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Friday, February 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Students should consider unconventional paths after Rice

By Christine Jeong     10/28/14 4:47pm

Every time someone asks me how senior year is going, I just laugh and say, “It’s going.” Because it is going. And it keeps going, adding to the time that has passed since I should’ve figured out what I’m doing with my life after graduation, or at least it feels that way being at Rice. People at this school are so good at having their lives together.

In September, I took the test I had been dreading for three years: the LSAT, the entrance exam for law school. I completely messed up the timing on one section, and that’s all it took. I cancelled the test while I was there, because I knew even if I got every other question right, my score wouldn’t be competitive enough. Three hours of my life managed to screw the overall game plan I’d had for the past three years and the specific timeline I’d had entering my senior year of college.

So what now? Option One: Retake the test in December and turn in applications at the end of the month, long after schools have started to read them, since admissions are rolling for law school. But I don’t have the time to seriously prepare for the test. Option Two: Apply for jobs.

I’ve been a nerd for the past three years. I realize that everyone at Rice is nerdy, but at least a lot of them, the ones that aren’t directly preparing for grad school, have been using the knowledge they’ve acquired to gain practical, hireable skills that will get them a real job once they graduate college. In anticipation of applying to law school, I spent my time doing legal research and interning for attorneys. It was alright, and I did learn a lot, but I didn’t learn how to code some program to do those tasks for me: To put it frankly, my college years have left me with very few ‘marketable’ skills.

I had moderate success at the Career Expo, but most of the jobs would have to be tweaked to fit my background. Very few recruiters were looking for an English major who edited newspapers in the free time she didn’t have when she wasn’t running around with a youth-sized football and flags or consolidating the 50 states’ statutes on cybercrime.

Rice excels at churning out graduates with very specific career paths: medical school students, law school students (my case might hurt their stats), consultants, oil and gas engineers, other engineers, more consultants, investment bankers. And we seem to limit ourselves to these pre-set career options. Everyone I know is applying to med school, or was just hired at one of the consulting firms post-recruiting season, or already received a full-time offer to work in oil and gas from their summer internship. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’re passing over so many other opportunities because we don’t think to consider them or even really know we can consider them.

I was quickly reaching panic mode at the bottom of the “What the hell do I do with my life” pit when my good friend Jaclyn, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco, said: “Rice is so obsessed with knowing what you’re going to do after graduation ASAP and it’s dumb: You have time. And there are so many possibilities. You just have to get creative and think beyond the typical firm jobs. Think about things like publishing companies or non-profits you care about. Take a gap year, teach English abroad, work at Rice! There’s so much out there that’ll help you grow and gain skills, even the jobs that don’t necessarily seem like they will give you those ‘practical’ skills.”

Even if I didn’t learn accounting or thermodynamics at Rice, I learned that our university is full of crazy-talented people. I know engineering majors who are incredible artists and pre-meds who write poems I enjoy reading more than any of John Donne’s work (sorry Dr. Snow), and people of all majors and minors with huge hearts and a capacity to help the people around them, whether they’re peers or the less fortunate. We have so much potential beyond the typical A, B, C and D. And I hope, as a university, we don’t see that potential wasted because we feel expected to find strictly practical and profitable work.

I hope the seniors who are in the same boat as I am stop panicking and realize we’re not actually sinking but instead enjoy the journey, one wave at a time. Truthfully, I can’t say I have yet, but it’s a work in progress, just like the rest of our lives.

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