumé-writing and interviewing workshops that will get you “career ready” before you graduate. They may also have information about available jobs and internships in your community. Honing your interviewing skills, polishing your résumé, and investigating the job market well before graduation day are essential to keeping on track to that dream career.

 

Talk to college advisors
But what if you are not quite ready to finish your education and want, instead, to transfer to earn a four-year degree? First, you will need to visit your advisor to determine what courses you will need to stay on track with your current degree.

 

You will also want to talk about what your transfer plans are and what degree you would like to complete at a four-year university. Your advisor can help you make the most of your time at the community college. He or she can offer suggestions for classes to take that will transfer easily to a four-year university and advice about which elective courses (classes that are not required for your degree) will best prepare you for the workload.

 

Other questions to ask an advisor include: What majors does the university offer? What student and professional organizations are there? Will you have to complete your associate’s degree first before transferring? The answers to these questions will supplement the information you can get from a transfer fair, the university’s Web site, and students who made the transfer successfully.

 

Join in
Juggling the demands of your college classes along with your other obligations will keep you pretty busy. However, carving out time to get involved on campus and in your community is just as important to your success after you graduate as it is to your connection to your institution while you are enrolled.

 

To make the most of your time, look for campus organizations that fit your career interests. You may find that the college’s business students’ club or art students’ organization is just the place to learn more about careers and fouryear degrees. At the very least, you will meet people who share your interests.

 

Make connections
In addition to networking in student organizations, remember that your professors can also help you with your future plans. They are often a wealth of information about the job market, especially if the courses they teach prepare you to enter the workforce. Professors are also knowledgeable about four-year degree programs, and many will work closely with transfer schools in your area.

For example, your biology professor may know the admissions director for a nursing program at the university across town. Likewise, your accounting professor may serve on a committee with the director of human resources at a marketing firm.

 

Your professors may also be able to recommend you for scholarships, internships, and admissions to competitive programs. Because professors often know your abilities, successes, and dreams, they are perfect people to write a recommendation letter or to serve as a reference on a résumé.

 

Most of what you need to make a successful move from college to university or college to work is available on your campus. Reach out to your professors, get to know your classmates, get involved on your campus, and participate in activities that will increase your knowledge of the career or degree you want.

 

Is there really life after college? Yes, a great life is possible if you plan for it.

AMY BALDWIN TEACHES WRITING, LITERATURE, AND COLLEGE SUCCESS AT PULASKI TECHNICAL COLLEGE IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS. SHE HAS WRITTEN THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE 2ND EDITION (PEARSON, 2009) AND THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE PLUS 2ND EDITION (PEARSON, 2010).

 

Stefanie Dupre at Delgado Community College talks about her plans for after graduation.
Hello, my name is Stefanie Dupre and I’m a senior at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and today I would like to discuss with you my plans after I graduate and how I organize my time.  I am a student in the Interpreters Program and my goal is to graduate and to get into the field and work on certification.  I do want to go to a four-year university, get my bachelors degree, but haven’t yet decided.  So I would like to teach American Sign Language to deaf children eventually, but for now, just want to work on my certification.  Some ways and tips how I organize my time would be basically through discipline.  You know, I limit my time with television and what I do on the weekends is mostly just doing everything in increments.  I do have a daughter and a family, so organizing all of that can be hectic at times, but a strict, tight schedule and lots and lots of study time even midnight hours is how I make the grade.  Two year university is definitely, I’m sorry two-year college is definitely similar to a four-year university, a lot of prep time, a lot of dedication, same as anywhere else.  So definitely I would say that’s hard and you just have to do what you want to do and set goals and reach them and that’s it. 

 

Ben Cleaves at Pulaski Technical College talks about his plans to transfer to a four-year institution.
Hi, my name is Ben Cleaves, I’m a student at Pulaski Technical College and I was asked what my plans were after community college.  I’m definitely going to go to a four-year institution, probably UALR, a lot of people transfer from Pulaski Tech to UALR.  And as far as what I’m going to do, I have absolutely no clue.  So if there are any students out there that are in that boat, that don’t have a major, or are undecided on what they want to do with their lives, I can relate to that.  My plans on achieving my goals are pretty simple.  Basic, fundamental, practical things that you can do, that I do are: go to class, always attend class, I don’t miss, I mean obviously if you’re sick. Show up on time, obviously punctuality is important; you can miss fifteen minutes of the class and miss important information. Do the work that’s assigned to you, so you can actually learn and ask for help.  Utilize the resources that Pulaski Tech gives you, that your professors give you,that your classmates give you and you don’t have to do it by yourself.  There’s so much support out there for you and it can make it much easier and you can actually get a better comprehension of what you’re trying to learn.  Basically, my plan to reach my goal is to practice those principles and do the best that I can. And somewhere between now and later, community college is going to open a door for me that will lead me to what I want to do with my life.  Until then, I’m just going to enjoy the experience and that’s what I plan to do and I appreciate the opportunity to post a video to Student Health 101, thanks. 

 

Author Amy Baldwin talks about how career fairs can help students.
Hi, I’m Amy Baldwin, an instructor at Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  I just got an email from one of my students, Rose, just today.  She’s going to attend the career fair tomorrow and now that she’s not really sure about what she wants to be after she graduates, she wanted  to know if it was okay to go to the career fair, hand out a generic resume and talk to everyone there, despite what she’s heard about targeting employers.  And my advice to her is yeah, go ahead.  If you’re not quite sure what you want to do when you graduate then going to a job fair to learn more about what jobs are available and to talk to everybody and practice your kind of personal/interpersonal skills is a great way to kind of get your feet wet.  So yes Rose, go for it.  Create a generic resume, hand it to people that you meet and focus on meeting as many people as possible and learning as much as you can. 

 

Sunny Ferrero, a student at the University of Florida, explains how to cook a healthy salmon dinner.
Hi my name is Sunny and I’m a graduate student at the University of Florida. I’m going to show you how you can make a restaurant quality meal right inside your own apartment except it’s only going to cost you about five dollars instead of fifteen. First we’re going to start off with some beautiful salmon. Salmon is a really good source of protein and it’s actually supposed to reduce your craving for chocolate. I read somewhere that when you crave chocolate you might actually need protein. I mean chocolate does release endorphins but protein is what gives your brain a lot of power. So I’m going to cook this in a pan with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick. And we’re going to pretend that it’s sizzling right now. Now, I’m going to add a little honey to the salmon. That makes it really amazing. And you can also add some other spices to it like pepper. Yeah, us students are allowed to save little take out pepper packets, saves money. And garlic powder is also really good. And we’re still going to pretend it’s sizzling. Now I’m going to cover this up. And you don’t even really need to turn it. You’ll know it’s done when it flakes easily with a fork, and it will be a light pink in color when it’s done. So now we’re going to stir fry some vegetables. You really want the freshest vegetables possible, ideally from a farmers market. For example, here we have some broccoli, carrots, and those red things are red bell peppers. They are loaded with vitamin C. Now, I discovered that when I stir fry vegetables in balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing they come out really tasty. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. Now, I’m not going to cook these for very long, because I like my vegetables really crunchy. And again, we’re going to pretend that is sizzling right now, it should be sizzling. So, when all of this is done, it should look something like this. So there you have it, a nice healthy meal right inside your own apartment.

 

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