Students who reached the end of their academic journeys during the COVID-19 crisis are in panic mode. As late as March, soon-to-be-grads were drafting the resumes and preparing cover letters to enter the job market with their newly printed degree in hand. COVID-19 changed that in a heartbeat. Instead of competing for entry-level jobs with other recent grads, new grads were competing against people with decades of experience hoping for any work at all.
More competition in the job market isn't the only downfall by COVID-19 on recent college graduates. They didn't get to walk across the stage and were relegated to virtual graduations. As they wait for things to improve, the "Class of COVID" is holding down the menial summer jobs they had while in school, if they are lucky enough to get those!
Recent Grads Are Stuck :
A student who worked to earn a college degree almost seems like a waste of time with the lack of reliable job options. Had students entered the workforce right out of high school, they could be in a better financial situation than they are at the moment—broke and looking for even a half-chance at a reliable position. To many grads, their bachelor's degrees aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Their degrees will be worth it in the long run, but it won't feel that way at the moment.
Unemployment is the highest it has been since the great depression. Small and regional businesses are folding left, right, and center as they struggle with the pandemic. The businesses that manage to cope with changes and keep their head above water aren't looking to hire. Recent grads can be a risk of hiring employers if they don't have the relevant professional experience.
Should Grads Head Straight to Grad School?
The job market is bleak. When people fail to get a job, they often think they need to learn more. Their current degree isn't enough. Going straight to a master's degree program is often a thought of graduates, pandemic or not, who fail to enter the job force upon graduation.
It might be an opportune time to further your education while the job market isn't yielding results for the millions of unemployed people worldwide. Spending a year or two pursuing another post-grad degree would make the best use of the time during the everlasting pandemic.
Continuing your education might help you hunker down and weather the storm in hopes that the job market after your next graduation has a more favorable outcome than the one during COVID-19. It also might feel like starting from square one. What degree do you pursue? What skills are in demand? Do I consider taking an online master's program or find an in-person degree program?
Student Loans Are Even More of a Burden :
Student loans often start collecting interest six months after graduation. This benchmark typically serves as a goal for recent grads to land their first professional job so they can start paying their debt. Six months have passed since the COVID-19 crisis started, and the future looks bleak for recent grads. Luckily, the government paused interest on federal student loans. Still, the inability to pay off student loans will hurt their future financial status in the years to come.
Money is a significant factor for current and former students. Spending money on education is an investment in the future. The correlation between a person's highest degree and their potential earnings is no secret. Students are smart investors and want to get the biggest bang for their buck. College underclassmen are witnessing recent grads' struggles and considering different, cheaper options, like cheap various online degrees.
Graduates Don't Have Reliable Places to Turn to for Help :
The class of 2020 is facing a pandemic and economic downturn unlike other classes of graduates have ever faced. There isn't a reliable person or group they can turn to for advice on navigating the current environment. Any help or suggestions is conjecture or an educated guess. Instead of feeling excited and proud of their hard work for the past four years, they are met with yet another obstacle.
Students in their last semesters are also feeling the weight of the economic downturn. The inspiration to be done with school is lessened by the lack of quality job options.
Moving Forward :
Finishing school is a commendable accomplishment, but virtual graduation ceremonies dashed excitement for those with aspirations to walk across the stage. The class of COVID-19 (and the graduating classes where unemployment is still high) need support from communities and the government. Recent grads' financial and professional futures are going to be negatively impacted for years after the pandemic ends.
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