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Undeterred by COVID-19, Class of 2020 Embarks on Next Steps

Pink flower in foreground with Parrish Hall in background

The coronavirus disrupted the plans of more than half the students who graduated in May, but the Class of 2020 is thriving post-Swarthmore.

That’s the top-line takeaway of the Senior Survey, a self-reported survey compiled by Career Services with data from 77% of this year’s graduating class. It shows that 70% of respondents (the same percentage as last year) went directly into the workforce, and 15% entered graduate school.

For the Swarthmore grads to attain desirable jobs and graduate school placements, across an array of sectors and subjects, is no surprise. But it is impressive in the context of the havoc wreaked by COVID-19.

“No position or industry went unaffected, as students saw their plans disappear overnight or had to negotiate with employers to find safer alternatives,” says Nancy Burkett, director of Career Services, noting that 10 students reported having job offers rescinded and 50 others their start dates delayed.

An additional 36 students reported getting jobs that transitioned to remote, and 11 reported suffering travel restrictions that halted their pursuit of a job.

To help graduates clear these and other hurdles, the Career Services team rapidly launched employer-development initiatives to offer new opportunities for students, Burkett says. They also created innovative remote-work and project-based learning experiences, including the first college micro-internship project in the U.S., funded by alumni donors, while leaning on virtual apps like Zoom.

As a result of these and other initiatives, the outlook of this year’s Senior Survey is bright. Among the report’s insights:  

The 70% who went straight into the workforce identified their top career paths as technology/engineering (27%, up from 18% in 2018) and research (21%). Other members of the class embarked on careers in education/teaching, finance/business, nonprofits and advocacy, law, policy/politics, health care, and communications/media.

For the 15% pursuing graduate studies, the most popular fields of study were math and physical sciences (30%), humanities (28%), social sciences (20%, up from 10% last year), life sciences (13%), and engineering (10%).

The remaining 9% of graduates were either undecided or undertaking fellowships, further undergraduate studies, or travel. 

Additional self-reported data from 328 members of the Class of 2020:

  • Seventy percent seeking employment had secured jobs before graduation, up 2 percentage points from last year.
  • The top geographic locations for grads to begin their careers were Philadelphia (21%), which surpassed New York City (17%); Washington, D.C. (17%); international (12%, up 7 percentage points from last year); Northern California (10%); and Boston (8%).
  • Seventy-five percent planned to enroll in graduate or professional school within five years.
  • Fifty-five percent completed at least one internship prior to graduation (43% with for-profits, 41% with nonprofits, and 15% with government agencies).
  • Thirty-three percent completed at least one externship prior to graduation. 

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