Medium fries with a side of reality

By Almosa Pirela-Jones

Summer break has drawn to a hasty close, and students have traded in their beach towels and sunglasses for textbooks and Starbucks cups. All the trappings of fall semester–eager freshmen, football, Rush week and a healthy dose of stress–are rearing their heads one by one, and soon, every student at The University of Alabama will find himself or herself knee-deep in a swamp of homework and parties. But consider this reality: college flies by even faster than high school, and soon, far too many of us will find ourselves clutching a hard-earned diploma in both hands with no concrete plans for the future.

Since the Great Recession, statistics for millennials have been grim, with “one in five people in their early ‘20s and ‘30s ... currently living with his or her parents,” according to an article by Adam Davidson of The New York Times. Earning a bachelor’s degree in the twenty-first century does not hold the same clout as it might have thirty years ago, and it is far from unusual to find business and biology majors who graduated from big-name universities ringing up sandwiches at the grocery store. Though projections for success for the graduating class of 2015 are optimistic, there are ways to be proactive.

Join a club. The Source website provides information regarding more than five hundred campus organizations, making it easy to gain access to an activity that is right for them. Some are geared towards service or a particular professional track or interest while other clubs focus on politics, dancing or sailing. Becoming a member of a campus organization serves the two-fold purpose of entertainment and networking.

Keep in contact with professors because they are far more than human scantron graders. Professors are successful academics who were in your shoes not so long ago, and they can put you in contact with other professionals in your desired field. In addition, they can offer valuable suggestions about graduate schools, potential scholarships and life in general.

Focus on obtaining an internship. Every major does not require an internship for graduation, but securing face time (whether paid or unpaid), with a company can open doors that a summer or a semester slinging fast-food will keep greased shut. The University’s Career Center website provides a calendar with a list of career fairs for the 2015-2016 school year that are geared towards individuals interested in engineering, education, business, communication and more.

Be flexible. Nearly nine million jobs were lost in the Great Recession, but all have been recovered according to the Los Angeles Times. However, every year, college graduates are still walking into an unstable job market, and without proper contacts or experience, many are left with few options and become underemployed after graduation. The University of Alabama has placed every tool and advantage in our midst, and it is up to students to seek the information out in order to become competitive in the job market. Nothing you do today will ensure that your future is set in stone. As cliché as it is, life does indeed happen, and you would do well to invent a plan B, C, D and E in case your primary goals do not work out as expected.

Almosa Pirela-Jones is a junior majoring in English. Her column runs biweekly.

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