Mechanical engineering and math major Megan Ariola just signed the lease to her one bedroom Uptown apartment for next fall. In the meantime, she is preparing to pack up four years of college memories into cardboard boxes.
Next year, she will be a project engineer at Frito Lay in Plano, a company she interned for during the summer after her junior year.
“I’m most nervous about being 100 percent on my own, completely making my own decisions,” Ariola who has lived on sorority row for the past year said. “It’s exciting but hard to fathom all of the responsibilities that come with full independence.”
In just a few short days SMU graduating seniors will be trading in Boulevards and blue books, all-nighters and snooze buttons for the harsh reality of the real world.
An estimated 1.8 million U.S. students are expected to graduate this spring with bachelor degrees. At SMU, there are currently 1,187 undergraduate degree candidates for May commencement.
The graduating class of 2017 is in luck. Employers anticipate increasing their hiring of new college graduates by 5.8 percent according to a 2016 report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center is just one of many places on campus students can turn to for help finding a job. The Career Center offers a number of services and resources for all students including individual counseling, workshops, information sessions, events and career fairs.
Associate Director of Employer Relations Regina James said the Career Center sees on average 800 to 1,000 students each semester.
“We strive to connect students to employers because we believe that the more interactions students can have with different employers and alumni, the more informed they are in making career decisions,” James said.
Senior Emily Sharp is a public relations and strategic communication major who feels the pressure of being on the road to financial independence. But as far as finding her dream job, she knows the right opportunity will come at the right time.
“I am staying in Dallas next year, but I’m still currently on the job hunt,” Sharp said. “I have four prospective places where I’m currently utilizing the connections I’ve made at SMU, and I’m confident something will fall into place soon.”
In 2015 more than 93 percent of Cox undergrads were employed after graduation earning an average salary of over $60,000 according to the business school. Job placement after college increased even more in 2016.
Associate Director of the Cox Career Center Kacie Kamp sees about 200 students a semester to discuss internships and employment. Kamp said that most business school students are proactive with their job search and reach out to the career center as early as their sophomore year.
“The Cox student population has very strong employment rates right out of school,” Kamp said. “Last year, 91 percent of our graduates accepted a full-time job and 95 percent of our undergraduates accepted a full-time job or enrolled in graduate school.”
Graduate school is another option many seniors consider, whether they are attending law school or pursuing an MBA degree.
Political science and psychology major Evelyn Field is on the graduate school track. Her major is targeted toward further education so she did not require much assistance in planning for her upcoming year. She will be attending Emory University School of Law in Atlanta in the fall.
Field said that if she was not planning to attend grad school next year she would want to apply anyway. But if she were searching for a job for the fall she said that SMU provided her with many resources that could help her find a position she was looking for.
“Networking is definitely one of the better things about SMU,” Field said. “People will often just overhear you talking about something job related and jump at the opportunity to help you or give you contact information of someone they know in that area, it’s great.”
In addition to the job hunt, recent grads will be facing variable credit card interest rates, medical insurance deductibles, performance reviews and simply having to wake up everyday to go to work.
“When college is over you’re essentially expected to take care of yourself and be entirely self reliant,” Field said. “After being so dependent on my parents my whole life, that should be an interesting transition.”
The transition to full independence may require as much on the job training as the actual “real” job they have.
The real world
Ariola said that SMU’s career services helped her tremendously in preparing for life after college. She attended the engineering career fair her junior year and found her current job.
“I gave my resume out to a handful of companies. Within a week, I had numerous interviews on campus, and within two, I was signed to start a paid internship at an awesome company the next summer,” Ariola said.
Although many SMU students are successful in receiving job offers right out of college, Kamp wants to remind everyone that it is not always easy. Her best piece of advice to students is knowing their career paths are a constant work in progress.
“Your first job out of school will probably not be your dream job. You have to work hard and climb the ladder and network with as many people as possible along the way,” Kamp said. “It often takes several years to even identify what that dream job may be.”
One final SMU tradition involving a sacred cap and gown is all that stands in the way of the class of 2017 before they embark on their next chapters. Strategically walking around Dallas Hall’s seal for all those years will finally pay off.
“I feel very excited to be moving on and starting the next chapter of my life. I am not nearly as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Ariola said. “I’m lucky I’m staying in Dallas next year so SMU will always be right down the street whenever I need a visit.”