What college students want you to know about life during COVID-19

I want to start this by saying that it’s no secret that college-aged young people are not the most vulnerable demographic for COVID-19. We don’t make up the largest portion of COVID-19 deaths or hospitalizations, and we don’t want to claim to be the people being hit the hardest. We aren’t. 

Mass unemployment is hurting everybody, and the devastating impacts of the illness itself on people are second to nothing else right now in the world. There’s no stress or inconvenience that matches the loss of human life. It’s also important to note that the people on the frontlines of maintaining a functioning society — healthcare workers, delivery drivers, grocery store employees, food service workers, etc. — deserve the most recognition for their role in supporting society through the pandemic. 

But, us college students really want people to know what we’re going through, too. 

Coming from the perspective of a college senior, I am now dreading graduating. What I was looking forward to with joy, and excitedly planning celebrations for, now feels like a ticking time bomb before I am forced to figure out a “Plan B.” It seems like everything has been flipped upside down. My degree is wrapping up in just two short months, and there are now so many unknowns about what I’m going to do once I graduate. The transition from college to the workforce is daunting enough, but now trying to navigate that while the entire US economy is on pause is even scarier. 

Companies are furloughing their entire workforce to stay afloat, so how are we supposed to be able to find a job as a recent college graduate when even people with experience and seniority can’t hold down their position? For many students, internships taking place right now were going to be critical add-ons to resumes for competitive post-grad job prospects. Now, they are equipped with even less as they enter the “real world.”

A majority of college seniors won’t even be able to formally celebrate the accomplishment they have worked for over the duration of the past 16 years of school as commencements are being canceled left and right. Greek life activities, athletics, and other college recreation activities that are so important to the college experience are being canceled. Not to mention that the transition to online learning has been significantly more of a challenge than most people realize. 

Students have had to travel back to their hometowns, leaving their jobs behind. Some can find relief in the form of a $1,200 dollar check from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but many cannot because their parents still claim them as a dependent for tax purposes. This is true for so many college students that are in the gray area between being under their parents’ wing and being independent in the adult world. They may support themselves completely, but that is not recognized under this bill. Now, they struggle to make ends meet.

College students notoriously have financial struggles, and now with the added stress of losing their jobs, moving, and still having to juggle all of their normal financial responsibilities, it’s fraying away at the already fragile mental health of the young adult population. 

Once in a lifetime opportunities to study abroad have floated away. We’re watching our friends and families lose their jobs, get sick, or even die. We’re separated from our social lives and support systems. We’re getting ready to jump into a post-grad economy that is ten times tougher than it has been for graduating classes before us. And all the while, we’re still told to care about cellular respiration, art history, or accounting. We’re still getting emails about upcoming tuition bills due as well. 

In the middle of a global crisis, we are, like everyone else, struggling to remain mentally afloat every day. The last thing we can bring ourselves to care about is writing research essays when everything around us is up in flames. Nothing feels more irrelevant and pointless right now. All the while, we feel completely powerless. We don’t have the financial means to help people, and we feel so much guilt over hating our situation because there are always people who have it worse. We’re sick of hearing that our generation is “entitled,” so we just bottle it up and count our blessings. 

We’re hurting, and we don’t even feel like we’re allowed to say that we are.