This post was written by Jerome Basma, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I’m finally here: my last semester in a four-year journey at CUNY SPS. In fact, it’s my last week of my last semester, in my last class at the school. The capstone class (in this case, Strategic Management) is almost done: my team members and I have recently input the last of the data required for the closing quarter of the business simulation, Marketplace; and we’ve handed in our final case study about Delta Airlines’ response to the threat posed by low-cost carriers in the aftermath of 9/11. Next week, I and the class will take the final, and then goodbye. Great stuff, and now it’s practically over. I will definitely miss it.

I wonder what I will do with myself now that there are no classes to take, no readings, no team projects, no case studies, no exams, no discussion board assignments. If it sounds like I’m already experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, it’s because I am. As I said, I will miss all of this, and the great community that CUNY SPS has been for me the last few years. For sure, there are new challenges to be faced: updating my LinkedIn profile with that infuriatingly blank “education” field (I’m in my fifties, so it’s particularly galling), parlaying my enhanced skills learned from professors and classmates into a better position at my current employment, looking and perhaps finding that job that not only pays the bills but fills that little bit of hollowness in the soul. That last one is the one, isn’t it? It’s the one we all have to go for, even if we don’t achieve it, even if we only just get close and almost make it. Don’t give up, be sensible by all means, but don’t surrender.

These thoughts crowd my head as I step off the curb to cross to the other side. The way ahead will interesting, I will have to make it interesting: what does it mean to have prepared, spent, and sacrificed so much if it keeps you in the same place you started from? Is that even possible? I’m thinking ahead to the new preparations I will soon undertake, and as I strategize my next moves I also think back on the four years spent at CUNY SPS. What would I tell a new mentee just starting out at CUNY SPS? What would I tell my sons as they start out in higher education? What would I tell a friend? The thing that comes to mind is this: don’t just show up. To me showing up is doing the minimum to get the diploma and moving on. If you do that, you’ll end up with a marginally useful piece of paper, and not much else. What you can do instead is to use your classes, use your time in school to breathe some life into your dreams and get them a little closer to becoming a reality.

This can be done by using CUNY SPS and its network of faculty, students, and staff to the fullest extent. Don’t believe that getting the diploma, graduating, magically changes everything: one day you’re a student, and the next you’re a graduate, and then the world changes. Perhaps on some minor level this is true, but it doesn’t last. As you take each class, you should think about how you can apply what you are learning to your present situation: be it your current job, or the job you eventually want to get. You should access your professor and the other students in your class as resources of knowledge, and the possible start of network that you can draw upon for years to come. With that in mind, consider your classmates, who might help you through their experiences or professional background—think also about how you might benefit them in the same way in return. Also consider your professor, who might have a wealth of information about a particular subject you’re interested in. If you feel you need advice in how to proceed in your studies, or how to position yourself to get a certain type of job he or she is familiar with, ask to meet with them. They may or may not say yes. If they can’t meet in person, ask them for a phone call or teleconference. You’ll find that many of them are very helpful and willing to accommodate you in some form.

Also, don’t pass up on the opportunity to stay in touch with faculty and students who share your common interests. One easy and well accepted way to do this is through LinkedIn. Ask them to be in your network, so that at some point in the future you might easily reconnect and communicate with them—remind them you were in their class. Additionally, keep in mind that they may be able to introduce you to people they know on their networks.

Another way you can get more out of your education is to give some of your time back to the school. Show up at the gatherings. Given that many of the programs at CUNY SPS are online, this is very valuable. You’ll meet some of the staff, faculty, and students face to face, and they in turn will get to know you better. Volunteer to help out, or join the student council. Remember that the more of yourself you put into a situation, the more you’ll get back, sometimes in ways you can’t conceive of in the moment. So enough of my sermonizing, and I do apologize if I’ve gone a little long on this. It’s just that I can’t stress enough the importance of doing more than just showing up. Let’s get on with it. I wish you all the best.

Jerome Basma is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the B.S. in Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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