Remember the college seniors who, just a decade ago, graduated into the employment hellscape of the Great Recession?
Subprime mortgages. Credit default swaps. Finance industry malfeasance.
Don’t those things sound relatively benign right now?
This year’s class of graduating seniors stares both a global pandemic and an economic crisis of unknown long-term severity squarely in the face. There have been more than 26 million unemployment claims filed in the last five weeks.
So what of the 2020 graduates? Some are waiting to see if job, internship and fellowship offers are still valid. When will grad schools start? Where will grad schools start? How do 21- and 22-year-olds proceed while answers are pending?
Michelle Margoles, a graduating senior at Temple University, is awaiting a scheduled May 26 start date for the accelerated nursing program at Jefferson University.
“I’m going to Jefferson, and I’m going to be studying nursing online right now,” she said. “It’s going to be through Zoom and virtual simulations.”
Although the program’s plan is to launch on its regularly scheduled date, practical questions about the method of instruction persist.
“How are we really supposed to learn a profession like nursing, which is pretty hands-on, online?” Margoles asked.
Still, through it all, Margoles’ certainty as to her course hasn’t wavered; if anything, recent events have been affirming.
“(COVID-19) is really showing the world how much we rely on (nurses),” she said. “I want to do this.”
Things are more up in the air for Liat Rosov, a 22-year-old graduating Temple senior from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Rosov hopes to eventually get a graduate degree in social work and ultimately work for a Jewish nonprofit. She’d planned on getting a taste for that sort of work via a fellowship this summer with Hillel International — which just laid off or furloughed 20% of its staff — but that’s now in limbo.
“They’re trying to figure out their budgets for the next year to come and whether they can still fit that fellowship within their budget,” Rosov said.
Through the quarantine, she has remained active with the campus Hillel and lauded Hillel staff for continuing to be great resources professionally, personally and spiritually.
“The technology we have now has made it possible to not lose much in terms of the personal relationships and the mentorship,” Rosov said. “In a way, we’re lucky something like this happened now and not 10 years ago.”
The technology available today is helping Hadassah Raskas, a 22-year-old graduating senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in public health, to make the most of her time stuck at home.
Raskas, who is interested in behavioral science, said the economy’s closing came at an inopportune time for her particular job search, which included “more niche” consulting firms and companies with small behavioral science departments.
“Most of the jobs I was interested in were not hiring eight months out, so while I had been looking at different options before this, this is about the time I would’ve started job searching,” she said.
Raskas was not flustered, though. She was quite the opposite — focused and resolute. Out of a class assignment to develop a web-based organization, she and three other Penn classmates launched coronaconnects.org, which connects volunteers — many of whom have found themselves with unexpected free time — to volunteer opportunities.
They’re not creating new opportunities, Raskas said, but connecting eager volunteers to services aiding those who are made most vulnerable to isolation due to social distancing. The organization’s motto is “Corona spreads through droplets, kindness spreads through connection.”
“When this whole thing started, a lot of peers and myself were describing kind of feeling helpless and wanting to do something but not sure how to do it,” Raskas said. “I felt that there was not a site out there that made it seamless and easy on the volunteers’ end to find something … and thought that if we could create a site that made it easy for the volunteers, then we could increase the number of people volunteering.”
Raskas’ spreadsheet turned into a prototype of a website; she then collaborated with a crack web developer, a fellow student.
“Then we threw it around within my friend group to see who it reaches,” Raskas said.
At some point, 2020 graduates will get the celebrations, the congratulations and claps on the back they’ve earned; for now, they seem content just to remain connected to one another.