Thirty-three seniors graduated a semester early, but few have physically left Hillsdale. Maybe it truly is the people — or just year-long leases and promises of a salary.
Instead of taking classes, Jacob Petersen applied for three jobs at Hillsdale: project management, the call center, and the Dow Leadership Center.
“I think everyone who graduated early stayed on campus for the rest of the semester. You graduate early, save money, get a job, and apply to more jobs for the future,” Petersen said. “When employers see that I graduated a semester early, I’ll just explain I’m economically smart with money.”
Peterson said he plans to work either at the Charles Koch Institute or in the hotel industry.
Hillsdale Homecoming King Dean Sinclair from McHenry, Illinois said he seized the opportunity to graduate early when he saw it.
“One day, it hit me while I was writing papers in the library, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s a way I don’t have to do this,’” Sinclair said. “But it was hard because I was checked out school-wise.”
Sinclair said he graduated and looked for a job teaching history because he feared himself “waking up at 2 p.m and start drinking a beer at 6.”
Carla Stewart, the secretary at Will Carleton Academy, emailed Sinclair over winter break and offered him a fourth-grade teaching position after an interview. He replaced the teacher until she returns from maternity leave in March.
Sinclair said he had previously participated in a teaching immersion program at Mystic Value Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts and interned at the Chicago Classical Academy.
“So I’ve done a lot, but I’ve never been a teacher for a full seven-hour day,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said he’s saving $13,000 by graduating early.
Sinclair said he prefers teaching so he can devote time to playing in his band, August Hotel.
“All I really want to do is be a rockstar, but second is teaching, and, in a way, the two kinds of work together: Teachers have weekends, weeknights, and summers off, and bands tend to play weekends, weeknights, and summers,” he said. “So you see how that works. I could never be a bartender, right?”
Sinclair said the first two weeks of his job have been “pretty crazy” and “a lot of fun,” but it was a significant change — he said he hadn’t been around so many fourth graders since he was one of them.
“Right now, my best friends are 9 and 10-year-old kids,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said he faces multiple challenges daily in the classroom.
“The biggest thing is you don’t want to be a toughie right away, or a disciplinary figure,” he said. “But you have to be firm with them or else they will walk all over you.”
Sinclair said his biggest surprise is that just about every student wants to know his marital status.
“All they want to do is know if I’m married or not, and they ask on a regular basis. It’s not like it’s going to change each day,” he said. “On my first day, the peanut allergy table asked me to take out my left hand from my pocket, and they saw there’s no ring, so they knew I wasn’t married.”
Sinclair retold a conversation with his students asking questions when they saw pictures of Womb formal.
“They asked if she was my girlfriend, and I told them, ‘No,’ Sinclair said. “’So she’s your wife?’ the kids asked. ‘No,’ I responded. ‘Do you want her to be your wife?’ they asked. ‘No.’ And then they catch you off-guard, and you don’t expect it.”
Sinclair said the students also have no understanding of age.
“We thought you were like 40, but now we think you’re either like 20 or 30,” the kids said, according to Sinclair. “They asked when I graduate college, and I told them they didn’t want to know, so they thought I’m really old because that’s normally what older people tend to say.”
Sinclair said substitute teaching isn’t his dream career; however, it is a good experience and powerful on a resume. But he needs his certification to teach in Illinois, which requires a year of work unless he teaches at a private school.
Sinclair plans to teach temporarily, instead of starting at a “real” job like one of his peers.
Tanner Orion Wright from Cincinnati, Ohio, said the decision to graduate early was “super easy” and cost-effective.
“Money was the main motivator, but also to have my evenings back to myself,” Wright said. “It would have cost me at about $10,000. On top of that I get my salary, and of course, I don’t have homework.”
Wright accepted a job from Grant Street Group, a Pittsburgh-based group he met at a Hillsdale job fair.
Wright, who is walking in May, said he never considered moving out of Hillsdale this semester because of his lease and his girlfriend.
Wright said he believed graduating early gave him a leg up in the real world.
“If I were to interview somewhere else I think my position would be an advantage because not only did I graduate a semester early, I also graduated with a double major of applied mathematics and economics,” he said. “I think that makes me stand out. I definitely would recommend graduating early to anyone thinking about it. It looks good to employers, and it’s lucrative as far as far as making money, and it’s nice to be able to get into the real world.”
All three said, in retrospect, they made a cost-effective decision.