The University of Utah’s class of 2022 will have a better senior year compared to the last two graduating classes. With the recent return to campus and vaccination rates rising, we will hopefully have in-person classes and a graduation ceremony with our loved ones. The prospect of a relatively “normal” senior year excites many after several semesters of Zoom school, limited campus events and social isolation. We graduate in less than a year, and the pressure of jobs, graduate schools and adulthood loom over us. And though we are not graduating in the middle of the pandemic, we are graduating in an altered world.
The pandemic stripped away a formative year of internships, job exploration and graduate school preparation. Many of us seniors feel illequipped to move onto adulthood next May. The U should support the class of ‘22 by recognizing the gaps in our growth and providing postgrad preparation relevant to our futures. The job market we’re entering looks bleak. During the pandemic, the economy came to a staggering halt and job prospects disappeared, as everything deemed non-essential shut down. Since then, our economy has made a comeback, though it hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels of employment. Seniors grow anxious, feeling as though we are navigating the unknown. The good news is that 2021 graduates had a 7.2% rise in hiring from 2020 graduates, and we can assume that percentage will continue to rise. As jobs slowly crop up, we may be able to find them — but only with patience, time and preparation.
Internships often lead to job prospects, and while virtual internships were still available this past year, they don’t adequately substitute for an in-person experience. Students need more opportunities to enter their desired career field. The U should inform seniors about internship opportunities and make efforts to partner with hiring companies.
The process of applying to graduate school also overwhelms students, so the U should lend support every step of the way. The pandemic shifted the application process so drastically that now we need to navigate a different system. Graduate programs have opposing stances on the GRE because of the pandemic. Some schools choose to require it for standardization, others have chosen to forgo it completely. Given the new challenges that come with taking the GRE, the U should help students weigh their options and discuss alternatives.
In the past, the U has invited recruiters to job fairs on campus. They should continue to provide these opportunities for students this coming year. Additionally, the U should host a combination of virtual and in-person hiring events and workshops as the job market has made the hybrid format commonplace.
The U should also encourage students to use their existing connections to learn more about job prospects. We can start by asking professors and employers about job prospects in our respective fields. For those feeling anxious about networking, the U should host panels both virtually and in-person to increase access to people who have more knowledge about the careers students want to enter. Seniors need these connections and networking events as they begin planning for their future.
For those wanting to attend grad school, the U should also focus more on hosting alumni panels. For this group of graduating seniors, we want to hear mostly from the classes of 2020 and 2021, as they graduated during the height of the pandemic. They experienced similar barriers to the grad school application processes, which would help us navigate our situation better.
Culturally, people seem to think that after four years in college, students will know exactly what they want to do and how they want to accomplish it. However, that usually isn’t the case. And, because of the pandemic, it’s certainly not the case for this year’s graduating class. The pandemic swallowed crucial, formative years for us, and the U shouldn’t ignore that. The needs of incoming freshmen who are entering a new environment right after a pandemic are more obvious. But rising seniors will also enter new environments when they turn the tassel this spring. With support and ample advice, incoming seniors can feel more confident pursuing their postgrad goals.
The Daily Utah Chronicle Editorial Board is a group of senior opinion journalists who rely on research and debate to write staff editorials. Editorials represent the majority view of the editorial board and are written separately from the newsroom.