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Canceled Internships & Financial Aid Needs: College & Career Planning In A Pandemic

Spencer Tritt

It’s unclear what COVID-19’s full impact will be on colleges in the fall. Some are re-tooling schedules in case they need to move online.

And many students are changing their college plans because of the pandemic.

Cathy Cebulski is a counselor at DeKalb High School. She’s been communicating with her students over email since they moved to e-learning.

“If students were planning on going away to college thinking that Mom and Dad both had a job and they're both laid off right now, that certainly is a concern,” said Cebulski.

She says students may be less likely to move far away due to safety as well as financial reasons.

Cebulski says college planning has been delayed for many students as they focus on e-learning.

A number of colleges and universities have extended admissions and scholarship deadlines. But Cebulski says they could have a tough time handling the volume of financial aid need because of COVID-19.

Cebulski says applying for scholarships is also more challenging in some cases because students can’t get their hands on official transcripts.

Graduating college and entering the workforce during COVID-19 also presents many challenges, and career services programs at many universities are shifting online.

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One of the new programs at Northern Illinois University is a “graduation checkout.” It makes sure that students have a resume ready and that they’re utilizing online tools like LinkedIn to help them find opportunities. 

Cathy Doederlein is the director of internships and external relations for NIU Career Services.

She says the job market is in flux, and internships are being delayed or canceled as companies shift to remote working. And many students are pivoting to graduate school planning instead of going right into the workforce.

But, Doederlein says, some industries are hiring more workers right now, including manufacturing.

“Production of things related to COVID-19, production of things related to personal protective equipment, all of those kinds of things that we've seen shortages of or high demand for -- those companies associated with those industries are ramping up their hiring for sure,” she said.

Career Services is also planning virtual career events for the future. The department says it hopes to implement those even after the pandemic.