The coronavirus has impacted our daily lives in ways we never could have predicted. People are hurting due to lack of socialization, sickness, loss of loved ones, and the postponements of major life events. For college seniors, the sadness of missing out on memories feels particularly prevalent.

Being a senior myself, I can honestly say that COVID-19 has only increased my anxiety about the future. Searching for a job feels extremely daunting with unemployment rates up and the economy reeling. 

Job hunting at a time like this is a unique process from the way things normally are. Interviews are conducted solely online through technology like Zoom, response rates on job applications seem even longer, and with so many companies focusing on simply surviving, onboarding new people are low on the priority list.

Unemployment rates have risen by 8.96% this year.

Unemployment rates reached an all-time peak of 14.7 percent in April of 2020. To provide some context, the average unemployment rate in the U.S. sat at 5.74 percent from 1948 until 2020 – needless to say, that’s a highly significant rise.

Although essential businesses such as grocery stores still are hiring, employment has dropped significantly in most other industries. For example, in April of 2020 employment in leisure and hospitality plummeted by 7.7 million. Retail, business services, education, and health services jobs have also decreased in the millions

Some vulnerable industries like service and travel are laying off employees in the hundreds. Even some creative industries like the film industry have completely come to a standstill until further notice. There have also been hundreds of layoffs in the media industry and even more salary cuts all over.

Countless friends I know who were working in the retail or restaurant industry are now unemployed. This shift terrifies me. 

For most college seniors, graduation is already a scary time, filled with lots of change. However, for us 2020 seniors graduating during the age of coronavirus, fear takes on a whole new meaning. My anxiety, in general, has spiked significantly since the virus outbreaks became more serious. The anxiety stems from good reason.

Calming down is difficult when you know people are dying and that the severity of the situation isn’t all in your head. It’s taken a toll on my mental health and I know I am not the only one.

Just surviving some days feels like a battle. Therefore, productivity sometimes feels absolutely impossible. 

Lately, I’ve been regretting not applying to graduate school, even though I know my regret is not productive. I find myself starting sentences with “If I had known this was going to happen,” as if I could have predicted this.

I am jealous of my friends with grad school acceptances purely for the security it gives them. If I knew I had a few more years of school ahead of me, I would have time to figure things out. It also wouldn’t be as daunting of a transition. I am used to being in school. 

Just surviving some days feels like a battle.

I know I will eventually find a job.

Through continuing to apply and preserving, something has to stick eventually. I just hate the time in-between where I feel perpetually uncertain. It feels like there is nothing on the horizon to look forward to. The moments I dreamed of, like walking across the stage on graduation day, were stolen.

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I want to feel like I am doing something with my life and that my college degree matters. Not having any answers is exhausting when I want to make this situation better for myself and the people I know who are struggling. My heart goes out to all the college students and anyone experiencing a similar sense of impending doom. I know that we are strong and resilient.

We will emerge from this pandemic and we won’t feel this way forever.

My advice to all the college seniors out there is to be easy on yourself.

This situation is not your fault. You are qualified, smart, and capable of being hired. Your journey in college may not be ending the way you wanted.

However, no one can take away the things you learned, the people you met, and the experiences you had.

Allow yourself to be proud of the things you have accomplished.

Let your friends and family celebrate you. You deserve it.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. I promise.

  • Maggie Mahoney is an editorial fellow based in Washington D.C. She is a soon to be graduating senior at American University studying Literature with a minor in Communications. Maggie is passionate about poetry, elementary education, blogging, and R&B music. She loves to cook and try new cuisines and considers herself a textbook Virgo.