Dear Freaked Out Senior

Emily Bradley

Dear Freaked Out Senior:

What I wish I’d figured out before I graduated. Spoiler alert: life in the real world, at least in the short-term, isn’t nearly as sweet as it is in Hamilton, New York. Apartments are tiny and really expensive. Paychecks don’t extend as far as you think they should. Public transportation stinks. Literally. And it’s surprisingly difficult to find another bar that will play “All I Want for Christmas is You” any time you ask. Here’s the good news: without question, at least one post-Colgate reality will live up to your expectations. The University’s alumni network is just as vibrant and accessible as advertised. Colgate alumni are everywhere, and they have a vested interest in the success of their Colgate legacies.

I can trace my professional career back to a specific moment in my junior year when I made a connection with an alumnus at a Colgate-sponsored event. That connection resulted in an intern-ship that helped define my post-college ambitions, laid the foundation for my thesis work and later turned into a job offer. This story isn’t unique; it’s the story that defines a Colgate education. Four years on the hill earns you membership in a life-long network. Lucky you. But I’m definitely not the first person to tell you that.

So what can I offer that you haven’t heard before? You know that our alumni network extends in every direction, with members across the country and abroad, engaged in private and public sector work. But consider this: one crucial arm of the Colgate network is located right on campus. As an almost-alum, you’ve likely started reaching out to folks who do what you might want to do, or live where you might want to live. Don’t forget that the people who breathe permanent life into Colgate (the faculty and staff) can also be a valuable resource as you contemplate life after graduation.

They know you. They know how you think, solve problems and handle pressure. And if you’ve invested in relationships with professors, administrators and staff – if you are the kind of student who shows up at office hours and says yes to the dinner invite – they probably know a lot about who you want to be after college. These are the people who can help you think through the big questions. In a process overwhelmed by conversations about starting salaries and benefits and titles, it’s easy to lose sight of the other things that matter. Having graduated with significant financial obligations, I’ll be the first person to say that getting yourself employed should be priority number one. But feeling fulfilled and intellectually stimulated should also be at the top of your list.

To this day, members of the Colgate faculty are on my call list when I’m faced with a big deci-sion or just feeling adrift. They’re my reality check. They know the best version of me – the Colgate version. I guarantee they’ll have similar insights to share with you. And if you don’t feel like you’ve made these kinds of connections during your time on campus, it’s not too late. Commit to being more than a four-year visitor by building relationships that will outlast your physical connection to the school. Invite a professor to coffee at the Barge. Stick around after a great class discussion to ask that follow-up question. Get on your Administrative Advisor’s calendar. Network locally.