My Journey to Grad School: Confessions of a Nonprofit Drop Out

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By Mallory Levy, BA in Psychology May 2013, MA in Education and Human Development May 2017

If you had asked me six years ago, as a freshman at GW, if I was planning on going to graduate school I would have probably laughed. But here I am today working on my double alumni status: getting my Master’s in Education and Human Development in GSEHD studying School Counseling.

My Bachelor’s is in Psychology, with Minors in Communications and Health and Wellness. Upon graduation from GW, I was stuck as to what I wanted to do. Before starting graduate school, I was an office coordinator at a very small internet safety nonprofit in downtown DC for almost two years doing mostly administrative work – or really anything thrown at me since it was an office of only eight people. Not only did this job provide me with the income I needed to stay in DC, but it also let me explore what I really wanted to do with my life, and after this job I knew I wanted to move away from nonprofits (where all my previous experience was) to a more direct human-to-human job. After copious amounts of research, crying fits, and coffee, I decided I wanted to be a school counselor- a job where I could not only use my love of people, but my passion for helping and making a difference in people’s lives.

Before I was even an office coordinator, I spent a summer as a counselor at a garden-to-table cooking summer camp in Brooklyn through a company called ButterBeans. I always call this summer the one that “changed my life,” and not only because I learned that can you use the tops of carrots to make pesto. ButterBeans’ mission was to bring healthy school lunches to New York City public schools, and as a counselor I got to take kids to rooftop gardens, teach them how to julienne basil, and what really goes into the food they eat every day. Although it may seem I was just running around New York City having a blast, I was really discovering that I wanted a career working with kids, and I wanted to teach them skills and lessons they would use throughout their lives.

If I were to give one piece of advice to any undergrads who are confused about what to do next, it would be that you don’t need to have the perfect job or a career right after graduation. I am extremely happy that I took two years off to work before going into grad school. I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do right after graduation and wouldn’t have wanted to waste two years getting a degree I was unsure of. Another piece of advice I would give would be to start using the career center before your senior year. I didn’t do this and I think maybe had I taken the assessments and met with a career exploration coach before I picked a major, I could have better tailored my earlier experience. Lastly, follow your heart, be opened minded to all experiences that come your way because you never know when you’ll have your “life changing summer.”

For more great tidbits of advice, or even just a laugh, you can always visit me in the resource room on the 5th floor of the Marvin Center, where I am the Graduate Fellow for Career Exploration.  I am now a full blown career nerd and do resume and cover letter critiques, as well as interview prep and intern search help. I want to be able to support all students on their journey into career-ville, no matter where they are in the process.

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