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So... you may think that graduating from college is automatic, but it's actually not. You need to be keeping an eye on your progress and talking to your advisors to make sure you're where you need to be so you get to put the cap and gown on and celebrate your accomplishments!

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#CrashCourse #HowtoCollege #StudyHall"
Graduation might feel like this magical moment in our college careers.

Whether we get to do the whole square-hat-plus-wizard-robes thing or watch our professors solemnly walk down the room with their swords (no, really), finally all our hard work gets officially recognized. Sometimes though, graduating might feel a lot murkier and we might be uncertain how exactly we get to this big, looming goal, and… that’s fair.

Because really, graduation is the last leg of a long race that we started way back before we even applied to college. But with a little planning, we can set ourselves up for life after graduation and get the most out of our college’s resources. Hi, I’m Erica Brozovsky, and this is Crash

Course: How to College a Study Hall series presented in partnership with Arizona State University. Today we’re going to talk about finishing college. [INTRO MUSIC PLAYS] Graduation seems like it must be this automatic thing, right? Do the courses, get the diploma. And well, it sort of works like that.

But just like you wouldn’t show up on the day of a race without preparing, you actually do have to prepare for graduation. And that preparation can begin up to a year in advance. You have to talk to your advisors, make sure you’re meeting all your degree requirements.

It can be stressful! So let’s talk about it. The first step towards graduating is to make sure we're ready.

And that might happen a lot earlier than you think; you should be checking your course progress at least once a year, but many schools require you to meet with your advisor at least once a semester. And as we've discussed in earlier episodes, part of this meeting should be verifying that you're still on track to graduate by your anticipated graduation date, and that you're taking the courses you need to take in order to graduate with the major you want. Like, I was a linguistics major, so to graduate I had to take courses like phonetics and phonology, but I also took a course called Lying and Deceit to round out my education.

Your college will keep track of all this for you and you can usually see a list of what courses you’ve already completed through whatever online system your school uses. But you can also track the completion of course requirements in a spreadsheet or task manager, so you know when you’ve met the qualifications. And as we complete our last lap around the track, we also have some options that allow us to finish in style.

The major we chose may include the opportunity to complete a capstone or a thesis. In general, a capstone is a project that you complete during your final year of study that suggests the solution to a known problem within your field. For example, someone in healthcare administration might propose a policy that will significantly improve patient safety at a local hospital.

A thesis, while also done in your final year, instead gathers all of the knowledge you’ve learned about your field and uses it to create new research. Maybe you’re a philosophy student and you have an original argument about Plato’s works. Or if you’re in engineering, you might work in a lab, doing a piece of original research that contributes to a larger research project.

In either case, you’ll be working closely with a faculty mentor to complete your project, whether it’s a capstone or thesis. Some schools even allow you to do an honors version of these projects. Some schools only offer either a capstone or a thesis.

But if your school offers you a choice, which one should you do? Well, that’s going to depend on your goal. If you are planning on going immediately into the workforce, a capstone project may give you the ability to demonstrate your knowledge of the field, and possibly even bring a project to your first job.

But if you’re planning on going to graduate school, having generated original research via your thesis can be a very valuable skill to have. A capstone project or thesis is a big time commitment. They entail a lot of independent work on top of what you’re already balancing.

So it’s worth some serious consideration–even discussing it with an academic advisor! --to make sure a capstone or thesis is something you have time to complete well. Of course, eventually the day comes when it’s our last day of class, our last final exam, and our last assignment to submit. So after making sure we’re on track to graduate, the next step is to start thinking about the future.

College can sometimes feel like a very individual experience. The papers I wrote for class contained my own ideas. My specific path through my course requirements was unique.

I took classes with a combination of professors that not everyone had. My major may even feel like part of my identity because it has shaped my personal skills and my breadth of knowledge. But college is more than an individual experience.

The whole time, we’re really part of a team. It’s like racing cars. We’re in the driver’s seat, but we also have a pit crew: teammates with special skills to change our tires and fill up our tank super fast, so we can get back out there and finish the race.

In college, our team includes the professors, career counselors, advisors, and an alumni network, all of which have tools that can help us succeed. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Some of our most important teammates are found in our college’s career services department.

Chances are it will be called something slightly different at your school, but the Office of Career Services is for educating, advising, and connecting students to employment opportunities, whether that's a mentorship program, internship, summer work, or post-graduation employment. A major priority of our last couple semesters should be to make a pit stop there. Just like a race car driver’s crew, the career services department will have special tools that give us an edge in the race… or in this case start our careers and land a job.

