Students Uncertain but Hopeful About Future

Megan Ruyle, ASA Graphic Designer/Production Coordinator

College students face an uncertain future as 2021 begins and much remains unknown about how COVID-19 will continue to affect the economy and education. Whether they’re applying for jobs or to graduate school, questions and fears abound, yet so does hope.

Photo of Purdue University Student Jessica Gilbert

Jessica Gilbert

“My biggest concern is just finding a job that I’m happy with,” said Purdue University senior Jessica Gilbert. She said she has considered graduate school, but she’s focusing on finding a job that’s a good fit for now. “Right now, especially with everything going on, I think I’d be a lot happier just taking a break and venturing into industry.”

Photo of CSUMB Student Nicholas Vasquez

Nicholas Vasquez

Nicholas Vasquez, a senior statistics major at California State University, Monterey Bay, said he knows the job market is competitive. “When COVID-19 started, I saw friends and family members get furloughed and then eventually let go completely from their jobs,” he said. “It just makes me even more scared that I won’t be able to find employment in my field of study.”

Gilbert says she’s also concerned about interviewing for jobs, since most interviews are being conducted virtually. “An important part of the interview process is going to that company physically to see where you would potentially be working, maybe meet some of the people, have some conversations, and get a feel for that office culture,” she said. But with virtual interviews, she continued, “it’s a little harder to see if a company would meet your needs or not.”

Vasquez said he’s concerned that having a bachelor’s isn’t enough to land him a job. “I hear a lot that to become a statistician or a data scientist, you should get your master’s degree. I feel like one of my only options is to go to grad school.” He said he hopes to get some work experience before graduate school, however.

Photo of CSUMB student Matthew Dunham

Matthew Dunham

Matthew Dunham, a statistics major at California State University, Monterey Bay, said he plans to start applying to graduate school in the fall. “It’s a little difficult to kind of get any serious, detailed conversation going,” Dunham said. “Eventually, application season’s going to start coming around and people are going to have to start talking.”

The upheaval of 2020 hasn’t necessarily changed these students’ plans, but it has sharpened their focus. Gilbert said her job search has more of a humanitarian focus than it might have otherwise had. “I still want to work in data science. I love writing code and doing statistics, but I want to find an organization … that has a focus on helping underprivileged groups.”

Dunham said his passion for statistics education has only grown during the pandemic. “A big reason I’m into statistics education is to try and boost statistical literacy amongst the population, because it’s something that is really important.” he said. “Especially with the pandemic, there’s lots of modeling, and many people don’t even understand really what a model is. There’s a lot of different statistical terms that aren’t really known by the general public.”

College students: What are you hoping the future holds? Tag @AmstatNews on Twitter!

Looking forward, even with all the challenges thrown at them, the students are anticipating graduation and beyond.

Vasquez said he’s proud to be a first-generation college graduate, especially with a degree in something he loves as much as statistics. “It just makes me really happy that I know I’m getting closer and closer to that graduation date.”

Dunham said his passion for statistics and looking ahead to graduate school are really helping him get through this tough time. “I found a large passion in education, especially primarily in statistics education,” he said. “I feel like finding that passion has made this time online really manageable.”

The next step, Dunham added, is looking into funding for his post-baccalaureate studies. “My biggest thing is trying to identify some bigger fellowships that I need to apply to before graduate school,” he said.

Gilbert said college has left her prepared and ready for a career in data science and statistics. “I am really looking forward to the next chapter of my life, where I get to apply the skills that I’ve learned and to start building life skills.”