When Jennifer Klein graduated from TCU in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in English, she fought with her parents about her future.”My parents were determined I would go to graduate school right away,” she said. “I told them I couldn’t go when I really had no idea at all what I wanted to study.”
Klein, like other TCU students, was unsure of what to do with her future.
Tracy Williams, associate director of TCU Abroad, said after college graduation is when most students first have to really think about what they want with their lives.
“So far, they have lived their life with certain prescribed goals,” she said. “When they graduate college, they are at a loss of what to do.”
While many TCU graduates will get an early start in their careers or go straight to graduate school, some will choose more non-traditional routes to fulfill their passions and gain real-world experience.
Klein said despite her parents’ wishes, she decided to follow her own inclinations and taught graduate business classes in Mexico, taught English classes in Japan and traveled around Asia.
After four years abroad, Klein returned to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in international development at Georgetown University.
“I went out and explored the world and got a better idea of what I really wanted to study,” she said.
Klein said she is convinced she would not have been accepted into Georgetown without her international work experience.
Williams graduated from TCU in 1996 and went to France on a post-college study scholarship.
“There is a lot of pressure in this society to get a job and be financially secure as soon as you can when you are out of college,” she said.
But, Williams said, she wasn’t ready for a job and used her time in France as a transition between school and work.
Chuck Dunning, the associate director of University Career Services, said instead of just traveling, students who don’t know what to do with their future should get a job abroad.
“It can hurt to travel if you don’t have a good explanation for why you were abroad to give to future employers,” Dunning said.
He said there are plenty of opportunities, such as joining the Peace Corps or teaching English abroad, that allow students to have professional experience while being able to travel and experience new cultures.
Both Dunning and Williams agreed that going to graduate school right after graduation may be detrimental to a student’s success.
“In most cases, students do themselves a favor by working for a year or two before going to graduate school,” Dunning said.
“Seniors see graduate school as a safety net because it gives them more time to decide what they want to do with their lives.”
Dunning said it’s important to get into the professional world first because, oftentimes, graduate school pigeonholes a student into a specific career path.
TCU senior Sarah Snowbarger decided she wants to go into the Peace Corps after she graduates in May.
“It is an exciting way to get out in the world and also gain practical skills in the professional field,” Snowbarger, environmental science major, said.
She gave some advice when it comes to students choosing their lives after college.
“It’s important to search your heart, what you find interesting and are compelled to do,” she said.
Williams agreed that there is not one correct route to take.
“It takes a lot of courage to not go the traditional route,” she said. “But students must understand there is no perfect path to success. You are not at a setback if you take one or two years to fulfill a passion. You have your whole life to work, take advantage of this time.