Susy Meza, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate, is no stranger to hard work. Throughout her high school career, she took multiple advanced placement classes, played at least three different sports each year and served in many different student leadership roles. In May, she graduated as salutatorian of her senior class.
But now, with plans to major in neuroscience and minor in human developmental family services at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), she is unsure of how she will handle college.
“Personally, I don’t know if I can do an online class very well, especially taking a full student load,” Meza said. “I’m terrified that I’m going to mess up my freshman year.”
Graduating high school and college is already a time full of change and self-discovery for young adults. Now, because of the pandemic, incoming freshmen and recent graduates will have to adjust even more.
Earlier this month, UNR announced it would be adopting the HyFlex model of instruction. Under this plan, classes will be taught fully online, in-person or in HyFlex (a mixture of both), depending on the class size. According to UNR’s reopening plan, it is estimated that 1,100 lecture classes could be entirely online, and 3,000 classes could employ the new hybrid model this fall.
Meza said she’s glad HyFlex is an option but still fears she will miss out on many of the things she was looking forward to, including meeting new people, getting involved on campus and participating in school events.
“I think getting to know other people helps broaden your perspective on things,” Meza said. “I feel like you won’t really get that connection if you’re online.”
Krista Matsumura, a recent graduate from UNR, can relate to Meza’s reluctance toward online learning. After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice this past May, she moved to Richmond, California, to attend Golden Gate University School of Law.
Instead of a hybrid model, this university decided to conduct all of its instruction online for the fall semester. Although Matsumura said she can succeed no matter what, taking solely online classes would make that no easy task.
“I don’t take online classes for a reason; I don’t thrive in them,” she said. “Law school is already a difficult thing, and now you’re adding this other obstacle onto it.”
For some recent college graduates completely done with school, the pandemic has affected their ability to smoothly transition to the next phase of life.
Melanie Sanchez-Hernandez, another recent alumna from UNR, never envisioned her last few months of college would be like this. Like many of her classmates, she was excited to walk across the stage, especially as a first-generation college student. Even though she opted to participate in the spring commencement next year, she said it won’t be the same.
“I think we all want that moment. We all want to walk. But, honestly, I don’t even know that it’ll matter anymore for me personally,” Sanchez-Hernandez said. “I just got my diploma a couple weeks ago and…it just didn’t really feel like [I graduated].”
Since graduating, Sanchez-Hernandez has faced another major obstacle–finding a job.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was hoping she could have a job in communications or public relations lined up soon after graduation. But, even after actively searching since mid-April, she hasn’t been able to land one.
Toward the beginning of her job search, she said there were positions posted, but many of them would not actually be available due to the pandemic. Then, as time went on, she was often told there was a “hiring freeze,” and many companies in her sector weren’t taking applications. Now, she’s being told the priority is to hire back furloughed employees.
“I want to hope that it’s just a matter of time before we see a lot of positions opening up, but it’s been very slow,” she said. “There’s practically no positions posted, and the ones that are get picked up incredibly quickly.”
Recently, Sanchez-Hernandez has been dedicating at least one to five hours a day to looking for work opportunities. She also has been studying to get a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, a certification for recent college graduates aimed at increasing their competitiveness in the job market.
Like Matsumura and Meza, Sanchez-Hernandez has some optimism for the future, but the pandemic still leaves her with a lot of unknowns.
“There’s just so many moving parts right now,” she said. “Nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. It would be really great to know what’s coming up.”
Bianca Wright is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she is studying to get a double major in Journalism and Spanish. Aside from being a lifelong writer, she has a passion for photography, traveling, and learning about other cultures. In the past, she’s written several news articles for Noticerio Móvil, a bilingual newspaper at UNR. There, she reported on stories related to topics like DACA and COVID-19 in Spanish and English. With her writing, she aims to find creative and respectful ways to help tell the stories of underrepresented communities in Northern Nevada.