I’m graduating! Now what?

St. Kate’s is about to graduate another batch of distinguished students this coming May. It’s an exciting time as students wrap up their St. Kate’s career and prepare to make their mark on their communities. Students look forward to the steady beat of Pomp and Circumstance… until pangs of panic resonate within them and some students realize that they don’t have a very clear idea what their next step is after finishing their undergraduate career. Logically, they should find employment, but there’s also the option of enrolling in graduate school… but what if you’re not quite ready to settle down into a full-time job and graduate school just isn’t the right step for you at this time? There are options and here are a few of them:

Teach For America poster

Teach For America poster

  1. Teach For America. This opportunity is concentrated on education in low-income classrooms.  Those who participate in Teach For America are trained to be teachers mean to revitalize the schools they serve. You need not have majored in Secondary or Elementary Education while completing your Bachelors degree. Whether you studied Russian Literature, Nursing, Economics, or were Pre-Law, everyone can apply to be part of TFA. Those who are accepted are placed in schools in communities and states that they rate in order of preference and they receive the training that is most needed for the schools they are serving. If an English as a Second Language certification or a Special Education certification is needed, TFA will help you get that endorsement so that you can be an effective teacher. There is a two year commitment, but TFA member can and do sometimes stay in service longer. TFA is willing to help with some costs of relocation and covers many expenses during training and before you receive your first paycheck from the school where you’re serving.If Education is an area you are passionate about and you want to make a difference in the communities that need support, this would be a good opportunity for you. You may click HERE to explore the TFA website and start your application.

    Teach For America poster

    Teach For America poster

  1. Peace Corps.  On the Peace Corps website it says, “… the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.” In 1961, a few weeks after his inauguration, former President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Those who committed to service signed on for two years and served in another part of the world doing work that was meaningful to the communities they impacted. Service members served in 6 countries in 1961 and have since then gone on to serve in 139 countries. The average length of service for the Peace Corps is 27 months. Volunteers choose which part of the world they would like to serve in and indicate a preference for how they would like to serve communities in that area.  Some of the key areas are Education (which is most popular), the Environment, and Health (see Volunteer Openings). From there, you choose your preferred part of the world and see what opportunities in the area you chose are available at this time. There is also the option of choosing the “Anywhere” option both for what type of service you’ll provide and for where you would perform that service. One thing to keep in mind is that volunteers are responsible for taking care of their student loans while they are away, which means either seeking deferment or making payments while you are abroad. If you’re looking to travel abroad and serve communities far from home, this would be a good opportunity for you.

    AmeriCorps logo.

    AmeriCorps logo.

  1. AmeriCorps VISTA. Founded in 1994, this is an intensive volunteer opportunity, similar to the Peace Corps, but set exclusively in the United States and its territories. According to the National and Community Service website, “Americorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.” When you apply, you choose which U.S. State or Territory you would like to serve in and you choose what kind of volunteering you would like to do. Some options are Community Outreach, Elder Care, Ex-Offender Reentry, and Hunger, among other options. Students who join Americorps receive a living wage and most receive a deferment on their student loans so that they don’t have to worry about payments during their service. If serving communities around the U.S. sounds appealing to you, this would be a good opportunity. Click HERE to explore what AmeriCorps has to offer you as a potential volunteer, what they’ve been doing in communities across the U.S., and what you need to take into consideration as you apply.

     TEFL Iberia logo.

    TEFL Iberia logo.

  1. TEFL Certification.  This is a course where you earn a certificate that qualifies you to teach English as a foreign language abroad.“[Earning the certification is] very valuable both personally and professionally,” said Richard Davies, Course Director through TEFL Iberia in Spain. Professionally speaking, it looks good to employers when you can speak at least one other language and you’ll become more resourceful– both make you more employable. You’ll also gain experience with public speaking and organization applicable to a professional setting.“[Y]ou’ll have an adventure, boost your confidence… you’ll make friends all over the world, [and] you’ll get an insight into a culture different from yours,” Davies said.You don’t need to have majored in education at any level to take advantage of this course and opportunity. Davies says that people from a variety of backgrounds and ages go through this course and become TEFL certified even after spending time in other jobs.

    This is a paid opportunity. Davies works with TEFL Iberia in Spain and gave the insight that new teachers make 1,300€ a month (about $1,480 USD) which can easily allow for travel on school breaks, rent, food, and savings, which could be applied to student loans. He admits that “[p]aying back debt might be tricky but doable,” so a good financial plan would need to be in place. He also mentions the possibility of upward mobility– as you become a more skilled teacher, you can start charging more for your lessons.

    “There’s no hurry at all to join the rat race/get on the career ladder. You’re missing nothing back home and gaining lots abroad,” said Davies.

    Getting TEFL certified is a good option if you feel that you’re ready to jump into the workforce, but are looking for your next great adventure. If you’re interested in TEFL Iberia, click HERE to learn more. If you’re interested in TEFL certification, but would like to teach elsewhere in the world, you can explore your options HERE (International TEFL Academy).

Graduation is an exciting and nerve-wracking time, but that’s no reason to feel that your options and opportunities are so limited right after graduation. There are many honorable choices that graduates make for themselves and perhaps going one of the above routes will be your honorable choice.

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