Over the last few years, many stories like mine have been told: “I was having the most incredible college experience, but when the pandemic hit, my life turned upside-down.” Campuses closed, classes moved online, and excitement for the future was replaced with unshakeable uncertainty.

But few people talk about the resilience of the students who started with uncertainty; few speak of the students who never had the “traditional college experience” at all.

I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2022. I did one semester on campus before COVID, and then completed the rest of my degree online. Online classes allowed me to work enough hours at my (several) jobs to pay my own way through college, all of which – including my fellowship at W/A – I found through Handshake.

Handshake released a report this week on the Class of 2024 – AKA, the first class of students who started college after the onset of the pandemic. The report, called “Catching up with the Class of 2024,” takes a deep dive into how these students are feeling about post-grad life following their tumultuous college experience.

Key Takeaways

  • The Class of 2024 is largely optimistic about their job search; 67% of students said they are confident that they can find a job that supports their career trajectory. This is great news (maybe the kids are alright?); however, more than half are worried about covering basic expenses and over one-third are concerned about paying down student loans all while the cost of living continues to rise. [CNBC]
  • While the Class of 2024 is considering a range of factors in their job search, their top priority is stability after enduring so much of the opposite. 76% of the Class of 2024 reported that job stability would make them more likely to apply for a job, followed by location (75%), employer reputation (72%), and high starting salary (71%).
  • The Class of 2024 is graduating into a tough labor market, and many are exploring as many career opportunities as possible. The average student has applied to more than 21 (+7 from 2023) jobs on Handshake since the start of the fall recruiting season.
  • The Class of 2024 is also considering a wider variety of industries and applying to less competitive industries than graduating classes before them. Government jobs are “in,” and tech jobs are “out” – likely due to the consistent stream of tech-sector layoffs and heightened desire for stability. [Federal Times]
  • The report also shows increased interest in manufacturing, construction, healthcare, agriculture, and education. Gen Z really is the “toolbelt generation;” even college grads want in on the action in the skilled trades. [The Wall Street Journal]

The Class of 2024’s higher education journey was far from conventional, but now, it’s coming to an end. While there are still challenges to be faced in their post-grad lives and careers, they approach the future with an admirable sense of hope and determination, knowing that opportunity and success awaits. Best wishes – and best of luck – to the Class of 2024!