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Ready, Set, Graduate

MSU December graduates

The myriad of opportunities that are currently available for students at universities are impacting their graduation timeline. Students are no longer graduating in the “typical” four years. While many students have the opportunity to graduate early, others are graduating a semester late.

Internships, study abroad programs, and major changes may require students to reconfigure their graduation and take an extra semester of school in order to fulfill their credit requirements. On the other hand, summer courses, heavy course loads, and early job offers generate the idea of graduating a semester early.

Regardless of how long it takes to earn a degree, fall graduates are on the rise. According to MSU Office of the Registrar, in the spring of 2007, 1,179 bachelor degrees were awarded to students, about one third of the 3,552 degrees granted in 2009. A common misconception among students is that graduating in the fall decreases their chances of getting a job afterward.

“There is a myth out there that spring grads have a greater opportunity,” said Vern Mason, senior associate director at the Lear Career Center. “The students professional development and preparedness takes care of that belief; if you’ve done diligence in your preparation the December graduation does not have the perception of being penalized.”

According to Mason, an extra semester on top of the standard 4 years of undergraduate studies may even appear more attractive to employers. It implies more practical experience, and is an indication that students have a stronger academic standing. Mason said the exchange of a less formal commencement ceremony in the fall for a more appealing resume definitely has its benefits.

“Companies and organizations do hire year round,” Mason said. “A fall graduation is certainly not frowned upon by companies. What they want is an indication that students know what to expect, and that is shown through their academic career and practical experience.”

Retailing senior, Taylor Young, graduated a semester early in December 2010.

“I was lucky enough to get a job opportunity that I could not pass up,” said Young. “I am excited to be moving on to the next stage of my life but will miss all the people I have met at MSU.”

In order to solidify her graduation date, Young took summer classes and did an internship during the summer. In January she kick-started her career with a position as a sales representative for apparel and footwear companies Billabong, Element, and Sanuk.

A fall graduation is becoming more common at other universities other than Michigan State. The University of Texas’ Office of Relationship Management and University Events reports that the university had about 2,400 undergraduates earn a degree in December.

Lynne Levinson, Assistant Director at the Sanger Learning and Carreer Center of the University of Texas said, “When people are done they’re done, and they don’t want to stick around another semester and pay for unnecessary classes.” Levinson also said that students could have come into college with dual-credits that were obtained in high school, or had advance placement.

“The option of graduating in the fall is customized per student. Ask yourself what you have done to make yourself more marketable,” said Levinson. “That is one of the big messages to employers, often times your degree isn’t the whole picture.”

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