Kiera Savage

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — As Winthrop University’s fall 2019 commencement quickly approaches, many graduates are preparing to head into the next stage of life.

According to Registrar Gina Jones, Winthrop has 273 undergraduate and 49 graduate degree candidates who will walk across the stage Dec. 14 and receive a diploma.

Some students are preparing to enter the workforce, others plan to continue their education in graduate school and some have no idea where the future will take them.

Jessica Battista, who will graduate with a degree in mass communication, is one student who has already found a job.

“I was fortunate enough to get a job offer for a TV reporting job in Grand Junction, Colorado. I will start Jan. 6, as their new TV reporter,” said Battista.

She said she is grateful she has a job lined up, but she feels stressed about how quickly things happened.

“I feel a little more time constricted, because I want to say goodbye to my friends, enjoy my time with my family and these last couple of weeks have been really hard doing that, because I’ve been so stressed,” said Battista.

Emmy Gillespie, who will graduate with a psychology degree, said she plans to enter graduate school to study gerontology, the study of old age, which was her minor at Winthrop.

“I realized that I don’t really like, psychology but by the time I realized that I didn’t like psychology, I was in too deep,” said Gillespie.

However, she said she hasn’t decided which school she will attend.

“It is actually kind of hard to find schools. The biggest and best is in California. So, I would actually go into end of life care, like hospice,” said Gillespie.

She said her ideal job would be to work as an activities director in an assisted living facility.

For Leola Smith, a theatre major with a design and technical emphasis, her post graduation future is uncertain, as she said she is still trying to figure out the next step.

“I actually had some experiences of bad mental health and stress. That was one of the downsides, including actually just switching majors several times. Just making it to graduation is such a big accomplishment,” said Smith.

“I will say that I am one of those students that is graduating with no actual direction after college,” she said. “I’m determined to have this mindset: that it’s going to be okay.”

For the moment, Smith works at Kings Mountain State Park, which she said she enjoys.

Regardless the immediate future, the students who spoke to the Palmetto Report said they think Winthrop helped to prepare them for life after college.

For example, Battista said the school helped prepare her for a career as a news reporter and assisted her with the job search.

“After my interview with (the station in) Colorado, I went to (my adviser) Dr. (Bill) Schulte and said, ‘Hey this is the situation, this is how much money I’m gonna be making, what should I do? Should I try and ask for moving expenses?’ And he helped me,” she said.

“Even though my parents have been through job (searches) and they’ve been through that situation…they haven’t gone into what I’m going into in a career,” said Battista.

Gillespie said she also feels Winthrop prepared her well for the future.

“A lot of things over lap in classes,” said Gillespie. “So, you’ll be learning one thing in this class and then it connects to something you learned two years later in another class. So, it’s always, you’re learning and you’re building on what you learned before.”

While Smith believes Winthrop has prepared her for life in the workplace, she still feels a little apprehensive about the transition from college to full-time employment.

“As of right now we are all so focused on finishing our degree. It’s just like how do we even function in the real world, where we’re paying bills full-on, full-time? Or just functioning as a regular adult without the focus of school,” said Smith.

For students worried about the transition, Battista offered a few tips for the next phase of life.

“Take it day by day. Actually enjoy that you are graduating college and that is a big accomplishment,” said Battista. “I feel like in this world we stress so much as students that we take away from the moment that you just graduated college. You just got a degree that you’ve worked so hard on.”

She said students should enjoy the moment, take graduation photos and walk around campus to take it all in.

The fall commencement ceremony will be held Saturday Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. at the Winthrop Coliseum.