An Open Letter To The Class of 2020, From A College Graduate

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Dear Class of 2020,

I’m sorry.

All that you’ve gone through since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely unimaginable. Your classes were canceled and transferred online, leaving you little to no time to say goodbye to your professors or create any final memories with your friends before you transition into your lives after college. While there are benefits to online classes–like being able to just get up, turn on the computer and learn in your pajamas–a huge negative is that it’s easy to lose focus, because they’re not as interactive as a classroom environment.

Besides not getting to say goodbye–at least in person–to the professors you’ve had who actually taught you something, you don’t know the next time you’ll get to see the ones that you really connected with–the ones who’ve been there from the first day, who've watched you go from point A to point B of your journey and who you went to whenever you needed advice on advancing in your major. Some of you may live nearby, and will get to say thank you in person when all of this clears up. But for those of you that went to college across the country, or the world, who knows if it will happen at all?

But what’s probably the worst of all is that your moment to participate in your college commencement was taken away from you. As a first generation college graduate, I understand how important wearing that cap and gown, walking across that stage, shaking hands with your president and receiving that piece of paper on stage is–even if that particular paper is fake. I know the excitement of hearing them say your name to a crowd of people, as you hear those there to support you cheer you on. This day was one of the most special days of my life; walking across that stage, I felt elated, proud, accomplished and successful, after continuously feeling like I was failing. In that moment, I felt how proud my family was of me, being the first in my family to finish school at all, let alone finish it on time. You were promised this moment from the first day you said yes to your college and now, because of this pandemic, you’ll miss out on the biggest moment there is to celebrate your accomplishment; you won’t get to graduate alongside all of your friends and fellow-majors. My heart absolutely breaks that you won’t get your moment to smile, see the proud faces of your family and feel what I felt, and celebrating what should be the happiest moment in your life.

While everything that has happened to you so far is not the best outcome, you should still be excited about your impending graduation. You’re about to make it through college, and soon you’ll finally have that diploma you’ve worked so hard for. Over those four years, there were moments where you weren’t sure if you could do it, but you’re about to prove that you could. I went through four years of hard work and dedication to my major, and I made it to a day that felt extremely far away my freshman year: receiving my diploma. When my diploma arrived in the mail and I held it in my hands for the first time, it didn't feel real. I then read the words, "With all the rights, privileges and honors earned," and in that moment, I felt exactly how I felt walking across that stage again. As hard as it is to miss out on a class-wide celebration of your hard work, the diploma that you’ll receive should be what you’re proud of. That diploma holds the value of all that you’ve accomplished over the years, and you should be proud of that.

Her Campus is also offering the chance for you to participate in a commencement of your own with “I’m Still Graduating”, happening virtually on Friday, May 15. All soon-to-be graduates are invited, and you’ll be able to wear that cap and gown you reserved to represent yourself as a graduate of your school. To see other people from other schools graduating, too, is super cool, and I only wish I could’ve participated in something this big when I graduated two years ago. You'll even be able to graduate with and cheer on your friends who go to different colleges, as well as your fellow-majors not only from your school, but from other schools as well.

My fellow first-generation graduates will definitely want to participate, so that you can still get the amazing experience of graduating while having people cheer on your wonderful accomplishment. But, even though it may not be the graduation you’ve been dreaming of, everything will be okay. At the end of this insanity, you’ll be one step closer to your dream job, you’ll see your friends again and you’ll have your life back. There are always bumps in the road, and–class of 2020–you are indeed hitting a bump in the road of life right now. The thing is, you will get past this, and you’ll become stronger and more knowledgeable from this life experience.

While you're at this pause right now, take a moment to self-reflect on where you go from here. Stick to having coffee or seeing people you know through a video chat, do what you can to help others, think positively and, most importantly, wash your hands! You and I will get through this, and when this all ends, you’ll be able to celebrate this awesome achievement with your loved ones.

Stay safe, stay sane and, most importantly, stay home. I'm rooting for all of you. This too shall pass.