As high as the unemployment rate is these days — 9 percent for New Yorkers — for people between the ages of 20 and 24, it's far higher: 15 percent. But that doesn't mean the Class of 2012 is feeling dismal about their prospects.
In fact, a (very) informal survey of undergrads at City College, Barnard and Columbia University suggested that's not the case at all. Chalk it up to youthful exuberance or plain naivete, but there appear to be plenty of graduating students who feel hopeful as they head into the real world.
Asked to sum up his attitude as he approaches commencement, psychology major Roesheed Thomas shouted "Confident!"
“Feel strong. And well-equipped," he said, laughing. "I feel like I can handle the world right now."
Thomas is considering graduate school but like most other students interviewed hasn't lined up an interim job yet.
Linda Villarosa, a professor at City College, said she was surprised to find the levels of optimism among graduating students. She’s been overseeing a classroom assignment dubbed "The 21 Project," in which students interview 21-year-olds about their future.
“This is a group of people who believe in the promise of college,” said Villarosa. “They’re not taking anything for granted.”
Zoe Spanos, studied biology at City College, salutatorian of her class
Looking forward to a future in phylo-genetics: "It's actually a burgeoning field now because there's a lot of new technologies coming up for DNA sequencing, and it's an exciting time because everything's getting revamped now."
Concerned about jobs: "I have friends that are working in restaurants, friends that are working in retail, and these are all science majors that came out of City College. It's scary."
Ten years from now: "I'd say I'd like to remain in academia. It's a very rewarding profession."
Randy Henry, a history major at City College
Looking forward to: finally being done with school
Concerned about: "doing anything just for the money -- I think that's going to make me miserable"
Ten years from now: "Ten years from now you'd see a documentary or movie from me, Randy Henry, on either AMC or History Channel or big screen. Or I'll be teaching at a university somewhere."
Chika Breanne Dike, studied East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia College
Looking forward to: "I'm really optimistic. I know that if I just work hard and really not take no for an answer, once I figure out what I want to do, I can make it there."
Concerned about: "A lot of people are scrambling for the same jobs. We're all applying for the same internships, from the same websites."
Ten years from now: "There are actually a lot of graduates that are planning on going straight to grad school or law school. I'm not particularly one of them. I want to get some work experience and see more of the world besides academics, because that's what I've been doing for years now. Probably in 10 years that's when I'll actually go back to school, because the next time I go back to school I really want a sense of purpose and what I want to do with a degree."
Jawad Rasul, studied film at City College
Looking forward to: "I'm a young guy and I'm flexible in what I can do. I can move around, I can still learn new tricks, when needed."
Concerned about: "I do hear a lot about the economy, and I have my concerns, but I'm carefully optimistic. I wish I was graduating in 2005, or maybe 2000, but challenges bring opportunities and it will just take us time to see what is it that we can create new, even in this bad economy, and maybe that will be the cause of the economy's comeback."
Ten years from now: "I will have a few kids. I will probably have a house. I will probably be doing very well in my sales career. And I think America will be a much better place than it is now."