It was 65 degrees and cloudless Sunday when over 12,000 Ohio State University students packed into the Ohio stadium to start and reflected on a college career marred by the global pandemic.
Justin Yancey, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, said he was happy to graduate on such a beautiful day.
“It’s amazing – the whole class has had to deal with the pandemic,” Yancey said. “I don’t know if we lost the college experience because everyone graduating at that time was affected, but I would definitely say we had a different experience than we expected.”
Finishing a Degree at Ohio State During the COVID Pandemic
In the spring of 2020, Ohio State University halted in-person instruction for the semester, sending students home and moving to online learning, like most other universities nationwide.
The University reopened for on campus activities in August 2020 (although with masking requirements and strong restrictions on capacity limits for public gatherings).
Kaleb Parker, 22, a finance major, said he felt like he was ending his time at Ohio State with a meaningful senior year after a period of uncertainty with distance learning.
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“It was a good note to finish,” Parker said. “Things are reopening, going out to see friends, being able to attend social events – college is what you make of it.”
Alique Wicks, a 28-year-old army veteran, earned a degree in psychology. After transferring in August 2020 to complete his studies, he said it was initially difficult to meet people because of the pandemic.
“When I first came here it was hard to meet people and make friends because everything was locked down,” Wicks said. “Things got a little easier as the restrictions started to ease and people got out more.”
Veronica McGraw, 43, earned a master’s degree in public administration and leadership. McGraw is also the director of communications for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, an independent state agency charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
The two-year online program at John Glenn College of Public Affairs, McGraw said, allowed him to pursue studies in public administration while continuing to work in the public sector. Although she said she was not affected as much as students on campus, she felt that instructors went above and beyond to accommodate students during the pandemic.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into this program during the pandemic,” McGraw said. “They’re very, very good at understanding that things still happen to students who aren’t on campus.”
Keynote speaker Patrick Gelsinger, CEO of Intel, commended the students and their families for overcoming the challenges of attending college during a pandemic.
“And here you are back after a terrible few years,” Gelsinger said. “Think about it: family, friends and loved ones over the past three years, what it’s been like to be a student – and I say you’ve been through something amazing – a global pandemic.”
OSU Students Express Concerns and Hopes for Post-College Career
Earlier this year, Intel announced that it would build what he says will be the largest semiconductor microchip factory in the world. It is estimated that the planned campus in Licking County will place thousands of Ohioans in tech jobs.
“It’s our job to shape technology as a force for good because when it’s good, it’s magic,” Gelsinger said. “And much of the magic of tomorrow will be built right here in Ohio.”
Ohio State University graduates will enter a job market with the lowest unemployment rate since before the pandemic, hovering around 3.6%. A strong labor market, however, is tempered by rising inflation which is now at its highest level in 40 years.
Parker said he was not worried about inflation or the economy affecting his graduate job prospects and expressed confidence in the job market.
“I’m not worried, the markets always correct themselves eventually,” Parker said. “Everything will be fine in the long run. »
Other students continue their studies. A November 2021 report from the Council of Graduate Schools found that applications for graduate school admission rose 7.3% from the previous one, a growth rate higher than the average year-over-year growth of 2.5% in the previous decade.
Apurba De, 22, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and physics, said when he looks at the economy, he gets nervous about the job market in his field. Fortunately, De said, he plans to continue his studies with a master’s and a doctorate to improve his prospects.
“I’m pretty nervous about (the job market),” De said. “Let’s see how it changes.”
Wicks said he plans to take a year off and then go to graduate school to get another degree.
“But right now looking for a job is tough, I’m not going to lie,” Wicks said. “It seems like the more you learn, the harder it gets.”
As a non-traditional student, McGraw said she would encourage anyone with a passion for education to pursue an education, regardless of age.
“If you have a passion for higher education and you think you’re too old, you’re not too old,” McGraw said.
Cole Behrens is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at