College 'Seniors' Worry About The Future

25 April 2020

American Carter Oselett is back in his childhood bedroom. He was sent home from Michigan State University because of the coronavirus crisis. But, he told the Associated Press that he is still paying to use an empty apartment near his college

Oselett buys food for an aunt recovering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. His mother is now seeking government unemployment payments.

Oselett's summer study program at a university in Brazil has been canceled, and he is not sure he will graduate in December as planned.

For many of the nearly 2 million people in the United States expected to earn bachelor's degrees in 2020, the crisis has taken away many things. These include their housing, friends and dreams of a graduation ceremony.

In this March 29, 2020 photo provided by Marianne Oselett, Oselett's son Carter celebrates his 21st birthday at their home in Macomb, Michigan.
In this March 29, 2020 photo provided by Marianne Oselett, Oselett's son Carter celebrates his 21st birthday at their home in Macomb, Michigan.

Some college students in their final, or "senior," year face real-world responsibilities as they try to support themselves or struggling family members. For others, adulthood is being delayed. Their plans for after college, including work and travel, have been canceled. Now, they must move back home.

Nearly all of these students fear their first steps into adulthood will be affected by a worldwide recession.

Barry Schreier is a University of Iowa psychologist and communications chairman of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. He urges students to hold on to their goals although they may have to delay their plans. He said they should also expect to go through levels of sadness, which include denial, anger and depression.

Schreier noted that accepting adult responsibilities, often called "adulting," is difficult on good days. "And these are certainly not good days," he added.

Axel Lopez is in his senior year at the University of California, Los Angeles, known as UCLA. He takes pictures of sporting events for the school's newspaper, The Daily Bruin. He had hoped to take a last walk through the newsroom before moving to Utah to take a job in the summer. Instead, he is now quarantined in his apartment near UCLA and taking his final classes online. The expected summer job offer never came.

"It's a very uncertain time, considering just a couple of months ago, it seemed there was a surplus of jobs available," he said.

Lopez is a first-generation college student. He joined his mother growing up as she cleaned houses in Los Angeles. He had dreams of hugging his mom at graduation and telling her: "Yeah, it was all worth it."

UCLA announced its June graduation ceremony would be held online, then reconsidered after criticism. The university has promised to hold an in-person celebration later.

"Even though we're going to have it in the next year, I feel it won't be the same," Lopez said.

Victoria Arévalo is back in her family's small two-bedroom apartment in west Los Angeles. She had hoped to stay in her apartment at nearby Loyola Marymount University, where she is studying communications. But she knew her family needed the money that would be returned to her if she came back home. That is because her stepfather's job at a storage business was suspended.

Very quickly, Arévalo lost her emotional "safe space," her paid, TV news position and her final months with college friends. At first, she voiced her anger on social media. But after a few weeks back home, she accepted the situation and the road ahead.

"I know it's going to be a lot harder than it would have been. I'm just trying mentally to prepare myself," said Arévalo. She is a 22-year-old immigrant who came to the United States from El Salvador as a child.

For health sciences student Anali Reyes Vazquez, the crisis has caused problems. Her parents are out of work. But, there also is a possibility of something good.

The 21-year-old senior at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, planned to find a job and continue her education in June. Those plans are on hold. However, one of her final classes is on medical translating. This could help her find a position serving Spanish-speaking patients.

"There are people in need," she noted.

I'm Pete Musto.

Maryclaire Dale reported on this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

apartment –n. a usually rented room or set of rooms that is part of a building and is used as a place to live

auntn. the sister of your father or mother or the wife of your uncle

graduate –v. to earn a degree or diploma from a school, college, or university

bachelor's degree(s) –n. a degree that is given to a student by a college or university usually after four years of study

certainly –adv. definitely

quarantined –adj. kept away from others to prevent a disease from spreading

hug(ging) –v. to put your arms around someone especially as a way of showing love or friendship

translating – v. changing words from one language into another language