While many students are preparing for finals week and winter break, another group of students on campus is preparing to do something a bit more daunting this winter: graduate from Macalester.
This winter, 18 students will graduate from Macalester. Most will do so in December, but others, who are finishing up their classes or completing a internship, will technically finish their time here in January.
According to Registrar Jayne Niemi, there are many different scenarios that could lead to students graduating in the middle of the year. These include students who either will try to graduate early or who need to graduate late, depending on the requirements they have fulfilled for their majors.
“It could [also] be that they’re trying to save money. And there are always some people who might have gotten sick or have taken a leave of absence for another reason,” Niemi said. “They might finish in eight semesters and just happen to hit the eight in the middle of the year, or they may finish in nine semesters, because they changed a major, or had to take a leave of absence. Everybody’s life and circumstances are different.”
For some students, choosing to graduate at this time of the year is about the amount of credit hours that they have. Zhe Yu Lee ’14, who would have graduated in the spring with the rest of the senior class, came into Macalester with enough IB credits that he is now able to graduate a semester early.
Others, like Alejandra Marin ’15, are in a similar position.
“I’ve always wanted to graduate early because I entered Mac with a lot of extra credits,” Marin said. In addition, Marin said she feels ready to leave the stress of academia behind.
“I enjoy learning and having productive conversations, but this mentality of stress, work, stress, no sleep and churning out assignments with grades in mind as opposed to genuine interest in the subject is not what I want. It just became too much for me to want to stay,” she said.
Other students are also ready to leave academia and begin applying what they’ve learned in school to the real world.
“I’m really excited to get out and do something. Not to be down on Macalester, but the education here is a lot of theory and a lot of discussion without a lot of lessons on how to actually do things, so I’m excited to get a job where I can really start actively doing things,” Sydney Nolan ’15 said. “I’m excited to go out and just get started in the field. A lot of jobs [in communications and public relations, which I want to go into] are more about who you know and what you’ve done than about your educational background.”
After graduating, some, like Nolan, will look for job opportunities right away. “I’ve got a few interviews set up,” Nolan said. “I’ve got an interview for a full-time position in Philadelphia at a PR agency, and then I’m doing interviews with a few local agencies as well.”
While students like Nolan are looking for jobs right away, others who are graduating this winter plan to stick around for a while.
“I secured an internship for the spring here, so I’ll still be on campus,” Lee said. “I’m finishing my honor’s thesis as well, so [there won’t be] a complete detachment from the community here.”
While this might ease the transition away from Macalester, Lee said that there are other responsibilities that he will have next spring.
“At the same time I’ll also be trying to sort out what I want to do longer-term, post-May opportunities, whether that will be an internship or [a] job or grad school, as well as trying to sort out the visa provisions that I’m bound to as an international student,” Lee said.
While their time at Mac is running short, for some winter graduates, the feeling still hasn’t sunk in.
“People have been asking me what my registration date is and that’s when it hits me [that] everyone is continuing at Mac and I’m not,” Marin said. “It’ll be the first time that my friends and I are on different wavelengths.”
There are definitely some perks to graduating early, including entering the job market at a time when most other students are still completing their degrees.
“I feel like I may have more of an edge when I’m looking for jobs because only a few people graduate in the winter,” Nolan said. “Especially here, it’s not very common, so if you’re trying to look at Macalester connections and Macalester alums, I feel like I might have an edge in that way, which is exciting to think about and exciting to use.”
In addition, graduating in winter can give some students extra time to figure out what they’d like to do after school.
“It’s nice to feel like I have a little bit of a cushion and still have time that I can really dedicate to a job search if one of these interviews that I have doesn’t pan out,” Nolan said. “It’s nice to feel that I don’t have the same pressure as other May graduates when everyone is out there looking and everyone’s trying to find something right away.”
Students that graduate in December are still invited to take part in graduation celebrations in May.
“All of the December grads are eligible to participate in the one big commencement ceremony in May,” Niemi said. “There is also a party that the president gives just before the end of the semester. It’s more of a reception for the people who are finishing that semester, and they can take the opportunity to invite their parents or an advisor. So there’s a moment where they can toast their actual finishing moment.”
While some may not be in the area come spring, others will either be sticking around or coming back in order to walk in the ceremony with their class.
“I wasn’t going to come back [for the May ceremony], but my friends have convinced me,” Marin said. “I have friends I’ve known since my first day at Mac, so why not be with them on the very last day?”