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Alumni Offer Words of Wisdom

Homecoming week is known for many things, specifically the return of college alumni. The alumni come back to campus for various reasons and participate in a multitude of events. One such event was the alumni panel discussion on graduate programs.

Berea alumni on the graduate study panel

The panel, which consisted completely of students who had once studied at Berea, shared experiences pertaining to their journey in pursuit of higher education.

The panel spoke on the various issues surrounding graduate school. During the discussion they covered such topics as how to decide if you should you attend graduate school, where do you attend, how you get there and how you get through.

What was surprising was that, unlike undergraduate programs where most students have similar experiences in terms of curriculum, the experiences with graduate school seemed to vary greatly from person to person. One alumnus explained that his colleagues in his graduate program were very friendly, and did not present the cutthroat competition he had come to expect. On the opposite end of the spectrum, another alumnus shared that graduate school was competitive and her peers were relentless. The drastic contrast allowed students considering graduate school to understand the range of experiences awaiting them after graduation.

One recurring theme among the panelists was that Berea does a lot to prepare its students for graduate school or the work force before graduation. Berea has a lot to offer by way of experience, not only academically but also through various opportunities to travel abroad and the internships made available to Berea students.

“Take advantage of everything Berea has to offer," said Amber M. Richardson, a 2004 graduate who earned her M.A. in Sociology. "Besides ... the great classes that you should take to prepare for graduate school, even those outside or not required by your major, there are also internship programs that are wonderful experience-gainers. Also, there are programs to fund so much of your graduate school search and application process as well as alumni from or near those institutions that can provide advice or help. Be sure to find and use all you can while at Berea, as it will better prepare you for your graduate study.”

The alumni also spoke on when students should consider attending graduate school. Some panelists went immediately into a graduate program, while some took a short hiatus from school, either traveling or entering the work force. “I feel it is best to start planning for grad school early and not wait to go to grad school," said Don Hodges, a 2000 graduate and Berea's current instructional technology coordinator. "I waited 4 years and have found that the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to return to school.”

The greatest benefit for current students was being able to draw from the panelists' experiences and the ability to freely ask them questions. The alumni offered advice like making friends with one teacher each semester, finding connections through Berea alumni or professors, taking advantage of Berea's post-graduation preparatory programs and staying focused.

The alumni panel discussion was sponsored by the Learning Center and Alumni Relations. For more information on preparing for graduate school, follow the links below.

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