For thousands of seniors across the country looking at grad school, COVID-19 has flipped that process on its head. That isn’t even to mention the fact that their last year of undergrad has been spent in a way vastly different from what they were hoping.
“I was disappointed realizing that my grad school experience would likely be different from what I had expected,” said Madison Storm, a senior multimedia journalism major. “I’m mostly worried about the quality of education not being the same if I work to complete my degree entirely online because journalism is a lot of applied learning rather than virtually taught lessons.”
Senior human development major Jaida Buchanan shares some of the same concerns as Storm when it comes to online graduate classes. Buchanan aspires to be a teacher, which pre-COVID was a mostly hands-on experience toward the end of the program. “I have my worries because student teaching was supposed to be hands-on, and it might just be Zoom now,” Buchanan said. “I'm not sure how they're going to student teach.”
This lack of hands-on experience worries Buchanan for her first few years of teaching. “Eventually if things do go back to normal, the only thing I know is Zoom,” she said. “I don't know any hands-on stuff, and teaching is all about doing it your own way and just learning on the job. If I only have Zoom experience, I don't have any classroom experience or know what to do in a classroom.”
For students entering graduate school, there are more concerns than whether or not classes are online. They first have to worry about even getting in. This was already a concern for most students looking into graduate school before COVID-19, but now the process has been made even more complicated. Buchanan plans on staying at Virginia Tech for graduate school while Storm is looking elsewhere, but for both of them the process is certainly different than they had planned. Buchanan is concerned about interviews being over Zoom.
“There's an interview process, so that's probably going to be over Zoom when it would probably be in person,” Buchanan said. “And that may or may not affect my chances of getting in because what if that connection cuts out or what if I stutter and they don't hear that?”
On Storm’s end, she prepared for months to take the dreaded GRE, or Graduate Record Examination test, in order to be admitted to graduate school, but because of COVID-19, that time was put to waste. “I had studied the whole summer to take the GRE, which is exhausting, and I'm not a great test taker. So there were a lot of factors playing into that, but a lot of schools actually started waiving the test requirement as a result of COVID,” Storm said. “I ended up canceling it after spending the whole summer studying, which was annoying.”
But despite the new challenges that COVID-19 has brought to the process of entering graduate school, it hasn’t deterred Storm or Buchanan from their plans.
“It didn't make me less inclined to go to grad school,” Storm said. “Even though I am disappointed, I’m still excited to finish up with the application process and see where I’ll be learning next.”