Two million students in the US are expected to earn their bachelor’s degrees in 2020. However, the post-grad expectations they may have held a mere few months ago have changed dramatically. The US unemployment rate just reached 14.7 percent, the worst since the Great Depression, and many businesses are in the midst of hiring freezes due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Recent and soon-to-be college graduates are facing a period of unprecedented uncertainty.
We spoke with three of Kogod’s seniors graduating in spring 2020 to find out what their next steps look like and how they may have been affected by recent events.
Joe Gerig majored in business administration, focusing on data analysis and geographic information systems through a self-designed specialization. “It was during my first internship with Amtrak and their government affairs department that I decided I could see myself working with the railroad, especially in operations,” says Gerig.
Despite some Americans choosing to travel by train rather than by plane right now, Amtrak is operating on reduced and/or suspended schedules. Unless there is an essential need to travel, most Americans are staying home or at least closer to home.
“I just don’t feel particularly optimistic about the job market in the transportation industry right now, especially for passenger transportation. Nobody’s traveling, so that’s what motivated me to start looking into graduate programs,” says Gerig. “It’s still the industry I really want to be in, but grad school can help me develop some technical skills that I can then apply to whatever position I’m going to be working in in the future.”
A recession is a great time to go back to school or to continue higher education. All five US recessions since 1980 have corresponded with an increase in GMAT participants. Graduate programs can help students connect with alumni working in their desired field, as well as provide several other resources and opportunities to help students excel post-graduation.
Melanie McDaniel earned her BS in accounting. She is currently staying at home in Texas with her family, but the uncertainty of her future is impacting her post-grad plans. McDaniel will be working in EY’s Times Square office in New York City as tax staff, a position that she’s been working toward since her sophomore year when she interned with the company.
“The Office of Career Engagement was a huge help. I took Business Professionalism, which is taught by advisors, and my instructor guided me through the recruiting process and gave me advice on my résumé, interview prep, and when I was deciding between different firms,” says McDaniel.
“Thankfully my job offer remains intact, but I was supposed to start studying for the CPA exam a few weeks ago,” she adds. “My exam schedule allowed me to complete all four exams before my preferred start date in October, but now that our start dates might be changed, and the exam dates might be pushed back, I have no idea what will actually happen.”
Test centers are enacting strict social distancing measures, permitting the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment, and providing disposable wipes for cleaning common surfaces. A new continuous testing model will begin on July 1, allowing candidates to take the exam year-round with none of the usual restrictions.
In addition to earning his BS in business and entertainment, Jacob Tracey is also the recipient of the NEASEA’s Undergraduate Student Employee of the Year award in Washington, DC, for his work in Bender Library’s music collections. Tracey graduated with a concentration in music performance, focusing on guitar. “My industry has been put on a halt for the time being since it’s hard to do live music during these times,” says Tracey. “But my plan still is to move to Nashville, TN, as soon as I can to pursue a career in entertainment marketing or to work at a record label.”
Right now, Tracey is staying at home with his parents in Newark, DE. “I currently have a serving position lined up at one of my favorite restaurants in town that will hopefully start soon. This will help keep me busy and earning some extra cash that I can save for when I move to Nashville. I also plan to just apply, apply, apply all summer long!” says Tracey.
Despite their inability to perform in person, music artists have been livestreaming performances on a variety of platforms, from the One World: Together at Home concert that raised $127.9 million for COVID-19 relief to other, more intimate performances on Instagram and Facebook from their homes. Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber are the latest artists to contribute to COVID-19 relief, with proceeds from their recently released song Stuck With U going to the First Responders Children’s Foundation.
Many students across the US who graduated during the 2008 recession tapped into job markets that may have been unrelated to their majors but that still gave them valuable experience until something in their field opened up. Others, if they did not choose to pursue graduate school, took on internships with dream companies that eventually turned into full-time careers.
Together, these two million 2020 US college graduates all have something in common—a sense of uncertainty. However, young adults—and especially Kogod graduates—have proven time and again that, during hard times, they are resilient and a continuous force for positive change.