Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Alumni Perspective: Persevering Through College and Beyond

Alright current and former “MSUSAer’s,” we’ve heard the facts before, heck most of us could recite them off the top of our heads if we really wanted to, for years Minnesota had the most Fortune 500 companies per capita (Connecticut beat us out in 2012, but at least it’s not Wisconsin or New Jersey, right?), 70% of jobs in Minnesota will require post-secondary education by 2018, the list goes on and on. For those of us that are or were involved with MSUSA, we know the importance of higher education. We understand that best way to advance our society is through higher education. So I am preaching to the choir, right?

For those of us who have graduated over the last five years, we have felt the hurt. A sluggish economy and that ever-increasing student loan debt have made it even harder for our generation to start making a positive impact on the economy. Unlike generations before us, (let alone our parents and grandparents generation) who had the luxury of essentially paying today’s equivalent of a semesters worth of textbooks for an entire school-years tuition, it is a constant battle for today’s students.

I feel fortunate that I only have about $20,000 in student loan debt. I know it could be way worse. Of course, if you weren’t working 20, 30 or even 40 hours a week during the semester, then it was the extra couple grand in student loans to cover the cost of the Ramen noodles and beer. Trust me if I had boot-straps, I pulling on those puppies as hard as I could.  Those extra loans or swipes of the credit card always seemed like a good idea at the time, right?

As we know, all good things must come to an end. College ends and then real life begins. Sure, some of us went straight to graduate, law, medical, dental school, etc. While some of us went right into the work-force. For some, the jobs were ripe for the picking (nursing majors for example). For others, it might have taken a couple of odd jobs to really find something that stuck. Being a political science major, I bounced around to a couple places before I found the ideal, Monday-Friday, 8-4 job. I worked on a political campaign, sold car washes/details and I moved down to Chicago and worked at a resort for almost a year. I know I am not alone. Let’s face it, not all of us have “the family business” to jump right into, whatever that may be.

On websites like CareerBuilder, you can see the number of people that have applied for a specific job posting. More often than not I would see at least 100, maybe even 200-300 people applying for the one job. Chances are, everyone applying has the same requirements, except for the guy that has 20 years’ experience, got laid off from his well-paid job and is now applying for the most entry level job. During the worst of this recession, the jobs recent grads were traditionally hired for went to people in those situations. No matter your age, it can be rough. There is no doubt about it.

What does any of this have to do with MSUSA? It’s all about perseverance. The dedicated MSUSAer’s who came to every conference; stayed through every delegates assembly (or god forbid internal affairs meetings), knows exactly what it means to persevere through those extremely long and sometimes boring (but thoroughly entertaining) meetings. Those long hours and the celebrations that occurred afterwards are no different after college. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. With every real life victory; be it getting that first “real” job or buying your first house the long hours you put in now always pay off down the line.

If you are reading this and are still in school, keep pushing through. As you are fully aware, college is an incredible time. The people you meet, the memories you create will last a lifetime. When all that comes to an end, MSUSA included, your hard work and perseverance will be what sets you apart from the competition. For those that are cruising down the highway of life, I recommend the advice of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ian Galchutt graduated from Winona State University in 2010 and currently represents his campus on the MSUSA Alumni Association Board. He can be contacted at igalchutt@gmail.com.

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