During this year’s Spring Break, George Mason University emailed students to let them know that their break had been extended for an extra week due to worries concerning the Corona Virus. Soon after that, all classes were officially moved to online instruction, and it wasn’t long after when the May graduation ceremony was postponed “indefinitely.”
Sharing a sense of disappointment, high school and college seniors graduating in 2020 had their final semesters cut short, unable to attend their favorite events or even have a graduating ceremony.
George Mason seniors are no exception.
Joe Lankford, a healthcare administration major, says that many class assignments have become easier since switching to online instruction, but that he still finds online classes harder than in person. “It is harder to focus and motivate myself to get the work done and I really feel like I am learning less.”
The 23-year-old Mason senior was hoping to find a job in the healthcare field but says that a lot of places are not focusing on hiring new people during the pandemic. He explains that for himself and his friends, income is an uncertain thing.
“Also being in college, several of our parents still claim us as dependents which hurts our eligibility for government stimulus,” he says. “It's scary that I haven't even started my career yet and have already had to file for unemployment.”
Lankford was looking forward to his last semester in his fraternity and to walking the stage at graduation. Many of his family members, who were planning on traveling to attend his graduation, had to cancel their plans.
Claire Underwood, a communication major, says that she wasn’t greatly impacted by the switch to online classes because her schedule was already mostly online. However, the student is part of Mason’s environmental professional fraternity, and was looking forward to attending more events this semester.
“I had not been able to participate much in the last year since I was working every weekend when there were events,” she says. “This semester I finally had my weekends free and I was going to be more active in meeting the new members.”
But it’s not just events. The 22-year-old student had been offered a 6-month paid internship that was going to start in July, but the organization has since lost funding and no longer has resources to hire an intern. “I had also planned that in the case I couldn't find a job immediately, I would go full time at my retail position, but the store is now closed until July.”
Although she says the uncertainty has been difficult, Underwood understands that many companies are likely having to handle a decrease in profit and are therefore not in a position to hire. “I have noticed a universal feeling of sympathy to those graduating college at this time and I am hopeful employers will take this into consideration when seeing a resume of a recent graduate.”
Anna Dua, an integrative studies major focusing on social justice and human rights, says that some of the jobs she’s applied to are no longer hiring due to the unknowing timeline of the near future. “I’m continuing to apply to jobs, but the search has just gotten a lot harder.”
The 21-year-old student had a multitude of “lasts” that she was looking forward to this semester, such as her final sorority formal and walking across the stage at graduation.
She admits that she was frustrated when she got the email from the university. “I’ve been talking to friends about how it just feels unfair since the past 4 years of our lives have been built up to this one ceremony that we won’t get.”
Regardless of her frustrations, Dua recognizes the need for universities to take measures such as canceling graduation when it comes to a virus pandemic. “I really hope we’re the last senior class to be affected by it.”