Even as she came up on the end of her four years at Franklin College, Kennedy Oser wasn’t ready to stop learning.
“I knew I had potential to keep moving forward with my degree,” she said.
Oser, a sociology major graduating next month, recently got accepted to begin her career as a graduate student in the fall at the University of Indianapolis studying social work.
“After she congratulated me and told me I was accepted, I immediately burst into tears and called my mom on the phone,” Oser said. “I read the letter to her, and we both cried together.”
But Oser said she couldn’t have gotten into graduate school without the support of her friends and the professors in her department, who encouraged her and checked every step of her application process.
“They knew my potential and pushed me towards this decision,” she said. “It was definitely something I couldn’t have done alone.”
Oser is just one student graduating this year continuing her education as a graduate or professional school student.
Graduate school is for students who are going on to get a master’s or doctorate degree in something like English or history. Professional school is for those going into programs like medical or law school.
Over the last 10 years, the percentage of the college’s graduating seniors who choose to go to graduate or professional school has fluctuated widely based on student interest and acceptance, peaking at about 20 percent, or 42 students, for the class of 2014.
Last year, 18 percent, or 35, students went on. In 2015, it was about 15 percent, or 29 students.
Over the last decade, the average number of students going to graduate or professional school was about 33 per class.
Kirk Bixler, assistant dean of students and career services director, said many students who make up those percentages and decide to get another degree have experiences similar to Oser’s, where they work one-on-one with faculty to decide where to apply and get feedback on their applications and personal statements as they apply.
The career office also prepares students for furthering their education, including hosting a panel with representatives from a variety of area schools each fall to educate students on what graduate school is and give tips on how to successfully get into one. The office also hosts workshops to prepare students for the Graduate Record Exam and provides mock graduate school interviews.
Additionally, each year, students the college deems as having “stellar academic reputations” based on their cumulative GPA receive individual attention. The students are encouraged to apply for external scholarships to go into prestigious graduate school programs internationally.
Jill Novotny, professional development and employer relations director, and Hisaya Kitaoka, economics professor, meet and work with interested high achieving students to figure out which external scholarships would be best to pursue.
One of the scholarships available is the Rhodes Scholarship, which gives full rides to 32 students in the nation each year to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. In its history, Franklin College has had one Rhodes scholar.
Elmer Davis, who majored in journalism, got the scholarship in 1911.
“We are looking for another Elmer Davis from Franklin College,” Kitaoka said.
Kitaoka said the main reason Franklin College students may be wary about applying for graduate school or for external scholarships is the realization that the programs are highly competitive.
“But many students here at Franklin College have capabilities quite higher than they are thinking of,” he said.
Kitaoka also said students may want to keep their student debt down, be uninterested in research work or be eager to start a job in the workplace, among other factors.
“Of course, even Harvard University or Stanford University — a so-called fancy university with prestigious students — there are still very few people sent,” he said. “Franklin College is not an exception.”
But for Oser, becoming a social work professional was a big enough aspiration to take the risk — and get accepted.
“It finally felt like my hard work paid off and my dream was becoming a reality,” she said. “I have never felt so accomplished.”