The television is tuned to his favorite channel, ESPN, but he stares blank at the glowing screen. His body seems to leave his mind as he is comfortably sprawled out on the couch in his parent’s living room— the same common room that has offered respite from life’s struggles so many times before. Now the living room he has known as a safe haven offers no solace, but is a constant reminder of his current state— a college graduate living back home with his parents. He cringes at the very thought.
Russ Horvath was the type of student many aspired to be. For four years the creative writing major religiously attended every class he had at SF State. He put blood, sweat, and tears into every assignment. Before he graduated last spring, Horvath could barely contain his excitement at the endless possibilities he imagined he would encounter after graduating. After all, he knew he had worked hard to foster his craft, and he felt confident he would land a job soon after graduation. However, the 22-year-old soon realized that no class or assignment could prepare him for what reality had in store.
It is common knowledge that jobs are hard to come by these days, and most students do realize just how much the failing economy can affect them after graduation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates made up more than half of the 9.8 percent unemployment rate in December 2010. The unemployment rate for college graduates, 5.1 percent is the highest it has ever been since 1970 when unemployment records were first kept. In November 2010, there were approximately 2.4 million college graduates unemployed according to government figures. Even more, many analysts predict a slow and lengthy recovery out of this hard-hitting recession.
For the majority of college students, reality really does bite. After receiving the coveted diploma, students face meager job prospects in addition to the stress of having to payoff credit card debt and student loans accrued during their college years. For many students this translates into moving back home with Mom and Dad— a proposal that makes many quiver at the mere thought. For recent and soon to be graduates, the excitement and fantasies of life after graduation have been replaced with worry and fear.
Junior, Anamarie Orgera still has a year left before graduation but says she is already experiencing the post-grad blues. The enthusiastic brunette studying Dietetics and Spanish regularly debates her plans after college that includes either graduate school or an internship. Orgera thinks about graduation “all of the time” and can’t fathom moving back home.
“Graduate school is up in the air,” says Orgera. “I think it depends on how the job market is looking and if it isn’t looking that great than grad school can be an option. Part of me stresses and part of me reminds myself to calm down because I have a year and everyone is in the same boat I’m in.”
For senior Thomas Lin, graduation has become as commonplace a thought as what he will be eating for his next meal. He encounters the question of life after graduation on an almost daily basis. Although the repetitive question annoys the biology major, Lin couldn’t be more excited to graduate even though he is aware of the grim job market. Unlike Orgera, Lin currently lives at home with his parents in San Francisco, and believes this will make for an easier transition. Although Lin says he has read articles urging graduates to pursue higher education, he believes he will eventually find work.
“I have friends who graduated and have been looking for jobs for a year or two, but biology is a really wide field,” says Lin. “I’m not really worried about it and I try to stay positive. I’m probably not as stressed because I live in the same city where I go to college, and I’ll still be back at my parents house for a while.”
Like Lin and Orgera, Horvath thought of himself as the exception to the rule. Shortly after graduating, he pursued a writing career, but soon found that jobs in the Bay Area were few and far between. Although he did find freelance work, he could not fathom writing mundane subject matter for pennies on the dollar. Soon Horvath yearned for the days when he was still a student, and not an unemployed graduate.
“Oh hell yeah I was excited to graduate,” says Horvath. “I managed to get out in four years with all I could ask for from both the Creative Writing and journalism programs in self-growth and finding ‘myself.’ But looking back on that moment, I would love to still be in that nurturing, heavenly womb that is college.”
The lack of job opportunities prompted Horvath to return to his hometown of San Diego where he decided to search for a temporary job. Back home, Horvath was told he was “overqualified” when he searched for a retail job to pay the bills. Exasperated at his lack of opportunities, Horvath has decided to pursue graduate school.
“I don’t want to outright say, ‘You’re all boned,’ but to be a realist, our current place in the world involves staring directly into a black hole of employment doom. My advice is be an intern while you can to get your name in someplace, because as it seems, that’s how you get a job these days out of college: you know someone.”
22-year-old Journalism major Jamie Wells still holds hope for life after graduation, but says she is becoming increasingly worried with each passing day that is one day closer to graduation. Her worries stem from wanting to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, but not knowing how she will afford to live in such an expensive city unless she lands a job right away, which she feels is unrealistic. Wells says she has always been excited for graduation, and although she thinks graduate school would be her best choice, it is simply not an option for her.
“I’m really excited to graduate and move on to the next chapter of my life, but I’m also terrified,” says Wells. “I’ve been waiting for this year for so long, and now it just feels weird.”