2020 Graduates Face Uncertainty with Hope
Fear, regret, and a glimmer of hope: What does life look like for 2020 graduates? (Article for News Writing Course, GWU, 2020)
WASHINGTON D.C. - Unemployment due to COVID-19 has reached an all-time high; with this comes a loss of control for one’s own life and resulting anxiety. Two young adults from the class of 2020 navigate post-graduate life amidst a pandemic as it relates to their own futures.
“For a while I was oscillating between feelings of failure for being unemployed and feelings of gratitude for graduating early and avoiding spending a year’s worth of tuition on online classes,” Rohan Kandeshwarath said. “I’ve reached an equilibrium, however. All I can do is keep applying for jobs and work towards graduate school. Those are the only two things in my control so I only focus on my progress there.”
Kandeshwarath graduated from The George Washington University in May 2020, and has been living with his family at their Massachusetts home ever since.
Like many of his peers who are facing an unemployment rate fluctuating between 20 percent at its highest in May and 6.7 percent at its lowest, the fear comes from not knowing when a job opportunity might arise. Kandeshwarath recalls how this “uncertainty” has caused him to pass on interviews because some positions are only possible “in the short run.”
Kandeshwarath dedicates each week to sending out at least two applications, spending the rest of his days studying for the Winter LSAT exam. In the back of his mind are the many financial burdens that will result from this period of time.
“I worry about the debt that I will have to take on. The plan was to work for a few years and save for law school... because of the virus, that is less feasible,” Kandeshwarath said. “Eventually I’ll probably get a job, but the time I’ve spent jobless will affect my ability to save negatively. There’s then a lot of pressure to get top marks on the LSAT and earn scholarship money to offset tuition.”
Money is one of the greatest motivators for recent graduates looking to embark on financial independence. However, the negative effects of the pandemic on the economy have become an added burden for the class of 2020.
The Trump Administration signed a law on Mar. 12, 2020 temporarily freezing student loan payments for this very reason. The law was set to expire on Sept. 30 2020, but an Executive Order by the Department of Education extended the suspension of loan payments until the end of the year.
According to CNBC, entry-level jobs now pay “an average of $54,585”, almost $5,000 less than the year prior. For post-graduates looking to move away from home, these numbers can make it that much harder to gain financial security in the future.
Since graduating from The George Washington University in May 2020, Lena Geller moved out of her parents’ home and has taken on multiple jobs to supplement the costs.
“I worked jobs before the pandemic started, but I was never in a place where I was expected to take care of myself financially, or pay for living,” Geller said. “Now I am doing that, and because I’ve never known anything else, it seems normal to me that I have three jobs right now.”
Geller is renting an apartment for $650 per month in her hometown of Durham, North Carolina, sharing the space with three other people she’s just met. Though, she spends most of her time away from her home working long shifts as a server at local restaurant Pompieri Pizza and as a private chef.
“My work forces me to be somewhere else and not on a screen, which is nice, but it also means I can't multitask and work on my resume or apply to jobs, which I took for granted when I was in school,” Geller said.
Most recently, Geller was hired as a social media manager for Durham-based restaurants. As a journalism major, she hopes that this role will allow her to focus more on her career and future.
“I got there just by working at Pompieri Pizza and offering to take pictures of food for them, and offering social media tips,” Geller said. “Now I have this position that is correlated with what I want to do, and it's at the intersection of food and journalism... So it's ideal.”
Kandeshwarath and Geller represent two of nearly two million students that have graduated in 2020 into an unprecedented pandemic. Declining opportunities and an unstable job market have led to many rethinking potential future plans, but also to embrace the uncertainty that comes after college.
“Whether I get a job or not has less to do with me and more to do with an economy that has suffered it’s greatest shock since the Great Depression,” Kandeshwarath said. “As long as I don’t give up, I feel like things will turn around.”