By Sophie Lichtman
It’s that time of the year again!!! Ladies and gentleman of the graduating class, start your engines and stretch your fingers because it’s time to start preparing – JOB APPLICATIONS!!!
As a senior graduating in May, I have had to write dozens of cover letters, rewrite my resume over and over, and even fill out application short answer questions. For me, this is a sigh of relief. I get to write and showcase my skills. I get to add a bit of personality into an otherwise standard application. However, for most students not working to complete a writing certificate, like me, writing and rewriting can be stressful and difficult.
Countless friends have come to me this year asking what they should write about when given a prompt from a potential employer on an application. Yes, they need help with grammar and other more technical elements of writing, but they also need help with topic choice and self-expression. What I find to be most upsetting is that many of my friends cannot articulate with written words what they can easily explain to me orally. How are our graduates supposed to showcase the incredible work they have done inside and outside of the classroom, and what they can offer to a company, if they can’t even put it into words?
After reading cover letter after cover letter, and editing them until they were basically my own – I decided to do some research into this issue. I reached out to a career advisor over at the UGA Career Center, to see if she had any insights on what I believed to be a major writing issue for graduating students. I spoke with Ms. Samantha Perrin, Career Consultant for the Terry College of Business, about what the main issues are when it comes to students filling out job questionnaires. She responded by informing me that, “Many students write the way they speak. They have difficulty expressing themselves effectively to employers and really explaining what they have done and how that is a benefit to the employer.”
But fear not! Though the Career Center has expressed some concerns about the quality of writing coming from our graduates, they also have many services designed to help students learn to write in a way that will land them the job of their dreams. According to Ms. Perrin, though the Career Center doesn’t teach writing skills, “what we do offer is assistance in writing personal statements and other application materials (resumes/cover letters). We offer a few ‘Personal Statement Writing Labs’ that focus more on content and flow of the personal statement rather than grammar.”
I then found myself wondering if students even experience growth in their writing capabilities from freshman year to senior year. From what I could tell, unless students declared English as their major, they chose to take only the required writing courses for freshman year. Ms. Perrin explained to me that while there is some growth, there isn’t nearly enough. She even went as far as to say,
written communication is consistently one of the top areas that employers specify as needing more work from UGA students.”
So there is definitely a way to seek out some guidance when preparing those job applications. Yet, in my opinion, there could also be a more proactive solution as well. Maybe students should take a few more writing classes, not because they are required, but because they can move you further than an A in your other classes ever could. At the end of the day, an A is a great grade, but the student who earned that score is even greater. Let’s work together to give every student a chance to succeed, because success isn’t just a number, it’s about knowing how to express the student behind the GPA.