Back to school ... again
In lieu of recent hard economic times, more college graduates return to school
Upon graduating college, Elliot Danko '07 envisioned himself in the high-end finance and investment world. His career aspirations evoked images of New York City, a suit and tie and 80-hour workweeks. However, years later, after experiencing a layoff, an economic recession and an unrewarding job search, Danko's professional dreams have shifted. He now finds himself heading back to school to become a teacher.
"Now I see myself in a classroom [wearing] a button-down and khakis. Instead of having 80-hour weeks, I see myself having a summer vacation, which, I admit, I kind of like," Danko says.
Danko's story is not unlike many others' during uncertain economic times. According to Andrea B. Dine, associate director of career development at the Hiatt Career Center, applications to graduate school are historically inversely related to the health of the economy.
"In a great economy, applications fall, in a poor economy applications rise," Dine wrote in an e-mail to the Justice.
Although the overall percentage of college graduates going to graduate school next fall has not increased significantly, that number is expected to increase next year, Dine wrote. This year, approximately 27 percent of Brandeis' graduating class is going to graduate school. The percentage of graduate school applicants did not increase significantly this year because economic conditions did not look as dire when applications were submitted this fall, Dine wrote.
Danko, an Illinois native, graduated from Brandeis with degrees in Economics and History. Soon after, he took a temporary job in Chicago until he was offered a job in personal finance in New York. After he'd worked there for about 1 1/2 years, Danko was laid off.
"That job ended because of corporate buyout. ... Bank of America bought my company and didn't need us anymore," Danko says.
When Danko re-entered the job market, he found that because of the economic recession, offers for his ideal job were not exactly flowing in.
"The job process is always difficult, especially now," Danko says. "The best thing that you can do is ... you can never have too many options out there. ... You just want to make sure that you put your name out there and you don't burn any bridges in the process."
Danko describes the job search process as frustrating and says that even when a job opportunity presented itself, it did not necessarily suit his career desires.
"I got a few offers for positions I didn't want [in the mortgage market]", Danko says. "Despite [this], I tried using those interviews to parlay it into a position that I would [want], but that didn't really happen."
In lieu of this unrewarding search, Danko decided that instead of continuing to look for a job that might not match his interests, he would return to school to become a high school economics and history teacher. Next fall, Danko will be attending National-Louis University in Illinois, home of a National College of Education.
"When we got let go, it was a little bit of a stressful time. But you got to put your name out there and figure out other plans," Danko says. "I'm taking losing my job as an opportunity to switch careers because I didn't like finance all that much."
Danko says the effects of the recession motivated him to return to school, as he is guaranteed to get something out of more education as opposed to an unrewarding job search.
Amanda Eisinger '09, who will be attending Columbia in the fall as part of a postbaccalaureate program in pre-med science, also says current economic conditions affected her decision to return to school upon graduation.
"I always knew I was going to go back and do the program, but [the recession] affected my decision to not take a year off [in between graduating college and going in to the program] to get a job because there's not much [in the job market] right now," Eisinger says.
Among students who graduated within the past few years, many have found it difficult to find permanent employment. Some who decided to stick out the tough job market, such as Josh Golub '07, were eventually rewarded. Golub, who majored in American Studies and minored in Legal Studies, recently found a job in finance after a long and grueling job search. Previously, Golub had worked for his national fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, before he was laid off due to restructuring.
"[My six-month job search was] frustrating because of how may qualified applicants there are in the market. You really have to look for stuff that you might not normally want," Golub said.
Even despite the difficult economic times this year, some graduating seniors were also able to find jobs. Sarah Gelman '09 will work for a non-profit organization, Jewish Funds for Justice, in New York next year.
"[Finding a job] wasn't really hard for me. ... I interned for a nonprofit last summer, and I was offered a job when the summer was over," Gelman says. "There wasn't really a job search involved, so I really lucked out."
Yet, Dine said, people are more apt to return to school during times of an economic downturn as poor economic conditions spur fears of the "unknown."
"Life transitions are difficult and are often frightening," Dine said. "Leaving college for the 'real world' is no exception. An economic recession and the perception that there are 'no jobs' heighten students' anxiety. Academic study is familiar, which makes the idea of graduate school more attractive."
Still, Danko reflects on his decision to apply to graduate school and ultimately believes it was the best option available to him.
"I think right now is the best time to go and get a master's [degree]", Danko says. "It really is a rough time out there. I have a lot of friends who have been backstabbed through the interview process. It's just [tough and unpredictable]. ... That's why I keep saying you can't get discouraged. ... You have to keep putting coal on the fire, because you don't know what's going to work out.