University of Wisconsin–Madison

Fourth Year: Looking Back, Moving Forward

For many students, the thought of finishing college can be as stressful as starting.

As a parent or family member, remind your student that it helps to concentrate on the big picture and acknowledge what they have already achieved. Freshman, sophomore, and junior years are all in the past — along with numerous victories and obstacles, both big and small.

Senior year offers a chance to not only reflect upon countless college memories, but also create new ones. While their earlier years included first-time experiences — such as hanging out at the Union, going to a Badger game, and enjoying Madison — all of those activities take on greater meaning for seniors.

Students begin a new phase of exploration as they decide what they’d like the future to bring. Evaluating strengths and weaknesses can be a great way to identify which skills need to be improved upon and which can be emphasized during the job-search process. Students can track their accomplishments during their whole college experience, but focus on senior year and develop a thoughtful resume that best captures their abilities. Career counselors can help students identify the skills and qualities that employers value most.

Even if your student is months away from officially entering the job market, encourage your student to review job postings regularly to evaluate options and see what’s out there.

While some students will decide to go on to graduate or professional schools, others will close the chapter in their lives as full-time students.

You can play an important role in helping your student figure out what comes next. Remind your students to think about how many previously held fears and challenges they have overcome as a way to feel less fearful about taking other risks. As a way to identify career paths, encourage your student to think about which classes — both inside and outside of majors — were most enjoyable.

Support your student by emphasizing that plans often change throughout life’s many phases and transitions, but that learning to navigate change will serve your student well during senior year and far beyond.

Tips for Parents and Families

  • Encourage your student to take advantage of the exciting activities and events happening on campus and in the community.
  • Emphasize the importance of strengthening connections with faculty members, who can often serve as references or write letters of recommendation.
  • Encourage your student to meet with a career counselor for information about networking, jobs and occupations, and graduate and professional school. Each school or college has a Career Services office, which features resume workshops, career fair information, and individual career-counseling appointments.