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Column: For seniors, COVID-19 did more than cancel graduation

April 9, 2020
A moment from the Fall 2019 Commencement ceremony at Breslin Center on Dec. 14, 2019.
A moment from the Fall 2019 Commencement ceremony at Breslin Center on Dec. 14, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The future of Michigan State's class of 2020 always seemed uncertain. Facing a possible recession, drastic economic inequality and inaccessible healthcare, this year's seniors have expected adversity. 

What we didn't expect was for a global pandemic to shut down the entire country and jeopardize our futures and careers.


The COVID-19 outbreak has flipped the world on its head. The thin veil of security that many Americans felt has finally been torn. The economy is tanking, thousands are dying and millions could become infected. But illness itself won't be the only way this pandemic will impact this year's college seniors.

The economic toll COVID-19 has brought has already harmed thousands, with unemployment claims skyrocketing and many places of businesses temporarily shutting down. The economic effects of the coronavirus will be felt long after it's gone. 

The job market for the class of 2020 looks grim. 

The most obvious reason for this cloudy outlook is the economic crash brought by the pandemic. On March 9, the Dow Jones fell by record numbers, according to CNBC. It was the largest single point drop in American history, and it was brought on by anxiety about the virus.

Investors panicked and few companies were safe from the economic onslaught brought on by the virus. This alone is enough to make seniors nervous. It'll take a long time for the U.S. economy to fully recover. There will be fewer jobs for us, and people who planned on retiring may no longer be able to do so, limiting the number of open positions even further. 

Our resumes are also going to take a hit. Many of us had summer jobs or internships outright canceled and thousands lost their existing internship or job. 

Job fairs and career counseling events have also been canceled or moved to a virtual format, and it seems as if no one's hiring right now. Essentially, the class of 2020 is going to spend the next three to five months in educational and career stasis. 

This is going to make us seem like less viable candidates than those who graduated before, or even after us. There's going to be a large gap in our timelines. Sure, the average person hiring for a company will understand that there was a global pandemic and perhaps take pity. 

But our resumes will look weaker compared to an applicant who had four full years of college experience and several internships. We'll seem less experienced and less qualified, even though that isn't true. 

For jobs that look at GPAs, we're also likely to be overlooked. The average students' grades are going to slip. Learning from home on Zoom is just not as effective for many students, and we've lost some beneficial on-campus in-person resources.

We now have the satisfactory or not satisfactory grading option, but depending on your major, some companies might prefer the applicant with the 4.0 GPA throughout all four years. That doesn't mean we didn't work hard, it just means the letter on our transcript is different. That could be enough for picky employers, though. 

We also have had no time to save money. Before the coronavirus hit, my plan was to continue working and save every penny I had to go toward my future home and moving costs. Thankfully, The State News is still up and running through this pandemic, but many student employees aren't as lucky. 

Many who work in nonessential businesses have lost hours, and those who work in certain essential fields have seen their hours drastically cut. My foster brother works in an essential job as a childcare worker, but was laid off due to the economic toll the coronavirus brought upon his company. 

There is hope for us, though. We can turn this pandemic around and use it as another bullet point on our resumes. An employer could ask, "What did you do during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?" and if you have a solid answer, your application could go to the top of the list.

Students in several fields are gaining real world experience from this. Graduating MSU medical students are getting hands-on experience while aiding Michigan's COVID-19 response. STEM students are helping to develop necessary medical equipment and managing logistics. Journalism and communications students are telling the stories of how people are coping during this time, building up their portfolios. 

We can use our newfound free time to develop skills. Now is the best time to learn that language you've been meaning to study. You can finally learn how to use Photoshop. You can finish that art piece you've been putting off. Not everyone has the resources or time to dedicate to mastering a new skill, but if anyone can find a method to this madness, it's MSU's class of 2020.

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