Alumna Offers Advice for New Graduates

Wendy Uhlmann, OC '83

To the Editors:

For seniors, graduation is in less than three weeks. Here are some tips from the perspective of an Alumni Leadership Council member, but mostly written from my experiences as an alumna, parent of two Obies and university faculty member.

Take time to celebrate your accomplishment of graduating from Oberlin College, an academically rigorous institution. Take time to figure out what you want to do in life, emphasis on “you” — not your parents, not your family, not your friends, you.

Take risks. Venture outside your comfort zone. Find your passion and pursue it.

Ask for advice. It is free, will often save you time and can be very helpful. Find out why people like their work and where they live and, just as importantly, why they don’t.

Use Tappan, Wisr and Switchboard to contact Obies for advice. There are alumni willing to talk with you about their work, where they live and life post-Oberlin. Obies may be able to house you for interviews, internships or as you seek housing. Meet with and/or interview people doing the work you think you want to do. Shadow if you can.

Do not let your grades or test scores determine your future or where you apply. The surest way not to get into a program is to not apply. Know that your accomplishments and talents cannot just be boiled down to a couple of numbers.

Do not guess what graduate programs are looking for in applicants. If your GPA is suboptimal, contact programs you are interested in for their input on ways to strengthen your application. Take additional coursework if needed to prove you are capable of academic success.

“Some doors close. Others open.” You will likely experience some rejections from graduate programs and/or jobs. Follow up. Find out why, if you can. Learn from the experience and move on. Same approach if you do an assignment, test or task that does not go well.

Transitions in general are times of mixed emotions and stress. Whether you feel ready to leave Oberlin or not, you will. The first few weeks, even months, can be rough — the semester ending, graduation, leaving Oberlin and your friends, and moving all happen too quickly. You will get through it. Don’t dismiss how you are feeling. Reach out for support from family, friends and others you trust.

Graduation from college is a big deal and marks the end of a chapter in your life. You have always been in school up to this point. Some of you may be going directly to a graduate program, but most will not. You may or may not know your next step. That’s OK and expected. Take the time you need, and find work to tide you over — yes, I worked in a daiquiri bar — to give yourself needed time to make decisions and explore options. Take time to appreciate the friends and connections you made here. Your generation has the ability to stay in touch in ways previous generations did not.

Make the call/contact even if it has been years since you have been in touch with a friend/classmate. Wouldn’t you likewise want to be contacted? Someone has to connect first…

When you wear anything that says “Oberlin” anywhere, here or abroad, be prepared to be stopped — both by Obies and non-Obies who know Obies. Return to Oberlin for reunions and also virtually — listen to livestream concerts and talks, read blogs, see photos and videos.

You have spent four years in the cornfields of Ohio, and that binds you to classmates and to Obies throughout the generations. Congratulations, and welcome to the worldwide Oberlin community!

– Wendy R. Uhlmann, MS, CGC
OC ’83