Lost opportunities make 5C students’ job prospects uncertain

three smiling students look at a computer in the pitzer career office
Shaafi Farooqi PZ ’19, Krystle Yu PZ ’19 and Morgan Keller PZ ’21 receive summer internship funding advice at the Pitzer Career Services Office. (Jenny Park • The Student Life)

As the global coronavirus pandemic worsens and millions face unemployment, students at the 5Cs have been hit with internship cancellations, funding cuts and rescinded job offers.

Some graduating seniors were in the midst of finalizing their job offers with companies when they were told their potential employers would stop hiring until the global pandemic allowed things to go back to normal.

Maria Lew SC ’20 was applying to be a chemist on a research team at a pharmaceutical company when she received notice of its hiring freeze. 

“It’s hard to think about future plans and job-hunting when I’m still trying to keep up with the usual class workload on top of added weirdness from working at home,” Lew said.

The uncertainty about job prospects is especially worrisome for seniors who are looking ahead to graduate school in the near future.

“I’m in a bit of a weird spot because I want to apply to grad school in the future, and I can’t just spend a gap year doing nothing,” Lew said.

Talha Jilani PZ ’20 was set to attend the final round of interviews in March at a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C. when the firm emailed him that it had halted hiring for the time being.

Despite following up with the firm’s hiring manager after receiving the email, Jilani said that it’s been more than two weeks since he has heard back from them. Despite the likelihood of a global recession, he’s once again resuming his job search. 

“I am currently applying for at least two to three jobs every day in hopes that a firm will get back to me,” Jilani said. 

For some students, losing a summer internship translates to severe housing and financial instability.

Alex Fay PO ’23 had secured a summer internship at a national laboratory but received an email with news that all internships at the laboratory were canceled in light of the spread of COVID-19. 

Fay, a double major in computer science and applied mathematics from Boise, Idaho, is experiencing homelessness. Although her internship was unpaid, the funding she would receive from the Pomona College Internship Program would have covered her housing and living expenses.

With no current source of income and nowhere to stay for the summer, Fay is frantically emailing companies for a summer internship opportunity so that she can receive PCIP funding.

“My response rate was pretty terrible because people didn’t want a first-year,” Fay said. “I was starting to really panic because I might not actually have a place to stay in a month.”

Fay said she was lucky that her petition to remain on campus got approved. Had it been denied, she said she would have had to sleep in a friend’s garage in Boise, “just because shelters are really terrible places to be — especially for women, but also for women during a virus.” 

Scripps College announced that it would be revoking some students’ grant funding for summer 2020 internships due to the coronavirus pandemic unless students were telecommuting or lived within a daily commute from their internship.

“By presuming that students won’t need to help their families pay their housing — or that students have housing — Scripps is abandoning its most vulnerable students,” Serene Harb SC ’21 told TSL via message.

Scripps did not respond to a request for comment before publication. 

Students who had planned on traveling for their summer internships were initially eligible to receive up to $4,000 or more, but will now receive $2,000 only. Non-graduating seniors also have the option of deferring their internship grants to summer 2021, according to Scripps Career Planning and Resources Office director Rachael Acello. 

And on-campus research opportunities are also being restricted. Pomona suspended its 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Program, while Harvey Mudd College is delaying some students’ summer research opportunities, and is unsure if they will proceed at all.

Pomona’s admissions office has also suspended hiring interns for the summer and the 2020-2021 academic year, according to an email to students.

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