Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Survey of High School Students - Covid's Effects on Future Plans

2020 high school grads have faced a number of challenges this year. To better gauge their plans, Junior Achievement and PMIEF conducted a survey to determine if graduating teens' plans for college have changed and in what ways. Also included are data on college-bound teens' hopes and concerns.
Roughly half (49%) of Class of 2020 graduating seniors say their plans for after high school have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) and the PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF).
  • Of those whose plans have changed, more than a third (36%) say they will now work, nearly as many (32%) expect to delay their start date for college, and almost a fifth (16%) changed the career path they wish to pursue.
  • Forty percent of graduating seniors say they work. Of those who do, nearly half (49%) say they or their families depend on their income for living expenses.
  • Four-in-ten (40%) say COVID-19 affected their plans to pay for college.
  • More than a third (35%) who are planning to attend college now say they are less excited to go.
  • Of those planning to attend college, their biggest concerns are the impact of COVID-19 on classes and academic quality (58%), dorm life (53%), athletics and school-sponsored events (44%), and dining halls (40%).

The survey of 1,000 U.S. teens graduating high school in 2020 was conducted by Wakefield Research for JA and PMIEF in support of new educational initiatives by the two organizations.

I had a chance to learn more in this interview with Junior Achievement SVP Ed Grocholsk

Why has Covid-19 had such an effect on college plans for teens?
Even though many colleges have shared their plans for the fall semester, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what the college experience will be like if social distancing restrictions are in place. How many classes will need to be done online versus in person? How will the dorm situation work? What does this mean for games and other athletics that are part of student life? How will the quality of education be impacted? And then there’s the question of what happens if we have a second wave of COVID-19 later in the year. Will campuses have to be shut down again? How will that impact students’ living situations? There’s just a lot of questions without a lot of firm answers at this time.

Are there larger implications that this may have for the future?
It’s too early to tell what the implications will be, but this will undoubtedly have some impact on the future prospects of Generation Z. The closest thing we have to compare is the effect the Great Recession had on Millennials. The financial crisis impacted employment and financial stability between 2008 and 2012. As a result, Millennials had a hard time finding jobs, leading many to accumulate larger levels of student loan debt due to deferments. Between 2008 and now, student loan debt in the U.S. doubled. Because of this, Millennials have ended up being the least wealthy generation since the Great Depression. It’s entirely possible Generation Z will have a similar experience.

Why would Covid cause someone to change their minds about a career path?
It’s possible that the Class of 2020 is looking at what’s happening with their families and friends and seeing what jobs were most adversely impacted by the economic downturn compared to those that were not because they were either considered “essential” or could be done remotely. The other consideration is if more students are taking college courses online, not all college degrees lend themselves to remote learning, which could impact career choice. That could be a factor, as well.

How can parents help make sure their older teens are making good decisions with both long- and short-term thinking in mind?
Because of COVID-19 and the economic downturn, many recent high school graduates may consider taking a gap year or a gap semester. The challenge with this is that once you take a break from education, it may be harder to start again. Traditionally, a gap year between high school and college is a planned experience where the student takes a break to travel, or to work or to pursue some interest. It doesn’t mean sitting around the house, being unsure of what comes next. Parents should encourage their recent graduates to consider all of their options, even if it means taking less expensive online or community college classes for a year that can be transferred to a four-year school down the road. The main thing is to have some sort of plan in place that ultimately contributes to future goals.

About Junior Achievement USA® (JA)
Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Today, JA reaches nearly 4.8 million students per year in 105 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.2 million students served by operations in 100 other countries worldwide. Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide. Visit for more information.

About the PMI Educational Foundation
PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) is a 501(c)(3) supporting organization of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world's leading not-for-profit professional membership association for those who consider project, program, or portfolio management their profession. Founded in 1990, PMIEF cultivates long-term relationships with nonprofits across the globe to help them integrate project management in their youth programs and to build their own project management capacity. The foundation achieves its mission to "enable youth to realize their potential and transform lives through project management" and its vision for "inspiring youth to achieve their goals, making dreams a reality" by investing in high-quality organizations that exemplify a commitment to preparing young people for 21st century success and an appreciation for both the societal application and value of project management. Visit for more information.

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