With the complete upheaval of both academic and personal life over the past few weeks, Woroni asked graduating students to discuss potential ramifications of the COVID-19 virus. While social distancing restrictions seem ready to ease as the weeks pass, the economic fall out of the coronavirus looms over the graduating class of 2020. Here are some of the biggest worries these students had.
Perhaps the most obvious problem graduating students face is career uncertainty. Major graduate employers worldwide have been scaling back on recruitment. One student said:
‘Most application lengths were elongated and considerably dragged out with some still continuing or being paused without any idea of when they will be resumed due to the changes that had to be made due to restrictions. This makes it harder to choose which offer to accept. Other programs have been cancelled altogether.’
Graduate positions are vital to many, creating the foundations for successful careers. Moreover, the possibility of not procuring full-time work leaves young professionals at a financial disadvantage. Several students also noted that changes to the application process had created even more uncertainty and anxiety.
Critically, these issues are exacerbated in certain sectors. The arts industry, for instance, has been devastated by COVID-19 and the ensuing restrictions. This has left potential graduates worried if there will even be jobs for them, and if the sector will continue to struggle under the current economic crisis in the coming years.
A further consequence of this crisis is the danger of graduating into a recession, and the resultant financial hardship. Estimates suggest that the class of 2020 will earn roughly 10 percent less in their first year post graduation than the national average. One student expands upon this:
‘Due to the downturn of the economy, I may not be able to work full time in a graduate job…and there may be changes made to the program due to the restrictions.’
This has obvious consequences for graduates, who have felt increased anxiety surrounding personal finances and economic stability. It also places the class of 2020 at a fundamental disadvantage to their peers, as they are unable to access many of the same opportunities and resources as those before them.
Mental Health Crisis
Throughout this, it is also critical to acknowledge the mental health crisis faced by graduating students caused by COVID-19. More so than many other groups, graduating students are experiencing anxiety as they face the possibility of an uncertain and unstable future. There is also a level of grief for abandoned plans among some, and a sense of hopelessness for the future.
An American study on COVID-19’s mental health effect on students expands on this:
“disruptions of their research projects and internships jeopardise their program of study, delay their graduation, and undermine their competitiveness on the job market, which in turn fuels anxiety among college students.”
Closer to home, students across Australia reported anxiety regarding the ramification the pandemic would have for their university records – especially in places where pass/ fail marking systems haven’t been established. These marks, which are often used to determine post-graduate positions and further study opportunities, are vitally important to prospective graduates and any disruptions could have implications for their future.