The biggest lesson of 2020? Prepare for the unexpected. Post-graduation plans disappeared as quickly as they were offered, causing senior students to feel a storm of disappointment, unease, and financial pressure.
Arla Muy, a business administration and health science student, was accepted into the Disney Aspire program. The program covers the cost of graduate school tuition and provides career support while students work at Disney. She even arranged to graduate a semester early to participate.
But with COVID-19? Cancelled.
“You can’t always be ready even if you plan things,” Muy said.
The pandemic upended post-graduation plans for many. Senior students who originally solidified plans found themselves back in the job market or graduating early due to the tough economy.
“I didn’t apply to any other grad school, so now I just have to take a gap year [before starting a graduate program],” Muy said.
Her plans until then depend on how the upcoming weeks pan out. Muy is in the final phase of interviews for two companies.
“They’re not in the entertainment industry, but I’ll take what I can,” Muy, who wants to work in entertainment, said. “I’m more pressured [to get a job] because I’m the oldest one in my family, so I can’t just be sitting around after school.”
Muy lost her job at Disney and helps her family financially, so there’s pressure to make money once everything reopens.
“My goal is to wait until the Disney park reopens and still apply to grad school. It’s not like I’m behind. I’m just going to have to find a way and time when I should,” Muy said.
Despite having a revised plan and being in the final job interview stages, Muy is still worried.
“I’m scared that if I take an internship program [that’s not in the entertainment industry], I’ll trail off from what I want. I don’t want to lose the pace that I already have,” Muy said.
Muy isn’t the only one concerned about her career path.
Katrina Talavera, a senior public relations and advertising major, is graduating early because she’s no longer participating in Chapman’s domestic exchange program with American University. She’s also delayed applying to graduate school.
“Grad school is off the books now because everything is remote. I think I’ll listen to other people’s advice and do grad school in five years after working,” Talavera said.
Talavera was dissuaded due to the possibility of attending classes online and having difficulty making personal connections virtually. Talavera also feels more pressure to find a job.
“I felt more confident [before COVID-19] because there were a lot of jobs available that were entry-level. Now, I feel like a lot of companies are doing job freezes and a lot of people got laid off, so these people are applying for the same positions [as me],” Talavera said.
Despite the current economy, Chapman’s Office of Career and Professional Development has not seen a change in the amount of seniors making appointments when comparing Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 appointment numbers. These appointments are for graduate school and career guidance.
“Steady appointment numbers are a positive thing considering the current climate,” said Haley Wragg, Director of Marketing and Engagement at the Office of Career and Professional Development.
According to Wragg, other universities have struggled to maintain student appointment numbers throughout the pandemic.
In terms of furthering education, Leanna Izen noted that she’d seen more students turn to graduate school as an alternate plan rather than opting out of it. Izen is Interim STEM Career Advisor for Schmid College and Fowler School of Engineering.
John Bacolores, Attallah College Career Advisor, agrees.
“In general, those I’ve recently met with in the Class of 2019/2020 are continuing their education as planned. The few that are not continuing are doing so for financial reasons,” Bacolores said.
In what many would call a turbulent economy, senior public relations and advertising major Amanda Goldstein is optimistic. Goldstein hasn’t changed her post-graduation plans. She’s still planning to teach English in South Korea for a year after graduating in May.
“Once I get back [from South Korea], I’m going to hit the ground running and be a production designer,” Goldstein said. “I’m talented and if I want it bad enough, a year will fly by. All of my experience and travels will make me a better production designer.”
Although the pandemic hasn’t changed Goldstein’s post-grad plans, it’s changed her senior year.
“With film, it’s important to make connections and meet people. So [the pandemic has] not affected my post-grad directly, but it has because it’s affected my senior year,” Goldstein said. “The smallest little thing can form a connection.”
Despite missing out on connections, Goldstein isn’t worried about the film industry’s future.
“[The industry is] actually picking up now. There’s so much working happening,” Goldstein said. “This summer, so many of my peers and I were offered so many opportunities.”
Like Goldstein, Muy sees a silver lining.
“[This situation is] only temporary,” Muy said. “Versatility is what’s most important. Even if you face a challenge, you can move on and learn from it quickly.”