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How to Handle College Graduation During the Coronavirus Outbreak

This article was authored in partnership with wikiHow, the world’s largest “how to” site, and also featured here on the wikiHow website.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely filled the world with uncertainty. This is especially true for recent college graduates, who haven’t been able to celebrate their achievements in-person with their friends and family. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed and uneasy during this unprecedented time in the world, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone as you deal and cope with these new changes. Take some time to restructure your expectations, so you’ll be ready to face the future with confidence and perseverance!

Celebrating your graduation

Hold a virtual commencement party with friends and family. Set a time when a lot of your friends and family members can meet online. Host a group Zoom call, or use another platform to invite your friends and family to a group celebration. While it’s not the same as meeting in person, celebrating with loved ones may help alleviate some of the loneliness you may feel from social distancing.[1]

  • You can send a text or email to invite your loved ones to the party.
  • Try sharing your plans for after graduation, going around and telling your favorite memory from college, or even playing a game, like charades or trivia.

Center your celebration around getting your diploma in the mail. Wait for the day when your school mails your diploma to your home before you start celebrating. Make a big deal out of opening your diploma and displaying it prominently. This is a big accomplishment, so show off your achievement proudly![2]

  • For instance, you can pick up a cake from your local grocery store and celebrate your diploma arriving in the mail.
  • Keep in mind that it may take several weeks or months for your school to send your diploma over.

Watch digital commencement speeches to lift your spirits. Check online for virtual speeches that well-known individuals gave at different schools. Take some time to sit and listen to a few of these speeches; given the current state of the world, these speakers will have lots of advice specific to you and your unique circumstances.[3]

  • TED Talks are a great place to start.
  • Try searching “commencement speeches” on YouTube to find celebrity speeches directed at your graduating class.

Create a special hashtag for graduates of your school to use on social media. Brainstorm a fun hashtag that you can add to your tweets and other social media posts, which highlights all of your accomplishments. Invite your friends to use this hashtag on their social media posts too. Once you’ve all posted a lot, you can click or tap on the hashtag to see a curated timeline of your posts![4]

  • For instance, you can come up with something like #SmithCollegeGrads or #AdultingTimeForWashingtonGrads.

Schedule a postponed graduation party after the pandemic eases up. Wait for the pandemic to ease up in your area before you invite loved ones over for a celebration. This can be really frustrating, and it’s completely valid to feel upset or disappointed at this change in plans. If you’re okay with waiting, set a tentative graduation party date for several months in the future.[5]

  • Let potential party-goers know that the party may be delayed if COVID-19 hasn’t cleared up by the postponed date.

Coping with Unpredictability

Focus on the fact that you graduated. It’s perfectly normal and okay to feel sad about the time you missed at college due to the outbreak. However, try to focus on the most recent part of your college experience—that you graduated and now have a professional degree to demonstrate your hard work. Think about the fact that you completed your degree during a time of uncertainty and unrest, which is a huge accomplishment.[6]

  • No person or virus can take away from what you’ve accomplished.

Reach out to other people in your position. It’s completely normal to feel isolated and lonely during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially if you’ve recently graduated college. Still, try to remember that there are plenty of other people dealing with the same struggles and insecurities as you are. Above all, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not dealing with any of this alone.[7]

  • Consider joining or creating a Facebook group or group text for friends and acquaintances who graduated college during COVID-19.

Take control of the things you can. As the state of the world constantly changes, it can often feel like you’re trapped in an environment that you have no control over. To feel empowered, try to take control over the things in your life that you can influence, like your daily routine, your creative projects, and your own positivity.[8]

  • Feeling in control of your life can make your situation feel a little less stressful.

Set a routine for yourself. When you graduate college, you suddenly have a ton of free time, and it can be easy to fall into sleeping late and skipping meals. Try to set up a regular sleep schedule, eat 2 to 3 balanced meals per day, and get some exercise in, if you can. Sticking to a regular schedule will help you feel more in control of your life, which can lift your mood overall.[9]

  • For example, you could try going to bed at 12 am and waking up at 8 am for a full 8 hours of sleep.
  • Try to eat balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and plant oils in moderation.
  • Aim for about 150 minutes of strenuous exercise per week.

Identify coping skills that work for you. Coping skills are the things you do to relieve stress, lower your anxiety, and stay grounded. These could be meditation, exercise, art projects, reading, or journaling. Try to find 2 to 3 things that you can do at home that are both fun and relaxing.[10]

  • If you aren’t sure where to start, try doing a small art project with watercolors or following a guided meditation video. If you don’t like either of those, move on to writing in a journal or doing some weight lifting.

