Hannah Campbell is all smiles pre-pandemic.
Hannah Campbell is all smiles pre-pandemic.

Michigan students are handling pivotal life changes during a pandemic. This is soon-to-be college graduate Hannah Campbell’s story.

Welcome to our 3-part series highlighting how Michigan students are handling pivotal life changes during a pandemic. This is what it’s like to come of age during the coronavirus.

MICHIGAN — She bought a white dress. 

One that she will don, possibly with that well-known dark green-colored cap and gown. But instead of walking across a stage with diploma in hand in May, Michigan State University senior Hannah Campbell will wear her dress and take pictures unceremoniously at her home – hold the pomp and circumstance. 

“I figured I’m not going to have a ceremony so I am going to have something to remember it by,” Campbell said of purchasing the dress with her sister’s approval, naturally.

Graduation was cancelled. Most of the sprawling, 165 year-old campus is empty, save for a few students like Campbell, who remain. But Campbell is packing up and leaving soon, too. Her now-virtual classes are nearly done. She’s also wrapping up her last few shifts at the local pharmacy where she works.  

“At first we did see a lot of customers stockpiling their medicine and now we are mostly busy between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. usually we’re slammed from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” she said.

Clocking Out

Campbell summarizes her semester in one word: crazy.

“I was supposed to have an internship and everything got mixed around; I had some stuff for December that all fell through, and I had to finish an internship at MSU,” Campbell said, adding that she planned to go to medical school after taking a gap year. “I was planning on getting some clinical experience looking for jobs in a hospital or something.”

She said since the coronavirus happened her hopes to job shadow at a medical clinic are seemingly dashed.

“Most clinics are closed or are not taking extra people in the office to see the patients, so it is impossible for the time being, and I’ve been applying for so many jobs,” Campbell added. “I’m moving home in less than a month and I don’t have a job lined up yet and it is making me a little nervous.”

Alexa Shoen, a career coach for entry-level jobseekers, said in a Business Insider article that if internships don’t pan out, college graduates could “pitch their own internship” to companies.

“Plenty of companies will use this down time to do some administrative “spring cleaning” they’ve been meaning to get to for years, for example. Propose the idea, offer your services, and you might just get the job,” Shoen said in the article. “Look for alternative ways to get the experience you need over these next few months. You could join a volunteer campaign or offer to help out a local small business. You could organize a virtual effort of some kind for your neighbors or for people across the globe.”

Campbell said that “it’s been hard” to be confined to her apartment. 

“I haven’t been able to go home and see my family in so long but it is nice knowing that I am still out here and being able to serve my community in the pharmacy and help get what (customers) need,” Campbell said, adding that when she ends her last shift at the pharmacy she will quarantine for two weeks then come home.

Campbell spends a lot of time outside to stay energized. Being healthy goes hand in hand with her future profession: being a pediatrician.

“I just love working with children,” Campbell said. “My whole life I gravitated toward that population.”

Campbell wants to work with the younger population to advocate for what they need, and during this time of COVID-19, she realizes like never before that their health is essential to the success of their future.

According to educationdata.org, there are roughly 3.9 million college graduates in the United States from the 2019-20 academic year. Of that, 1.9 million were from bachelor’s degrees. According to usatoday.com, this job market is now the worst since the 2008-09 recession.

Shoen, who got her first job post-college after the 2008 recession said there’s hope for graduates looking for jobs during economic downturn. 

“In every situation — yes, even in pandemics — there are little opportunities to reach out and make yourself useful,” Shoen said. By focusing in on what you can bring to the table, and communicating that value clearly, you’ll find a way to get through this job search with grace. (And you may never even have to leave the safety of your own living room.

The Best Laid Plans

Campbell is going to enroll in medical school at MSU, but before getting in she has to take and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Campbell signed up to take the nearly eight hour test on May 16, which she has been studying for since January. She found out in mid-April that her test date was canceled.

“They’ve canceled eight of their test dates so far,” she said. “I’m supposed to get an email about rescheduling.”

Campbell said that the earliest date she could reschedule is the end of July; it takes about a month for the results to come in, and that could potentially interfere with her medical school interviews, which need to be done before then.

“I met with an MSU medical school advisor and I can turn my application in but they are not going to consider me until after August,” she said, adding that her advice to others in a similar situation is that it’s not all gloom and doom. “Any advice I would say is just to tell people to keep their head up and something’s going to come out of this and eventually it will be over. We will be different people and keep adjusting and it will be worth it in the end.”