And getting an edge in a race doesn’t just mean SPEED! In fact, if your car only goes fast, you’ll probably drive right off the track on a tight turn. In a race, you need to know your car: its strengths, weaknesses, top speeds, cornering ability, and how it handles in different situations.

Like, in the rain or dirt. Think of your resume like a car you’re going to take to the track: What are your strengths and weaknesses, where do you move quickly, are you good at learning things, how do you showcase that to possible employers, how well do you deal with new situations, what softwares are you good at and what softwares do you need to put extra time into? Then there’s the track itself.

You need to know the track so you know where the turns are, where you need to brake, where you can put your foot down! Think of the job market like a track. You need to know the lay of the land in your job market so you can customize your resume or LinkedIn profile to be specific and cut through the competition.

Thanks, Thought Bubble. Career counselors can also help us write compelling resumes and cover letters. When we zip by that checkered flag, we want our car to turn heads, and attention to detail on our resume will help us stand out from the pack.

It’s definitely a good idea to stop by, whether we are already sending in job applications or we are planning to soon. The career services department may also have relationships with professional associations and may have databases to connect us to alumni as well. These can help us get our foot in the door by networking with people in our desired field and learn from their experience about what to do next.

Now, not all of us will be looking for a job when we’re preparing to graduate. Some of us will basically be signing up for another race: Graduate school! Students who are graduating with a bachelor's degree have the option to continue their education or to just become better qualified for certain jobs, by going through a more specialized college application process to earn an advanced degree.

People who are accepted to these programs will go on to earn specialized degrees like a master's, JD, MD, or PhD–to just name a few! If you want to pursue one of these post-baccalaureate degrees, the professors you work with over the course of your undergraduate degree are a great resource to help you figure out what advanced degree program is right for you. Some of them will even be willing to help review your graduate school application, with feedback for making it the best it can be.

And your graduate application will have several parts. Some schools may require an aptitude test, like the GRE or LSAT. Most schools will want to see your transcripts and a statement of purpose–and that’s something a professor can help you review.

Overall, grad school can be a great opportunity, but it’s also not a requirement for every job or for everyone. I went to grad school because I wasn’t exactly sure what else I wanted to do after I finished undergrad (which is totally valid!). One of our managing editors went to grad school so they could teach.

But it’s never too early to be thinking about your next steps whether it’s a job or grad school. In fact, knowing that grad school is an option, or might be an essential step, can help you when choosing your major. So getting to graduation does take some planning and stamina to make it through the last leg of our race -- there are course requirements to check, final projects to submit, and the future to contemplate with the help of many different advisors and career services.

And we here at Crash Course wholeheartedly believe you can do it! Graduation day is usually called commencement, and it will be marked on your college’s academic calendar well in advance so that you can plan ahead.. And commencement is a fun day!

To prepare for commencement, we have to fill out the right forms with our registrar’s office, usually in our last or second-to-last semester. When we do this, they should let you know if you have any holds on your account that might prevent you from walking at graduation or getting your physical diploma. Commencement ceremonies look different at every school, but there will probably be a big ceremony for all the graduates.

There may also be special ones for Black students, veterans, student parents, Latinx students, international students, first-generation students, LGBTQIA+ students, and more. There may even be special ceremonies for honors students and for your major’s department as well. Last, it’s important to remember that our relationship with our college does not end on graduation day.

When we are handed that diploma, we become alumni, and alumni typically have lifetime access to their school’s network of professionals and graduates. We may even be able to join local clubs and stay in touch with our classmates out in the real world. This is a major way that people can help each other find job opportunities and progress in their careers.

Our college is on our team, and there are many people there committed to ensuring our success. Commencement is a day to feel proud of our accomplishments. We worked hard and have been through a lot by this point.

Our diploma has one name on it, but it’s also true that we’ve got a team supporting us, from classmates, to career counselors and professors. Eventually, the time comes where we've handed in our last assignment, we've taken our last final exam, and we've sat through the last day of the last day of class to reach this point: graduation! It's time to feel good, to feel accomplished, and to celebrate what you've achieved!

Take a minute to enjoy all the hoopla because we worked hard and we deserve it. Others should be proud of us, but we should be proud of us, too! Thanks for watching this episode of Crash Course How to College.

This series is part of an expanded program called Study Hall. Crash Course has partnered with Arizona State University to launch Study Hall on its own channel. Check out youtube.com/studyhall where you’ll find more tips about navigating college, choosing a major, plus foundational courses connected to college credit courses that students struggle most with in their first 2 years.

We hope to see you over there!