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After Graduation

Yes, there is life after graduation! Attitudes to the end of undergraduate life differ markedly. Some students look ahead and, by the middle of the first semester of the senior year are marking time, waiting to get on to the next big thing. Others can hardly stand to think beyond the neatly organized semester calendar. Each person is different, and anthropology, including graduate school programs, values people who are different and who have acquired different life experiences.

Senior year is an immensely valuable time for all students, whether they plan to jump right into graduate school or a career, or alternatively plan to take some time for less career-oriented activities. The final year of the anthropology curriculum is designed to encourage students to consolidate what they have learned and to engage in independent research in thinking. This process can be a wonderful opportunity for introspection and self-evaluation. Classes are often smaller, especially the senior seminars, and the resources and guidance to pursue individual interests are available.

As mentioned above, graduate schools in anthropology generally expect that students will express clear-cut interests and goals regarding the kind of research they intend to pursue. Deadlines for graduate applications vary, but most will fall before the beginning of the second semester. Graduate Record Exams, grade transcripts, recommendation letters, and a detailed personal statement are almost universally required. You should make arrangements with plenty of lead-time to ask for recommendation letters and circulate your personal statement to faculty members. The personal statement can actually assist faculty members in composing a letter that describes your qualifications for what you wish do. Faculty members often have specific knowledge of graduate school programs, both from personal experience and through contacts with colleagues in the field. Although copious information is available on-line, it makes good sense to discuss your plans with one or more faculty members. Do this early in your senior year, or even late in your junior year.

Many students do not apply to graduate school during their senior year. This may actually increase chances for a successful graduate school experience: you may have a better sense of your own direction and interests and some real-world experience that will be an added qualification in the eyes of admissions committees. Many great anthropologists have come to the field when they were ready - even into their 30s and 40s - rather than with a freshly minted undergraduate degree. Although you may have left the College, you still should consider the faculty as sources of advice - get in touch! We'll remember who you are, and, if we can't answer your question directly, we should be able to point you in the right direction to get answers.

Whether seeking a graduate degree in anthropology or some other career option, students should investigate the resources available at the William & Mary Career Center. At the very least, it can provide an essential overview of issues you will want to think about.