One in Two Graduating High School Seniors Are Changing Their Fall 2020 Expectations

Graduating senior looking at camera with laptop screen showing grad with CNBC logo on top left

I Shared with CNBC About Another Clear Signal Showing the Pandemic is Gen Z’s ‘Generation Defining Moment’

  • The pandemic has rocked the future for Gen Z
  • High school seniors will probably put college plans on hold and begin working
  • Gen Z will take their experience with financial distress and maximize the value of their education

For decades, many graduating high school seniors have looked forward to attending university as the exciting next step to their formal education. These institutions of higher learning have been seen as a natural progression for many in their educational career. College is a time to develop learning, skills, build a network, and create marketability for the future job market (not to mention have lots of fun and build independence and self-reliance away from home).

However, since the pandemic spread from country to country in the early part of the year, many graduating seniors have been reexamining their plans going forward, according to a new survey. As a generational researcher and author of the forthcoming book, Zconomy, I shared some of CGK’s latest insights with Michelle Fox of CNBC about the new data as it relates to Gen Z and graduating high school seniors.

A Change in College Plans for Gen Z

As I shared with CNBC about the coronavirus, “[It is] a generation defining moment.” This is important because this era will have a profound impact on how Gen Z makes decisions regarding jobs, family, spending, the economy and more going forward.

We already know that the experience Gen Z had growing up during the Great Recession of 2008 impacted how they looked at money, spending, saving, and work. At that time, many of them saw their parents go through the economic turmoil of that event. Now they carry the financial lessons learned from that time and apply them to the choices they are beginning to face concerning their own finances, including their college education.

Much of Gen Z are Considering Delaying College and Joining the Workforce

The study featured in the CNBC article revealed that many graduating high school seniors will either start working now or delay when they start college. As I shared with CNBC, “The fact that roughly half of graduating seniors have changed their plans as the result of a pandemic, which only really started three months prior to their graduation, shows the depth, severity, and impact of Covid-19 on the generation.”

Gen Z Will Re-examine the Long-Term Benefits of Attending College

In the midst of the pandemic, these newly minted high school graduates are going to look at the system of higher education—particularly spending (and oftentimes going into a lot of debt) for a very expensive college—in a whole new light. As I continued, “Seeing Gen Z’s worry about attending college, paying for college, and the value they’re going to get from the experience can have an outsized impact on their future should they choose not to attend college or pick a different college than planned.”

Long Term Implications for Gen Z and Future Employers

If Gen Z changes their education path, it will have significant long-term effects for them and their employers and families. In the short-term, delaying their college career means they could apply for a full-time job and start developing real-life working skills. Of course, the job market is extremely difficult right now. Any worker without a college degree could potentially earn less than their contemporaries with college degrees—both now and well into the future.

Contrarily, choosing to attend college now could be onerous on their bank account and require Gen Z to take on debt at a precarious time in the nation’s economy. And after that, it is unknown that four years down the road, the type of degree they earned will result in a rewarding career or job. In addition, Gen Z’s parents are also impacted because they often financially assist their kids in college. Further, they may also be out of work now and could benefit if their stay-at-home children contribute to the family bank account.

All of these scenarios, along with the tragic impact of the pandemic, make these decisions incredibly important. At CGK, we will be researching this closely!

How Will You Recruit, Retain, and Motivate Gen Z Graduates as They Enter the Workforce?

In these challenging times, leaders across all industries need key takeaways and insights into the attitudes and behaviors of Gen Z as job seekers, colleagues, and emerging leaders. It is of the utmost importance that companies and organizations engage Gen Z in the best way possible to prepare for the near future and long-term success.

At CGK, we lead national and international studies on Gen Z and how they connect with the world. We study and contextualize what they think about work, shopping, technology, education, voting, and much more. As part of our strategic advisory work, webinars, and virtual keynote presentations, we work with our clients to give research-based insights to help inform their key strategic decisions to achieve measurable results.

Contact our friendly team here to learn how we can be your trusted generational strategy resource through this time of uncertainty.

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