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Graduates-to-be already weighing options after college
Anxiety and anticipation await Class of 2018
Published Thursday, February 22, 2018 8:12 pm
by Daniel J. Watson

Ena Walker plans on working, then graduate school after earning her undergraduate degree at UNC Charlotte.

John Lewis IV wasn’t quite sure what to make of his transition to the real world.

The December UNC Charlotte graduate had to figure out what’s ahead as he traded campus life for a lifetime of adult responsibilities.

“It has been a rollercoaster,” he said. “As much as I may have felt I was prepared for life after graduation, the reality of adulthood hitting you full face is super real. It is definitely overwhelming. I thought I had everything planned out the way I wanted it to be, I had great involvement and a ton of different experiences in undergrad but the reality of me being a responsible man at this point is like ‘yikes, I don’t want it.”

Lewis is transitioning from one school to another. He is doing an apprenticeship at Forward City Church in Columbia, S.C. In the fall he will enroll at Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Services in Decatur, Georgia.

“I’m in this weird intermediate point in my life,” Lewis said. “The biggest transition is getting out of going to class every day to working full-time. Finding a new way of life outside of the past four and a half years isn’t that easy.”

If he could go back and do it all over again, he would.

“I would tell my senior self to take all of it in and don’t rush it. I was thinking about graduation and graduation only but the sad truth is that I’ll never be in that collegiate space ever again in life.”

In less than 100 days, the Class of 2018 will be just like Lewis – scrambling to figure out their next step, doing their best to stay ahead of the curve.
Johnson C. Smith University senior Carlo Thomas has narrowed his post grad decision down to three options. An All-America football player, Thomas’ future weighs heavily on his athletic ability.

“I’ve got three plans,” he said. “Plan A is to take advantage of my shot at pro football, plan B is to go to graduate school, and plan C is to go into the police academy.”

Thomas knows nothing is guaranteed, especially the once in a lifetime opportunity to play professional football.

“After my sophomore year I figured out I got to have two plans regardless if football doesn’t work because it’s a slim chance to none at making it pro,” he said. “I still want to set myself up for my career, so I considered graduate school also as a backup plan. The third plan is just for insurance.”

UNC Charlotte senior Ena Walker intends to work her two-part plan after graduation.

“I’m going to work for the summer, either at UNC Charlotte in the new student and family services office or back home at my family’s business doing low-income developments,” she said. “Then after that I’m going do a two-year program for student affairs in higher education. So I’m going to get my master’s degree by the time I’m 24 and that’s pretty lit.”

As a business organizational management major, graduate school was the last thing on Walker’s mind. But her experience as an orientation counselor changed her outlook.

“It really wasn’t a priority of mine because I’m a business major,” she said. “When I became an orientation counselor I learned more about student affairs and I really wanted to pursue that as a career. I found out one of the prerequisites for that is getting a master’s degree and I honestly saw no cons in that. They pay for your tuition, and sometimes they’ll pay for your housing too, so I’m going to pretty much come out of that debt-free.”

Post-graduation statistics show that 72 percent of students planned to pursue employment and 16 percent planned to attend graduate or professional school, with the remaining 12 percent planning to travel, conduct other academic study or remain undecided. Within five years of graduation, 80 percent plan to enroll in graduate or professional school.

Although JCSU (1,428 students) and UNCC (29,000 students) serve very different student populations, both Thomas and Walker praised their soon to be alma maters for real world preparation.

“I’ve connected with a lot of faculty, staff and professors during my time at JCSU. They’ve always set us up and pushed us to be prepared for the real world,” said Thomas. “They give us opportunities and insight on different options we can take and they always encourage us to be better than the person we were yesterday - the sky's the limit.”

“I think UNC Charlotte does a good job in giving us a genuine, well-rounded experience, they don’t really baby us,” Walker said. “I think it’s a good mix of us getting to voice who we are as people but also understanding that we have to be a part of a larger community.”


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