Career Moves: SPDC resources help roommates pursue graduate school
Jasmine Bryant '15 and Negesti Kaudo '15, with support from faculty and staff in the Student Professional Development Center, were recently accepted into top master's programs for social work and creative writing, respectively.
Negesti Kaudo and Jasmine Bryant were more than just roommates during their senior years at Elon University. They were also advocates for each other during the rigorous process of applying to graduate school.
And both were frequent visitors to the Student Professional Development Center.
The two friends discovered a passion for helping others that has since led Kaudo, a double major in psychology and English from Columbus, Ohio, to pursue a graduate degree in creative writing at Columbia College Chicago. Bryant, a psychology major from Washington, D.C., is now working toward a graduate degree in social work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Kaudo and Bryant are the latest to be featured during the 2015-16 academic year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who have used the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, help with graduate school placements, or prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.
They recently answered questions from the SPDC about their experiences.
Tell me about your experience applying to these programs.
NK: Getting into Columbia College Chicago was by far the most stressful wait of my graduate school application process because it was the last school to notify me, so when I was accepted into Columbia, a giant amount of stress about what I would be doing in six months was gone. Columbia offered me a graduate teaching position beginning in 2016, which is something I was very interested in doing. That made me a lot more excited to just begin anew as a student, knowing that I was experienced and talented enough to teach undergraduate students the craft of writing, which is something I had done on a smaller scale at Elon.
JB: I took a half-semester course my junior year directed toward graduate programs in psychology. This course taught me how to write resumes, cover letters, personal statements, how to have successful interviews, and more. Although I did not end up pursuing psychology programs, I still applied this information to the social work programs I sought out. I started studying for the GRE in May and took the test the August before my senior year. Knowing I wanted to have all of my applications in by December, I met with René Jackson very early in the school year to start working on my entire application package. Originally I was going to apply to 11 graduate programs, but I ended up only applying to four schools since I received acceptances from my top two schools early on.
How did your interest in your respective graduate degree programs develop?
NK: With both of my majors, English and psychology, it only made sense to go to graduate school and master the subject of creative writing to eventually begin research on it as a form of alternative therapy in the psychological and behavioral neuroscience fields. Jasmine is the one who ushered me to SPDC and other organizational programs about what steps to take and where to go next during our junior year. We spent the second semester of junior year doing extensive research and creating Excel spreadsheets with lists of schools we were interested in and the attributes of their programs. After fleshing out those lists, it was simply a matter of doing. I began my applications as soon as they opened, secretly flew home during Fall Break to take the GRE, and began meeting with Mrs. Jackson at the SPDC upon my return.
JB: My interest in the program developed after comparing different Master of Psychology programs and Master of Social Work programs and trying to figure out which was the best fit. I knew that I would have much more flexibility in the workforce with an M.S.W., so I started to focus on social work programs. University of Maryland, Baltimore was one of the few universities that stood out to me because of its academic rigor and graduates’ success in their job hunt.
What have you learned from the experience of applying to master's programs?
JB: I have learned that while applying to graduate school is extremely stressful, you have to use all the resources and support available. Without Mrs. Jackson’s help, I would not have felt as confident in submitting my applications. Additionally, being able to lean on someone who is going through the same experience as you is incredibly valuable. Negesti was one of the few people I knew who was also applying to graduate school. While we were applying to different programs, we were still able to support each other throughout the whole process. We were able to rely on each other to send reminders to study for the GRE, make sure neither of us missed application deadlines, and to have check-ins to make sure we were both on the right path.
NK: I’ve learned that help can be found in the right places if you have the right resources. Also, it’s much easier going through the application process for graduate school if you don’t do it alone, so find a peer who is planning on going for a master’s because he or she will act as a support for when you need affirmation that grad school is the right choice and direction. I’ve learned not to be shy or insecure when you need help or another set of eyes, and when it comes to your professional career, personality matters as much as the resume and personal statements and the only way to show who you are to your intended programs is through those two pieces of paper.
With whom did you work in Student Professional Development Center to apply to your graduate programs, and what help did you receive?
NK: Jasmine recommended that I go to Mrs. Jackson about my personal statements. Not only did Mrs. Jackson work with me on multiple drafts of my personal statements for each school I applied to, but she also helped me with revising and re-formatting my resume, so that it could speak for itself. Later, when I had been accepted, she helped me with writing cover letters for campus employment I was applying for at Columbia. Jasmine and I became close with Mrs. Jackson, as we saw her on a regular basis throughout the fall semester, and she spent a lot of time getting to know us as students, young adults, and young professionals, which I believe helped her understand the selections of schools we made, what our intentions were for the future, and the best way to achieve the goals we had set.
JB: Mrs. Jackson helped me with updating my resume, but she especially worked with me on my personal statements. I would e-mail her my personal statements and then meet with her to go over it line by line. She was willing to reread my personal statements over and over again and look at any drafts I had revised. Working with Mrs. Jackson had given me such optimism and encouragement during the application process that I referred Negesti to make an appointment with her as well.
How would you mentor and assist Elon students in achieving their career goals?
JB: I could mentor and help students who are planning to apply to Master of Social Work programs. While I do not have all of the answers and experience necessary to guarantee acceptance, I would be able to talk about the tactics and strategies that worked for me during my process.
NK: Find a faculty member in the SPDC or an alum who has gone through the process you intend on pursuing and ask them for help. Don’t be afraid to build relationships with these people as they will be helping you with some of the biggest steps in your future and it all begins at Elon. Get started early, make lists, and do research. This is important. It’s a reflection of your success as a student at Elon.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
NK: Even people who believe their resume is in the best shape ever can revise it and then take it to the SPDC with questions. Also, for those students who are in more creative and expressive, the SPDC has resources that can be used and guidance to give that can be modified for any and every career ambition. It’s a place for any student to receive advice and resources regardless of where a student is in deciding her career path. The first step to figuring it out can be walking into Moseley and making an appointment.
JB: I would tell all students to make sure to take advantage of the resources at the SPDC before it’s too late. There’s no need to wait until spring semester senior year to start going to the SPDC. Resources are helpful throughout all four years at Elon.
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare and what help did you receive?
JB: Dr. Cherrel Miller Dyce, who went to graduate school for social work, suggested some top schools I should apply to and also provided me guidance for my personal statements. She knew what Master of Social Work programs would look for in an applicant and told me which experiences and strengths I should highlight in my application.
NK: I worked extensively with Mrs. Jackson on my personal statements for each school, along with my resume and other supplementary items during the application process. After applying, Jasmine and I had several follow up meetings. By the end of the year, we were extremely grateful for the relationship we had developed with her through the SPDC and got together for a celebratory graduation luncheon before the end of the school year. I cannot explain my gratitude for being able to work and develop with Mrs. Jackson. If it weren’t for her, I would not be at Columbia.