2020 Seniors: Experiencing COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all differently. Parents have adjusted their work schedules and routines, moving from traditional workplace settings to work-from-home arrangements. Employers have become increasingly flexible to accommodate working parents’ needs. Educators have adjusted to the virtual world quickly and with little to no training. Small business owners and entrepreneurs continually adjust to new CDC guidelines and regulations; for some, the pandemic has spelled economic disaster. For others, the pandemic has helped their businesses flourish. And what about college students? College senior Brooke Talley shares her personal experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

college senior Brooke Talley COVID-19 pandemic

Talley, a senior at the University of Central Arkansas, is working to complete a degree in speech-language pathology. She has garnered experience as a sales representative, a branch manager, and in a clinic in hopes of increasing her odds of graduate school admission.

“After graduate school, I hope to put my soft skills to work in health sciences in a creative, inventive way by providing the best interventions for my clients,” she shares.

Challenges and motivations during the pandemic

Talley is transparent about the ups and downs of her senior year; it has been filled with both challenges and motivations.

“Senior year is filled with important, scary-sounding classes and the feeling like you’re drinking from a fire hydrant of information,” Talley admits.

She notes the constant nagging thoughts related to what-ifs about grad school admission and questions about whether she’s studying hard enough. At the same time, Talley knows her desire to learn trumps grades and that her grades do not define her. She shares that she has decided to spend as much time as possible with her favorite people during her senior year.

Being a senior during the COVID-19 pandemic comes with unique challenges. It seems more challenging to find motivation when there is less structure.

“I have had to create a schedule for myself to follow so I can keep myself working toward deadlines at a steady pace. Without a schedule, I find myself thinking that I have plenty of time, which is a huge lie; I often only have two weeks left until a huge deadline! I also used to rely on extracurricular activities as a refresher and motivator, but now it’s all me,” Talley notes.

Talley expresses frustration with lack of connection to others, particularly friends and loved ones. While she knows others are struggling, too, she feels pressure knowing she may never get to see her friends again after graduation.

“I find myself waxing nostalgic. What are things I left unsaid–things I wish I would have set my studies down for just once? Road trips I missed out on?” Talley reflects.

After reflecting on these moments in the spring of 2020, Talley determined to improve her study-play balance in her final semester as a senior this fall.

Plans after college graduation

Because working as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) requires a master’s degree, Talley must attend graduate school. She is currently considering which graduate school best meets her needs and is completing applications. She hopes to gain experience in both a hospital setting and a rehabilitation center, both settings which challenge speech-language pathologists and provide creative treatments for patients.

“I love fast-paced environments. As a professional, I don’t want the same mundane case load – I want to be challenged with a wide variety of patients. I will have to experience a lot of settings before I find the right fit and hopefully find a job in my ideal field. Until then, I will just have to keep an open mind,” Talley states.

As 2020 college seniors plan their futures, whether their futures include graduate school or immediate job searches, may they encounter plenty of helping hands and friendly faces along the path. The path for these students has been rocky enough already.

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