Nicki Field was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and only traveled about four hours away to attend college at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech. In 2013, she graduated with a BS in psychology. She has been working toward her master’s degree (also in psychology) since 2015, and supplements her studies with a full-time job in marketing sales.
Q. Did you always know that you were going to go to college?
I did. Looking back, it wasn’t really an option for me not to go to school and I kind of wish it had been. I don’t think continuing education is for everyone and I think young adults need to be given the responsibility of choosing for themselves. A college degree is a necessary evil in today’s world, however, I still think it needs to be more of a choice than an expectation. It’s important to remember that a college degree (or lack thereof) doesn’t always equate to success! That is something you have to create for yourself regardless.
Q. How did you choose your college? What did you like about that school over others?
I visited a good friend of mine on Halloween weekend of my senior year of high school and I was hooked. Everyone always jokes about the “Hokie spirit” (Virginia Tech’s mascot), but it’s a real thing! The energy and comradery there is truly contagious. Virginia Tech was (and still is) one of the best in state schools. I made my decision based on feeling, which isn’t always wise for everyone, but it turned out to be a great decision for me as I loved my time there.
Q. What's one piece of advice you wish you had before applying to college?
Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out. You’re (most likely) only 18! You will spend a lot of your life trying to figure out what you “want to be when you grow up” and even if it’s not what you end up getting your degree in, that’s okay. It’s never too late to change course. Follow your gut for the time being and don’t freak out if you truly don’t know what you want or later find yourself wanting to [make a] change. Life is for exploring and creating, never forget that.
Q. If you could go back and do one thing differently in your postsecondary education, what would it be? Why?
I didn’t take school very seriously because I felt as though a lot of the material I was learning wasn’t going to be relevant in adult life and [that] I would never use it. Looking back, while I do think about half of what I learned I would be fine with never knowing, I wish I had taken the process of learning for learning’s sake more seriously. I didn’t graduate with a very high GPA, which was due to making the decision to not apply myself. I wish I had applied myself more as it’s an unfortunate fact that having a high GPA does open a lot more doors and opportunities for you post-college.
Q. What was your favorite experience in college?
I was a part of a number of social communities in school (dance team, sorority, working at a restaurant) and being a part of all of these communities at different times throughout college was probably my favorite part. It’s so important to find where you fit, as going to college is most likely the first time you are really being forced to create a new identity for yourself. Finding a community of like-minded people to surround yourself with makes the process a lot easier and much more fun!
Q. What was the greatest lesson you learned from your education?
The greatest lesson I learned from my education was to keep the lines of communication open with your professors as much as possible, especially when attending a large school like Virginia Tech. It can feel intimidating to even interact with your professor in the beginning, as you are taking general classes with upwards of 200+ students in them. It’s not uncommon to never interact with your professor throughout the entire course of the class, but it’s important to make the effort to do so. You never know if they could provide you with a reference later down the line or if maybe they run a club or are part of an organization that you could benefit from.
Q. Did you work during college? What positions? Do you feel like you were adequately prepared to enter "the real world?"
I did work in college. The only year I didn’t work was my freshman year but the other three years I carried various positions. My sophomore year, I nannied part-time for a family and my junior and senior years I worked as a waitress and bartender at one of the sports bars downtown.
While working in college isn’t for everyone, I do think it gave me a leg up when entering “the real world.” It teaches you how to balance having multiple responsibilities, all equally important to the other. I think this is an incredibly valuable skill to have and one that is best developed sooner rather than later as it is one you will have to implement throughout your entire life.
Q. What is your current career and how did your education prepare you for your position?
I currently work in the business world (doing partnership and marketing sales), but it is a temporary career for me as I am pursuing my master’s degree in clinical psychology to become a therapist. Many undergraduates who pursue a degree in psychology never end up working in the field, but I have a passion for the industry and am therefore pursuing continuing education [so that I can ] work with patients directly.
I think that having an undergrad degree in psychology has helped me greatly in sales. Having the ability to read others and knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it is a valuable skill in the business world.
Q. Do you have any advice for students who want to pursue a career similar to yours?
If wanting to pursue a career in psychology, you have to obtain at least a master’s [degree]. I received the advice that it’s best to continue on to graduate school immediately after undergrad and I cannot stress this enough. I didn’t do this and I have been on and off working on my master’s since 2015! Just get it done while you’re still in the groove of academia. Once you get out of it (unless you really like school), it’s tough to go back, especially while working full time as well. Other than that, make sure your heart is really in it. You have to really, really want to listen to the darkest parts of people and help them transform themselves. It’s challenging and exhausting, but [also] incredibly rewarding work.