With graduation just five weeks away, Bowdoin seniors are now more than accustomed to being asked about their plans for the future.  Some find this question easy—graduate school, new job, new city—and yet others still aren’t sure what they’ll do after Bowdoin.

“I have no idea right now,” Priscila Laforet ’14 said of her plans after graduation. “I’m still looking for a job, so I think it all depends on how those interviews turn out.”

A number of Bowdoin students are playing the same waiting game. For many, the results of the job search are some of the first real life yes’s and no’s students have received, making the disappointments and successes all the more weighty considering the immense work put into it.   
“I feel like the job search is a fifth class,” Laforet said. “You’re trying to juggle it with your coursework and honors or independent studies and trying to have a normal senior year.”

Students applying to grad school have similarly struggled with the additional workload and stress. David Needell ’15, who plans to attend graduate school at the California Institute of Technology to pursue Materials Science and Applied Physics, contrasted the application process to those of undergraduate programs.

“There is no Common Application. Graduate institutions' primary concern is not that you bring some quirky personality and unique perspective to their campus,” Needell wrote in an email to the Orient. “They are looking to make sure that a) you will be successful in research and academics and b) you will contribute to the current research and bring new ideas.”

Some lucky students, who went through the process earlier, were exempt from senior year job searches. Emma Young ’15, a Math and Economics double major, snagged a job through her internship at Bank of America in New York City last summer.

“I got an offer at the end of the summer to come back full time,” Young said.  “[Getting the internship] was really stressful at the time, but getting it out of the way back junior year was nice.”

Some who have not received job offers seized an opportunity to reassess what they want to do.
Laforet, a Sociology major, planned to apply to graduate programs for public health only to realize that taking time off between Bowdoin and graduate school would allow her to gain professional working experience, to take a breath from the college workload and to reconsider graduate school.

“My plan is to take at least two years off from Bowdoin and grad school and reevaluate if public health is something I really want to do,” she said.  “If it’s not, I saved myself two years and 100 grand.”

In a survey taken by members of the Class of 2012 during their senior year, 91 percent of students indicated they planned to pursue more education eventually. A year later, only 16 percent of the Class was actively doing so.

“I’m too undecided about what I want to do,” Callie Ferguson ’15 said of going to graduate school.  “If there’s something I realize I need to do, I’m willing to go the lengths to get there if grad school is one of those steps. I love school, so it doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me.”

Ferguson, an English major with a creative writing concentration, will work for the Allagash Brewery Company in Portland, beginning twice a week in May and working full time after graduation. She also writes “Grain to Glass,” a beer column, in the Orient.

“School really supplies you with a certain kind of mindset about what you want, and I figured it’d be nice to step outside of that,” she said. “A lot of what we think about in terms of grades and success here at college, we then translate to success in your career.  The metrics for success will go away when you’re no longer in college, but we still have this impulse to measures ourselves.”

For those pursuing a field like medicine, which has a specific track, this measured system works well. Yet for the majority, the prospect of deciding on an eventual career can be daunting.

“That was cripplingly hard—deciding what to apply to and the thought that if I get this job I’d live in that place. Do I want to commit to that version of my future?” said Ferguson.  “I think there’s a lot of urgency around getting a job right after school, but it’s ironic because you have the rest of your life.”

For Ferguson, the allure of Maine and the close proximity to her friends made the Allagash job even more attractive. She has not yet determined whether she will remain at the brewery or pursue something like writing. She took a writing internship at a production company in Hollywood two summers ago. 

“The minute I told myself I would eventually get a job, that this job will not be my only job—your first job doesn’t have to be perfect—it sort of took the anxiety away,” Ferguson said. “It’s both liberating and terrifying to think that you could do anything.”