Students question idea of graduating early

by Emma Secker

Artwork courtesy of Daniela Anderson

With tuition fees escalating at San Diego State this semester and next, so are the expectations placed upon graduates entering the workforce. Even entry-level applicants are expected to have ample leadership and hands-on experience in their fields before graduating. This might require students to pump the breaks on the graduation express and make some crucial stops along the way. But is doing so worth the extra tuition money?

In a National Association of College and Employers study citing the attributes today’s employers look for in new hires, there is compelling evidence suggesting students are wise to take all the time needed in college to ensure they gain the particular sets of skills required for their career choices.

“More than three-fourths of employers told us they prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience,” NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said. “In this case, we’re talking about students who have taken part in internships or cooperative education assignments.”

Many students wonder how they can fit an internship, volunteer work, leadership involvement, part-time jobs and other important activities of the college experience into four years. And the answer for some students is they simply cannot.

“Students are different with very different circumstances,” SDSU academic adviser Leslie Mansour said. She explained every student has a unique financial, extracurricular and domestic situation. What students need to do is figure out a personal track that is manageable for them.

Career services counselor, Alejandro Rodriguez, explained what students can do to prepare for today’s employers. Giving back to the community through volunteer work, studying abroad, interning and taking on leadership roles are just a few of the examples.

“Connect with a club or organization in your field,” Rodriguez said. “Think long-term advantages and focus on establishing meaningful connections while in college.”

Mansour agrees students are wise to tap into all resources available to them in college, and to always keep in perspective the bigger picture.

“Each unit and every class is a step closer to your goal,” Mansour said. “Rushing through school may sacrifice one’s greater understanding of their subject matter. Put the time in now to gain experience, so you can be on the right track later.”

Both Mansour and Rodriguez agree students should not overwhelm themselves by undertaking too many units or activities at once just so they can graduate on time. Mansour suggests part of time efficiency is being successful in classes the first time, so they will not have to be repeated. If students take 18 units to save time but only pass 12 of them, their attempted pace acceleration is only speeding them backward.

If students are worried they are not taking enough units per semester, Mansour recommends summer school as a means to spread their course load throughout a more manageable period of time. This might cost more money, but Mansour pointed out that money will be returned later on when one’s exemplary achievement in college results in a solid, sustainable career.

Taking time in college to mold into a marketable employee and experience personal and intellectual growth is vital. Getting involved, gaining experience and establishing meaningful connections are all profitable goals one should strive to achieve during their time in school. Even if it means sacrificing tuition money to do these things, the time and money is invaluably well spent.

Mansour also encourages students to enjoy their time in college and appreciate the experience as more than just an academic journey.

“Most graduates I talk to never regret taking extra time to graduate,” Mansour said. “Those who have regrets are those who pushed through without achieving all they wanted to. Do what you have to do now so you can do what you want to do later.”