COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Imagine the scenario of buying your college graduation cap and gown, but not having the opportunity to wear it as you walk across the stage to be handed a diploma.
That’s the reality for college seniors across the country as graduations are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We got the email, classes are being completely moved online, no graduation," Nicolette Corrao, a senior engineering student at the University of Maryland said. "I think it's really upsetting as a senior there are no plans for me to walk across stage. I bought my cap and gown last week. It's $100, nonrefundable. So what's the point of me buying this if I'm not going to walk across stage?"
Corrao is fortunate, she said she has a job lined up after graduation. She said that is common for students in the engineering field, as job recruitment typically happens for them in the fall semester.
She said she does feel for her fellow students who are just now entering the application window for their first job out of college, especially as businesses are being forced to close because of COVID-19.
"I'm sure they're super worried -- people are getting laid off right and left," Corrao said.
So far during the pandemic at least 11,800 people have filed for unemployment in Virginia.
In DC 11,844 people have applied – and counting.
Maryland's unemployment filing numbers aren't available past March 7.
Jurisdictions in all three regions have offered resources to people who have suddenly lost their jobs.
For Corrao, although this isn’t what she envisioned, she said this is also a disappointment for her parents.
"I'm actually a first-generation college student, so it's just a really big deal for me," Corrao said. "I'm graduating with a really good GPA, I was supposed to have three medals around my neck and two stoles."
"I think given our discussions about long-term distance-learning and given the state and federal guidance against gatherings larger than 10 people, it’ll come as no surprise that USM universities will not be holding traditional, in-person commencement ceremonies," USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman said in a statement. "I’ve encouraged universities to be creative in how they celebrate their graduates. Many are talking about celebrating in a virtual environment. I’d certainly also support in-person commencement gatherings once this period of COVID-19 threat has lifted."
Corrao said as frustrating as the rapidly changing situation is, she understands why the precautions are being made.
"People are upset, but everyone understands, like this totally is what is needed to be done, and this is a serious issue," the senior said.