Download an app to help you deal with stress and anxiety. Look for activities that can help you manage and alleviate some of the stress you‘re feeling at the moment. Look for apps that can guide you through different breathing exercises, or an app that lets you color in pictures by number. Whenever you’re feeling stressed or uncertain, give yourself a mental break by chilling out with one of these apps.[11]

  • For instance, apps like Calm and Sanvello for Stress & Anxiety are great options to get started with.

Trust that things will eventually get better. Try not to get wrapped up in the day-to-day happenings of COVID-19. Instead, try to look towards the future with courage. While things may not look great today, remember that they will be better in the future, even if that future is a month or a year from now. Remind yourself that the pandemic is just another challenge that you can and will overcome.[12]

  • Think about some other tough challenges you’ve conquered in your past. Eventually, you can add COVID-19 to that list!

Transitioning after Graduation

Move in with family members to save money. Ask your parents or other close relatives if you can move in with them indefinitely while you transition out of college. Explain that the job market is a bit unsteady, and you may not be able to be as financially independent as you’d like. Given the current pandemic, many family members and friends will understand and sympathize with your situation.[13]

  • For instance, you can say something like: “I’m currently looking for a job, but I don’t think I’ll be able to live on my own until the pandemic situation clears up. Would it be okay if I stayed with you in the meantime?”

Expect the job market to be a little slower after you graduate. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a new job right off the bat! Due to the pandemic, seasoned professionals and new graduates alike are having trouble finding work in the current job market. It’s completely normal and valid to throw your hat in the job ring multiple times. Don’t worry if you aren’t immediately successful finding a job after you graduate—just keep going at it![14]

  • For instance, tell yourself something like this: “I may not get this job, and that’s okay. What matters is that I put my best foot forward with each new job opportunity.”
  • If you’d like to make money during your job search, consider looking for work in the essential job sector, like the restaurant or retail industries.[15]

Scout out different websites for job opportunities. Bookmark popular job hunting websites to see what kinds of opportunities are in your area. If you have a specific company or employer in mind, browse their website for any job openings. Follow each website’s specific protocol when you apply for the job, like uploading a digital resume and cover letter.[16]

  • Some websites may require you to fill out a questionnaire.
  • Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor are all great starting points.

Apply for remote jobs that practice safe social distancing. Look for jobs that aren’t locked down to a physical location. This can increase your job hunting possibilities while also helping you stay safe during the pandemic. Search for a general term, along with “remote” in the location bar, and see what you come up with![17]

  • For instance, you can put “web designer” along with “remote” to see what kinds of options come up. You can also try searching terms like “editor” or “engineer” and see what comes up.
  • Due to COVID-19, there may be a lot more remote jobs available than there usually are.

Connect with potential employers on LinkedIn. Look for possible hiring managers or similar employees on LinkedIn. Draft a short message that professionally states your interest in a job. Try not to copy your cover letter—if the employee wants to see more of your work, they’ll likely read your cover letter eventually. Instead, focus on the boilerplate information about why you’re interested and how you’re qualified.[18]

  • For instance, you can write something like: “Good morning! I recently came across your post about a job opening in your company, and I just wanted to reach out and express my interest. I’ve been hiking and camping since I was a child, and think I could be a great asset to your editorial team as a nature and wildlife editor.”
  • You can also join LinkedIn groups to get mutual connections with more employers.
  • You can also look for informational interview slots, where you can learn more about your job field without actually applying for a job. These can give you useful information for the future when the job market is a little more stable.

Show off your expertise on a blog or personal site. Develop your own website or blog where you can upload your resume, CV, portfolio, or anything else that really displays your expertise. Create a site that’s decorative without being over-the-top, and really draws potential employers in. The examples of your past work and the way you design your site can speak a lot to your capabilities as a future employee.[19]

  • You can always use a default template on a website builder, like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress.

Take an online course to sharpen your skills. No matter what industry you’re going into, you can use your newfound free time to find a class online and increase your skill level. Try looking for online courses at your local community college, searching for courses online, or even finding helpful YouTube videos to explain difficult concepts.[20]

  • This can be a great way to fill in your resumé, and you can explain to potential employers that you used your free time to hone your skills and abilities.

Perform a mock phone interview to prepare yourself. Ask a friend or family member to help coach you through a fake phone interview for a potential job. Keep in mind that face-to-face interviews aren’t feasible anymore, so potential employers will likely reach out via phone or video chat. With this in mind, get the in the habit of taking down a lot of notes during the interview and refer to them before you ask any follow-up questions.[21]

  • Ask you friends and family members for feedback after doing a practice phone-interview.

Participate in video interviews instead of in-person interviews. Download popular video chat software like Zoom to your computer or laptop. Treat a video interview in the same way you’d treat an in-person interview. With this in mind, dress professionally while sitting in a quiet, uncluttered area of your home.[22]

  • You can also do a practice Zoom interview with friends and family members.
  • Some places might use a different video call platform, like Slack, Skype, or Google Hangouts.