My Advice for Incoming SOLES Students

I graduated in May from USD with my M.A. in Counseling, with a School Specialization. I am currently living at home in Orange County, working as the director of a summer program, but will be moving back to San Diego in a few weeks to begin working as a school counselor at a middle school in El Cajon. I still cannot believe my good fortune of being hired, especially when I talk with colleagues who are still desperately searching for a position. I loved my time at USD and as much as I was ready to be done with school, I still feel twinges of nostalgia. USD is a wonderful place and SOLES is an incredible community to be a part of. I feel so thankful for my time spent there and the people I was able to meet. If I could offer any advice, it would be this:

1)    Get involved! Get involved in any way that you can and in as many ways as you can. Yes, you will be busy. You will sacrifice sleep, television watching, and rowdy Taco Tuesdays in PB. But, the networking opportunities are priceless and you are supplementing your education in ways that will eventually pay off, even if it doesn’t seem worth it at the time. You will meet people that will teach you, shape you, help you grow, and make you realize why you’re here in the first place.
2)    Do something outside of USD. During the spring semester of my first year, I took a Spanish class at Mesa College. It was a Spanish 101 class that that met on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I missed a lot of previously mentioned Taco Tuesdays and wine-night Thursdays, but I dramatically improved my Spanish skills, which allowed me to better communicate with families I worked with in my fieldwork placement. During my second year, I began volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and I joined a kickball team. Having these outlets and these opportunities to interact with San Diegans outside of USD were priceless. It made me appreciate the city in which I was living as more than just a place I went to school.
3)    Bond with your cohort. You’re not going to be best friends with everyone. That’s a given. But, when you form relationships with people you’re forced to be around anyways, it makes this whole grad school thing so much more worth it. How many opportunities do you have in life to be surrounded by people who have similar goals, visions, and ideas for shaping and improving the world? Whether you want to be a school counselor, teacher, MFT, non-profit administrator, professor, private clinician, or whatever other amazing careers SOLES grads choose, you’re in a community of like-minded individuals, so embrace that and don’t take it for granted. These are the people who understand best what you’re going through, whether it’s preparing for Action Research, applying for jobs post-grad, or embarking upon a SOLES Global trip.
4)    Enjoy San Diego! If you view San Diego as merely just a place where you go to school, you’re missing out on a wonderful city with fabulous people, cultures, communities, restaurants, nightlife, scenery, and opportunities. Have fun while you’re here! USD is a beautiful place, but if you limit yourself to just our campus and your apartment, you’re only hurting yourself. This is a big city with something for everyone. Go out and find it.
5)    Remember why you started this journey. You’ll probably grow tired of self-reflection after awhile in SOLES. But, remembering why you’re here is what will propel you to keep moving forward when you’re tired, frustrated, and ready to give up. Your experiences here will impact you in ways you won’t realize until after you leave. When you’re facing your laptop at 2 am, knowing you have fieldwork in five hours, and you only have two pages typed out, take a breath, remind yourself of what you’re here to accomplish and that you’re capable of accomplishing it, and keep going. Graduate school will be very challenging at times. You’ll be physically, emotionally, and mentally drained in ways you have probably never experienced. But, it’s only temporary. And when you remember how many people in our world don’t have access to education (or basic needs, civil rights, medical care, etc.), you realize that these hardships aren’t really as hard as we make them out to be.
While I could write many more pieces of advice, I’ll end there. Make the most out of this experience because you can’t get it back. Also, most importantly, treasure the sunsets from USD and the surf and turf burritos at JV’s on Morena are huge, but also worth it.
“Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember” -Anne Sullivan
–This post was written by Rachel, a Class of 2013 School Counseling graduate, Rachel was a SOLES Ambassador, to learn more about Rachel and the SOLES Ambassadors follow the link>>

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