Opinion

Essay: ‘So Why Not Grad School?’: Pandemic Perspective From a First-Year Graduate Student

Alexis Hodo | The PhoenixA new Loyola graduate student reflects on how the pandemic is changing her plans, but not her dreams.

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I packed up my essentials and left my apartment in Valparaiso, IN Feb. 28 and drove 40 minutes to my parent’s house to spend what I thought would be two weeks with them. 

I wrote one of my last articles March 12 as Editor-in-Chief of The Torch — Valparaiso University’s student newspaper —  on how Valpo students wouldn’t be returning for in-person classes until April 13. 

Unfortunately, we never went back.

Fellow class of 2020 grads can agree that when we stepped foot on campus four years ago – whatever college it was – we never could have imagined this is how it would all end. 

After four years of hard work, tears and many cups of coffee, I gave my final senior presentation in my parent’s basement and after all that, I was left wondering: what’s next?

When I first arrived home, I spent everyday applying to jobs and doing interviews, even securing a few offers. I ultimately didn’t accept anything because it simply didn’t make me happy.

It wasn’t until my diploma was mailed to me that I decided I wasn’t applying to any more jobs due to the severity of the pandemic. I realized that while I had graduated with a degree in communications – so did a lot of other students – and no one was looking to hire a fresh college graduate when they couldn’t afford to keep the staff they already had.

So why not grad school?

My mom had been cheering me on all throughout college, encouraging me to try and do everything she couldn’t do. She sacrificed a lot as a teen mom and was determined to break the stigma of what was to happen with my future. 

Grad school is something she always thought would be a good idea for me, and the more I looked into what careers I could see myself in, the thought of more schooling sounded incredibly exciting. 

Ultimately, I got into both Valparaiso University’s and Loyola’s graduate program for digital media. I was faced with two great options and one felt comfortable and welcoming, yet the other felt new and exciting. 

I think the hardest and worst part about this experience is that I constantly find myself trying to fill the void of a missed out senior year with graduate school — the two are completely separate from one another. 

I wake up to my 17-year-old brother and not my college roommates. I live in a house with a big backyard, not an apartment complex full of partying college students. And contrary to popular belief, Pepe’s is a lot less fun if you go during the week and not Tuesday at 11 p.m.  (But only Valpo students know what I’m talking about).

While I finished my Valpo program at home, I knew I needed to close that chapter in my life and ultimately chose Loyola. 

While I’m looking forward to starting my master’s program at Loyola this fall, it feels weird to be starting it right where I finished my senior year. I don’t regret making this decision to continue on with school during a pandemic, but I’m worried about the education I’m set to receive. 

The reason I chose this school was the quality of professors in the communications department and I hope their teaching is just as good online as it is in-person. 

My heart feels for the students struggling to understand how their program is going to work virtually because I’m one of them. While I won’t have access to camera and audio equipment past students have had, I think this semester is going to be a learning experience that can set me apart in the job pool.

At the root, this program is still the same and it’s exciting to me that I’m now a member of the Loyola family. Although I’ve never even stepped foot on campus, and who knows when that will be, I’ve already met some really great people and I’m excited to see what this master’s program can do for me. 

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