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Alumni Advice to the Class of 2019

Photo of graduation cap from UC Merced


Congratulations soon-to-be graduates! You're a day away from finally graduating! You’re almost free! But what happens now?

Graduating can be one of the most satisfying and stressful times in your life. We asked a few Bobcats who have walked the commencement stage before you for some pearls of wisdom they wished someone had given them as they were donning their regalia.


Steven Duval Ruilova ’14-Biological Sciences

Remember that - even though you've spent the last few years learning - there's still a world of knowledge out there. If anything at all, remember that college has given you the most priceless ability - the ability to learn effectively. To truly succeed in any endeavor, it's up to you to take that ability and apply it to anything you do beyond the point of graduation.

Just as important as what you know is WHO you know. In this globalized and ever digitalizing world, opportunities often come through word of mouth. That degree of opportunity is directly proportional to those who recognize your professionalism and feel comfortable referring you based on their experience with you and your work.


Celso Lopez ’16- Chemical Sciences

Graduates should not to let their degrees define what they can do. They are a sum of all their college experience and not just what they learn in the classroom. They should be open to opportunities in life because they might find themselves in a career they love but never expected. I have a career in chemistry, but I find myself supplementing the chemistry with skills I learned from elective classes and time working a retail sales position to bring the most to my position.


Dannique Aalbu ’10- Earth Systems Science

One piece of advice for graduates to take with them is to not be afraid to try things out. Often there is so much pressure on young people to choose a career and climb up some arbitrary ladder. I have found that working a variety of different jobs (many seasonal or temporary), as well as moving around a bit, has really helped me understand my career ambitions and hone in on what is sustainable for me in terms of long term career enjoyment. For example, though I have a background that suits technical work well, I have specifically chosen work that allows me time outside - because I know that spending time outdoors makes me happy. :)


Samantha Gaerlan ’16- Biological Sciences

First and foremost, my primary advice to graduating students (as cliché as it sounds) is to hold onto your dreams. There are a lot of people who didn't get a chance to fulfill their dreams for a variety of reasons but trust me when I say you are so young, and the future is promising as long as you make the effort. Secondly would be to stay in touch with your favorite professors and friends. Distance is brutal, but it is so worth it to send a message or meme because if you tend after your relationships, they actually will last and get you through a lot. This is especially relevant if you are or become a workaholic and move 3,000 miles away from your friends and family; lab work literally became my life.


Lastly, sometimes life guides you in unexpected ways and you should definitely take advantage of every opportunity. For instance, my only goal after college was to get literally any job and start repaying back my student loans. However, because I kept in touch with people, they encouraged me to apply to jobs at UCLA (even though I wasn't the best student). After a few months, I got a position as a Lab manager/Lab technician at UCLA and then we moved to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia/University of Pennsylvania. Now, I'm applying to grad school and in the process of publishing. All of this happened because I used the skills I developed at UC Merced and I kept in touch with my Organic Chemistry Professor, Student Government Adviser, and Microbio TA, all of whom generously provided letters of recommendation and career advice.


Regardless of how you're feeling about graduation, please remember that you have finished an incredible journey and be kind to yourself. You will survive the craziness that happens after college because you already endured the crazy adventure that is college. Good luck!