Graduating during COVID graphic

With commencement approaching, graduating seniors are reflecting on their last year at NC State. Dealing with changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic has left seniors with varying opinions about their last year and future.

Online Classes

Alyson Barnes, a fourth-year studying textile technology, said she was disappointed her last year at NC State had to be virtual and she missed out on making connections with students and professors.

“I lost my last year of being with a bunch of professors that I wanted to have classes with in person,” Barnes said. “I can’t be in class with my friends to do projects. I can’t really get a full education like I want to.”

However, Zak Selwaeh, a fourth-year studying business administration, said he appreciated the flexibility that online classes provided him.

“I definitely think this year has been easier on me in terms of not needing to run around everywhere,” Selwaeh said. “I know sometimes kids have a 15-20 minute walk in between classes, but now it’s easier for me to just hop from one Zoom call to the next.” 

While Jackson Lavely, a fourth-year studying English, said he appreciates the flexibility as well, he also said the quality of his education has taken a hit.

“It’s been a real mixed experience,” Lavely said. “I really enjoy the freedom I have to go where I want when I want during the week, but I definitely feel like there’s been a huge hindrance to what I’ve learned in class. It definitely feels like I just do things to complete them and move on with it. Fire-and-forget learning.”

Commencement Plans

This year, graduating seniors and their families will have the opportunity to attend an in-person commencement ceremony at Carter-Finley Stadium. There will be changes made to maintain social distancing during the ceremony, and seniors have mixed feelings about it. Students will not be individually recognized or be allowed to walk and accept a diploma at the large ceremony.

Selwaeh said he wishes students were able to have their names called, even if they are unable to walk and accept their diploma.

“To put it bluntly, it’s a joke,” Selwaeh said. “I get that they want to be safe during COVID, but if you’re still allowing people to come out for an in-person graduation and we can’t even walk, I’m not going to make my mom sit outside in the sun for an hour and half and not even hear my name called. It’s pointless. I get that State wants to be safe, and I really do appreciate that, but you’ve got to find a way to make sure these kids are acknowledged and recognized.”

Barnes said she is disappointed individual departments cannot put on their own graduation ceremonies because she would prefer that to a large ceremony.

“[The University is] putting thousands of people in a stadium, whereas you would have maybe a hundred people in a department, so there’s a lot higher risk of COVID getting spread at the larger commencement,” Barnes said.“It’s just not as tight knit as your departmental graduation would be. Because of that, I’m not going to go. I’m not even going to buy a cap and gown because if I’m not going to walk, there’s no point.” 

Drew Hickland, a fourth-year studying communications, said he is thankful to have a ceremony at all, given the circumstances.

“I am going to the in-person commencement at Carter-Finley,” Hickland said. “I was honestly surprised that we were getting anything. I had a bunch of friends that graduated last year, and they literally got nothing, so I’m grateful to have a graduation.”

Post-Graduation Plans

According to Hickland, navigating the job market and trying to find employment for after graduation amid the pandemic has been tricky.

“It’s definitely stressful,” Hickland said. “I’ve been applying to quite a few places. It’s stressful because all my classes this semester are projects-based. Having those deadlines and having to schedule all these interviews and talk to recruiters is just a challenge in itself. Plus, the fact that a lot of places you apply to never get back to you.”

Barnes said the reason the job search has been hard for her is because many companies are unwilling to hire new employees due to pandemic-related restrictions.

“[Companies] didn’t hire anyone and laid people off, so they’re trying to make sure they take care of their full-time employees right now,” Barnes said. “It’s been really tough.”

Lavely said he is considering graduate school after struggling with finding a job.

“I’ve tried to find an internship over the past couple of months,” Lavely said. “It’s been hard to find anybody that would take me as it is. I haven’t been able to find anything, and it has made me consider, ‘Maybe I do want to go to grad school.’ Just ride it out until the job market is better and come out of it with something else that can help me on my career path.”

Real-World Preparation

Selwaeh said he is not concerned with the fact that he received an education that didn’t meet his standards.

“The one thing I’ve noticed is that if you’ve secured an internship during your junior or senior year of college, you’re going to realize quickly that obviously school is important, but the lessons you learn in most internships are what are most important,” Selwaeh said. “I don’t think you’re going to be using Calculus I in a business job. I’ve gained enough real-world experience to have an upside over the things I would learn in a class setting.”

Hickland said he values college but also thinks real-world experience is more important and is not worried about being unprepared for his future job.

“I think what college does is it teaches you how to communicate with people, how to work with teams and how to work in fast-paced environments,” Hickland said. “I’m definitely grateful for those aspects, but it’s not going to teach me how to use Lenovo’s software or how to learn HTML. Whatever role I get put into, I know I am going to get trained.”

Marcy Waters, a fourth-year studying political science, said she is disappointed in the way her senior year has panned out, but is trying to keep a positive attitude

“It doesn’t feel complete,” Waters said. “You’re not on campus with everybody getting excited about the school year ending and graduating. It’s just disappointing, but you can’t be upset with anybody. What can you do? You can’t dwell on it too much because it’s nobody’s fault.”


I am a second-year student studying English with a minor in biology. I joined Technician in the fall of 2020 as a correspondent and am now working as a staff writer. I plan to graduate in the spring of 2022.