Graduating In a Recession

When I first saw the countdown go up, I realized my days were numbered. That’s when the reality hit that college was about to be over. Numbered were the days when waking up for a 10 a.m. class was considered early. Everything seemed to be the last time for this or that. E-mails flooded my inbox reminding me to pay my graduation fee, pick up my cap and gown, and review the commencement schedule. “Real life” is going to begin and frankly, I don’t think I am ready.

Sure, I have completed all of the courses to get my accounting degree. I’ve completed internships, joined clubs, made lifelong friends. I’ve done everything I was told to do in college, but I just don’t feel like I can go out on my own.

I’m not alone in feeling this. When many seniors read this I am sure they will nod in agreement. Despite everything that I’ve done in college, it’s the fear of what I still don’t know that will make me dread the day I put on my cap and gown.

Maybe this is what graduating in a recession does to you. Being a business major, I’ve spent a good part of my last four years analyzing our slumping economy. I’ve learned about the harsh conditions people must face out there in the “real world.”

I know that in the United States 2010 graduating class, less than 19.7 percent of graduates will have a job lined up for after graduation. Just a few years ago in 2007, 51 percent of graduates had a secured job. Honestly, this scares me.

Although I am one of the lucky few who have a job waiting for me, I’ve watched as my housemates and friends have struggled with interview after interview only to be told the company no longer had the resources to make new hires. My heart goes out to them as they worry about what they will do once school is over.

Until May 15, the recession probably won’t feel real to most seniors. Right now, most of us are living in a world where we can swipe our ID cards to buy most of the items we need. Our biggest responsibilities are making sure we turn in our last few papers, and find time to fit in senior night. Once the reality does hit though, I know it will be harsh. Many seniors will be faced with mounting student loans that need to be paid back. Few new graduates will be moving into their own apartments. Instead, most will head back to their high school bedrooms.

Unfortunately, the recession will result in some students having to push aside their dreams. Since studying abroad as a sophomore, I have longed to return to Europe to visit some of my favorite spots during one of my last chances to take a long vacation. Instead, I will be attending Certified Public Accountant (CPA) review classes and finishing up my 150 accreditation credits so that I can prove what a valuable employee I am.

I’m worried about all of the things that college didn’t teach me to do. How do I buy my own car? How do I know when I need to get my oil changed? How do I pay back all those student loans?

As each day ticks away on the countdown, I am reminded again of the last few days most of us have to still be hidden from the recession. Ironically, as we are handed our diplomas, we will also be handed a ticket into our country’s current economic nightmare.

So, if you ask me if I am excited to graduate, the answer will be no. I am not excited to watch my friends scrounge around for jobs or lose sight of their dreams. While I do look forward to the freedom graduation provides, I am still held back by the fear it instills in me. Graduating during a recession is bittersweet.

Nicole Reilly