Janae Strickland outside Kirkland House

Janae Strickland is headed to New York City, where she’ll be working for a private equity and real estate investment company. But her ultimate goal is to tackle affordable housing in her native Detroit.

Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

What’s next for graduates?

8 min read

With College over, they share their early plans

It’s a question that almost every college student fields — sometimes repeatedly: “What will you do after you graduate?”

For Harvard College students — especially the seniors — it’s been a main topic. They hear it from their parents seemingly every time they speak, from relatives during the holidays, and even casually from friends. That can be a touchy subject, especially when there’s no ready answer.

Still, after four years of study, it’s a valid question, and the days of decision are here. So, the Gazette talked with some graduating seniors about their post-Commencement plans. Here are their answers.

Allison Wiggins

Allison Wiggins smiles in the Smith Campus Center

Wiggins is heading home to Methuen for a month before moving to New York City, where she’ll work as an investment analyst at J.P. Morgan.

“I’ll support what they call an investment specialist,” said Wiggins, who lived in Kirkland House and concentrated in statistics.

She interned at the company last summer and recently accepted a full-time offer. “I’m feeling good,” she said. “I think last summer prepared me really well. I think it will be a big adjustment moving to the city, especially because I grew up here and went to school here.”

But it’s not enough to hold her back. “My hope is that I really like it and can continue on that path,” she said.

But if it turns out it’s not what she wants, Wiggins has the confidence to pivot. “I’ll be in a big city where I can network and find other [roles],” she said. “There’s continually open doors.”

Allison Yan

Allison Yan looks pensive next to her sticker-covered laptop

Yan, who lives in Quincy House and concentrated in molecular and cellular biology, is on the premed track. Although she’ll be studying medical anthropology at Oxford University for a year, she’s already thinking about her ultimate goal: becoming a doctor.

“I’m really hoping that having my science education will contribute to the way I approach medicine in the future,” said Yan, who’s from Cincinnati. She hopes to pair what she learns at Oxford with a more humanistic approach, she said. “I think anthropology and the social sciences really help you see another side, like what are the social factors that contribute to someone’s illness.”

She’s a little anxious about moving, since she has never lived outside the U.S., but her excitement overrides any stress. “I’m just going to treat it as my yearlong study abroad — a postgrad study abroad!”

Jacob Link

Jacob Link holds a Commencement brochure

Link is hitting the road in a car that’s older than he is.

The Lowell House history concentrator is taking off for Madison, Wisc., in a 1993 Suzuki Sidekick. His family bought the car “for about a grand” to use for motorsports before Link made it his college car, and now it needs to return to its original mandate. Since he had to make the 17-hour, 1,100-plus-mile drive anyway, he decided to make it fun by turning it into a road trip with a few close friends, including his roommates. “It’s an unexpected destination, for sure, but I think it’ll be a nice little adventure for everyone,” he said. “We are all praying [the car] makes it.”

Afterward, he plans to go home to Hereford, Texas, to ponder his next move. He hopes to hear back about some of the editorial positions he’s applied to in New York City and Washington, D.C. If he doesn’t, he will work on a political campaign before applying to law schools. Once he gets in, he said, he’ll “figure out the world from there.”

Janae Strickland

Strickland is beaming with that feeling of accomplishment familiar to new graduates.

“It feels great,” said Strickland, from Eliot House. “I’m super grateful for the [Harvard] experience and the friends that I’ve met. I’m feeling positive about leaving because of that. I’m excited. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to graduate.”

She will leave for New York City, where she’ll be working for Tenth Avenue, a private equity and real estate investment company. Strickland interned there last year and will be helping with the private equity side when she starts in the fall. She is hoping to build her experience before achieving her ultimate goal.

“I want to go back home,” Strickland said. “I want to go back to Detroit at some point.” One issue she wants to work on is affordable housing, which has been continually declining in Detroit and is showing signs of getting worse for those who need it most.

Strickland wants to couple the skills she’s learned at Harvard, where she concentrated in sociology, with the knowledge she’ll gain at Tenth Avenue to help improve her struggling hometown. The move will most likely see her jumping from the private sector into nonprofits. “There are a lot of really cool organizations right now in Detroit that I would like to go back home to and plug in with.”

Noah Fanous

Noah Fanous in the Quincy House courtyard

Fanous doesn’t have anything lined up, but he’s perfectly all right with that. In fact, he is at peace with it, he said, because he’s going home to Tyler, Texas, for the summer.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to spend that much time at home,” Fanous said. The Adams House resident who concentrated in human evolutionary biology said he hasn’t spent more than a week or two home each winter and summer break, because he’s always had to leave for trips. “I think orienting myself back at home will be nice.”

Fanous credits his friends with helping him cope with stress as he thought about what he was going to do long-term.

“I’m feeling really relaxed [now],” he said. “I did a lot of time reflecting with friends. And because no one’s busy, you can do things like this — sit on the grass and talk to friends you haven’t seen in a little bit. … It very much feels like I’m in the present. I’m OK spending a little more time thinking about what I want to do this year.”

Madeline Bernstein, Maetal Haas-Kogan, and Laura Medina

Three friends hold a cardboard poster in the Quincy House courtyard
Madeline Bernstein (from left), Laura Medina, and Maetal Haas-Kogan, friends and resident seniors of Leverett House.

For these three friends from Leverett House, what comes next will be bittersweet since it means parting ways.

Bernstein, who’s from Chicago, is heading to the University of California, Berkeley, to study physics in the graduate program there. She is thinking about pursuing physics, which was her concentration, as a lifelong endeavor. “It’s hard to say right now but I would really like to pursue a career in academia, be a professor, and continue doing research in some way,” she said.

San Francisco native Haas-Kogan will be staying in the Boston area as a research assistant at the Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research at Boston Medical Center. Her line of research will focus on women’s health care and infant mortality. “This will be a good test if this is what I actually want to do with my life,” said Haas-Kogan, who concentrated in the history of science and global health and health policy.

Medina, whose family lives in Los Angeles, landed a data-analytics consulting gig for FTI Consulting in Washington, D.C. She is excited about the constant change the job will bring. “It feels like I kind of get to push committing to one thing off by a few more years, [because] every three to six months I’m on a new case doing something entirely different,” said Medina, who concentrated in applied mathematics. “That was actually kind of the charm of consulting. I don’t really know yet [what I want to do], so I’m excited to try a bunch of different sectors and then hopefully from there I will be able to narrow down exactly where I want to end up building my career.”

While the three are happy for one another and plan to keep in touch, they know things won’t be the same.

“I think we’re definitely all feeling a little sentimental and nostalgic,” Bernstein said.

“It’s sad to leave our friends,” Medina added.

That’s why they are curious about their classmates’ future plans. “I think that Harvard brings together a really interesting mix of people who have different interests and are off to do cool things,” Haas-Kogan said.