Graduating during a pandemic is nothing short of strange and unfamiliar. Both graduation and senior year took a different approach this time year. COVID-19 had no shortage of causing cancellations, and senior year traditions were not of any exception.
The decisions schools made for graduating students this year were revolved around safety, but one important question that needs to be raised is: “How did these seniors feel about all these cancellations during senior year?”
Robert Williams, a 23-year-old student who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre History and Performance said they went into a “nihilist” state. “I didn’t see a point to ‘performing’ efficiently the way I was prior to quarantine. I went into a heavy slump and was taking on a lot of weight thinking.”
Abby Smith, an 18-year-old student who graduated from Palisades High School explained that she felt her senior year was cut short but recognized why the decision was made.
“I don’t think what happened was unfair because all people and generations go through changes that were not planned or intentional.” Smith’s high school “traditions” were canceled, such as prom, and she did not have a regular graduation. “Nothing was normal about the end of the year” said Smith.
The virus took a heavy toll on many plans that were set in motion. Williams had his life planned for the remaining of summer 2020 prior to the outbreak.
“I made plans to work at a theatre for the summer and come back to New York to continue working my theatre jobs there. My intention was to stay in New York and step into my ‘professional chapter,’” said Williams.
Williams could no longer afford to live in the city due to a lack of income, and moved back to their hometown and stayed with their parents.
Before graduating, Williams had signed a contract. “I was signed on to a year-long internship with a theatre company in Memphis” said Williams.
The virus also affected Smith’s future, but not as drastically. “My college classes have been online, but the virus didn’t effect where I was planning on going to college” said Smith.
Smith’s high school was among the schools that made the decision to put their classes online due to the outbreak back in March. Many students felt indifferent about this decision. Smith said that when it was announced online, she was really nervous.
“Because I do not learn well in an online environment. My motivation went down, and my grades suffered” said Smith.
Both students had different experiences graduating their schools. Williams “downplayed” their graduation.
“I took the day to celebrate but was not outwardly prompting others to celebrate for me. I wanted it to be personal. I did not attempt to create a grand spectacle such as what’s expected at a traditional ceremony” said Williams.
Williams believes that the virus and the cancellations caused by it reminded them not to take any opportunity for granted.
Smith said that she “imagined my friends and peers being able to socialize and mingle. I was expecting there to be a group celebration, conversation, saying goodbyes, etc.” Instead, Smith’s family threw a graduation party for her which she described it being very fun, and it made up for the other things that could not have happened. Smith now attends Penn State University with a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders.