Class of 2020 Survey: Half of Graduating Seniors Change Plans for After High School Due to COVID-19

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. 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.

Survey findings include:

  • 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%).

“It’s not surprising that the Class of 2020 has been reconsidering its plans in light of COVID-19,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “I think what is surprising are the types of life-altering decisions being made now without a clear idea of what the coming weeks and months will bring. That’s why it’s imperative we get as much information as possible to teens to help them navigate these uncertain times.”

To help meet that need, Junior Achievement and the PMI Educational Foundation have teamed together on two educational initiatives to help teens better plan for the future. The first is the JA Economic Resources website to help students and adults become educated consumers of economic information, featuring resources and information from PMIEF. The second is Project Management 4 All, a new online game that introduces teens to the concepts of project management and planning. A video that showcases project management careers complements the game.

According to the survey, three-in-four respondents (74%) say they would be interested in a career that fits the description of project management. Most respondents (94%) believe that they excel at traits that align with project management, including problem-solving, teamwork, organization, and multi-tasking. Two-thirds (66%) say they would be interested in exploring a career in project management.

“We’ve witnessed the widespread effects of the pandemic on everyday life, and the situation makes clear the critical contributions of project managers in helping us navigate the unexpected,” said Jeannette Barr, Executive Director of PMIEF. “We’ve relied on their expertise to rapidly construct hospitals, deliver medical equipment, and even revamp grocery supply chains. All of these projects point to the importance of learning project management at an early age. PMIEF and JA know helping youth build these competencies prepares them to pursue the career of their choice, and many may choose to become project managers so they, too, can give back to their community in a meaningful way.”

Survey Methodology:
The JA COVID Grads Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 US Teens Graduating High School in 2020, between May 21st and May 29th, 2020, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the US teen population graduating high school in 2020.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

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