A message to graduating seniors

Hello seniors. We didn’t think it’d end this way, did we?

You’re in your final week of your NIU career, and finals may be pretty low on your list of priorities. With graduation postponed until at least August, the realization that it is the end of your time here may not have hit you yet.

But you did it. A delayed walk and diploma does not take away your accomplishment, even if it isn’t going to be ceremonially celebrated for a while.

You worked hard to get to where you are. Present circumstances do not change that, no matter how different things look.

And things do look very different.

This graduating class is entering an uncertain, unpredictable and frightening world. Unemployment claims are higher than they’ve ever been. Illinois’ stay-at-home order will continue through May, keeping the belt tight on non-essential businesses and forcing many others to figure out work-from-home models.

There’s a few situations you may find yourself in as you leave NIU behind.

First, you might not find a job. The degree you worked so hard to get may not net you any return for some time. When lockdowns let up, summer jobs you worked in high school or part-time gigs that got you through NIU may be all that’s available. In the meantime, you might file for unemployment — maybe a worrying way to start post-education life but context matters. File if you can; it’s there to help in times like these.

Second, you may be moving back in with your parents. This was nothing to be ashamed of before the pandemic, and it certainly isn’t now. You could end up staying there a while, given market crash and recession worries. That’s okay. It’s better than going into debt to lease an apartment when job security is anything but.

Third, you might be missing your friends. The finals week Thirsty Thursday was lined up, graduation barbeque planned for May, student organizations’ senior send-offs scheduled — are not possible now. It sucks. Zoom calls work, but they’re more of a painkiller than an antidote. You can be assured, though, that NIU will be here when this is all over, and your friends will be just as anxious to see you.

It’ll be a while before you really feel graduated. This summer, typically one spent taking that first step toward careers, pursuits and indepence, will be spent realizing how much our dependence on others can be taken for granted.

So hold tight, wash your hands and don your masks. We’ll see you in August.