Graduating College During a Pandemic? Don’t Worry Seniors, We Got Your Back- Signed America

Uncertain times.

We are living in the midst of unbelievably and unprecedented uncertain times.

Right now, millions of young people have had their lives turned upside down, and the uncertainty is both overwhelming and anxiety inducing on levels we’ve never seen before. For high school seniors, there are so many wonderful senior traditions and milestones that will be sorely missed, and that for which our teens and their parents should feel free to mourn. There are missed senior luncheons, proms, grad nights, honors banquets, sports banquets, and class trips that have been planned for years, just to name a few. 

College seniors have lost much to COVID-19

But for college seniors? Of course there are memorable milestones and plenty of collegiate traditions that will also be sorely missed, but there are also the much bigger, and much more important parts of their senior spring semester that are going to be monumentally harder to overcome. Having a graduation ceremony postponed is one thing, and in the bigger picture and with a healthy does of perspective, walking across that stage- while a wonderful finale to their matriculation and hard work, it’s really just a one day event. 

It’s what comes after the ceremony that really matters, and right now our college seniors are being robbed of having the chance to plan, predict, and sort out their post undergraduate future by of all things a pandemic, and one of lethal proportions. 

For many college seniors, moving to an online only instructional setting may be an easy transition, because they’ve probably already had an online class or two at the college level, so this is nothing new. But it’s likely that by their senior year, instruction in their major is well under way, and has taken a much deeper and more intellectual level. We’re not talking about missing a Biology 101 class that was held in an auditorium lecture hall, where you can read up on your own, go online and take a test, and move on to the next chapter.

On the contrary, seniors are in the thick of their chosen major, preparing for a possible career in that profession, and in many cases, are simultaneously fulfilling required internships or clinical hours in their field, all in order to meet graduation requirements. Ironically enough, that is exactly what is happening to my college senior right now. Without 500 hours of face to face clinical hours in social work completed by April 30, he will not have met graduation requirements for his major. But how does he get those face to face hours online? He doesn’t.

And in yet another twist of cruel fate this pandemic is wreaking havoc on, is the fact with campuses closed down, that means no employment recruitment fairs are taking place there. March and April are typically the months when prospective employers make visits to colleges to hold face to face interviews, and recruit freshly graduated students for work.

Not only will none of these take place, but the economic casualties and dire circumstances the pandemic will bring to thousands of companies will make it so that hiring new workers is likely the last thing they will be concerned with. Add to the fact many of these seniors are still working their way through college and may have jobs they’re losing as we speak, with student loan repayments kicking in for them in only a matter of months, and the outlook? Well, it’s sadly bleak.

So what does all this mean for our college seniors? And what will ultimately happen to the class of 2020 when this all comes to an end?

When asking myself this question-of course being concerned for my own college senior, my mind instantly goes back to two unforgettable moments in time- September 11, and September 12th. 

On the morning of the 11th, I had a precocious three year old little boy underfoot, and watching the day unfold all I could think was, “What kind of world did I bring a child into?”

But the next day? The 12th? When this country came together like it never had before, and as a society we vowed to come back stronger and better in thousands of ways? Well, that is what I am hoping, and really thinking, will happen to these college seniors. 

My message to all of them, the anxiety filled ones glumly moving back home right now and unsure of their next steps, is that America has got you. We know what this means for you mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally, and we will not lay idle and forget about you, or your future. 

We- your parents, and all of those in higher education, in student affairs, in campus career centers, financial aid offices, and the alumni associations at your university and college, those who employed you part time and those who managed you during internships, we are all acutely aware of what you’re facing, and plans and provisions and assistance are being developed as we speak, and will be implemented as soon as we can return back to normal life.  

I have no doubt that America will react and respond to this canceling of our livelihoods in the same manner and way we did on September 12- with resolute positivity, a collective and monumental effort to forge ahead, and an unwavering dedication to get things not only back to normal, but back to RIGHT, in every sense of the word. 

Class of 2020, you will get through this, America will make sure of it.  And in the same way when this country looked like it was coming to an end one fateful September morning, and just a couple years later you confidently marched into a kindergarten class ready to take on the world, so too will you be ready to take on the world once again. 

And I speak for all of us parents of college seniors out there, and America when I say, we can’t wait to watch it happen. 

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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