Where is the Class of 2011 Now?

Almost 10 months ago I, along with 1.7 million of my peers, donned a cap and gown and received my college diploma, representing four years of hard-earned education (National Association of Colleges and Employers). Graduation was both exhilarating and frightening.

Few of us had full-time employment lined up, and bitter jokes about living in cardboard boxes and our parents’ basements were common. A few of my friends joined service organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach For America; others enrolled in grad school because they weren’t sure what else to do. Most ended up with part-time jobs at cafes, restaurants or retail outlets.

The New York Times recently conducted a survey of 226 recent graduates from Drew University’s class of 2011 to find clues to the state of the job market. The Times found statistics similar to what I have observed:

74% of graduates who intern are unpaid

39% have full-time jobs

35% of graduates who have part-time jobs work two or more jobs

34% of jobs involve food service, retail, customer service, clerical, or unskilled work

22% of students are in grad school

17% are unemployed

You can read accounts of individual students’ after-graduation journeys here. Overall, there is a lot of frustration, wasted effort and wasted time for students who graduate with bachelors degrees in the liberal arts. Our professors always told us that our diverse education would give us an edge, that we would have more sophisticated communication skills and so rise to the top of whatever profession we chose. But when getting an entry-level job seems about as likely as winning the lottery, it is hard to look back fondly on the days spent reading Aristotle and taking ballet classes.

My own post-graduation experience has been fairly eventful and has involved jobs such as driving tractors, waitressing and an unpaid internship. I worked an average of 60 hours a week and was making minimum wage. My degree in English and Norwegian finally paid off when I landed an editorial position at an independent publishing house. I don’t make a lot of money, but I work regular hours and get benefits. I am one of the lucky ones.

Clearly the job market (and the economy) is far from stable. How can college kids best prepare themselves for the tough “real world” after graduation? Do you know any struggling graduates? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Inga S.
Inga S5 years ago

No Veronica M. Volunteering and Slavery have NOTHING in Common!

Teresa Goff

This is not quite accurate. There are those who join Peace Corp and Teach 4 America, gain experience, and get a job afterwards. I think what most people want is a job that maintains the lifestyle they are used to AND is near home. Having graduated in 1997 with the prospect of also not earning enough to pay a rent, insurance, taxes, etc, looked elsewhere. In my case elsewhere is far from home, but I earn enough to live on as well as save for a home of my own and/or retirement. One makes choices!

Barbara V.
Barbara V5 years ago

Living at home and sending off resumes?

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

With so little job openings out there, it's definitely the worst time to graduate...

iii q.
g d c5 years ago


Patrick F.
Patrick f5 years ago

Working at Starbucks.....

Bruce K.
Bruce K5 years ago

Need more push toward vocational careers which sometimes pay better, My father always joked it would have made more as an Electrician then as a Electrical Engineer.
Look in the paper there are far more job openings for Mechanics, Welders, Construction, then Engineers

Judy M.
Robert mahaffey5 years ago

By letting people retire & collect SS at age 55 brings us to what happen in France. RIOTS.
Those forced in to retirement at age 55 have not had to time to built their nest egg,
and look at what has happened to their 401k's, some have lost over 45% of it's value.
Also it will deplete SS faster and they will go thru their savings a lot faster.

Kathryn T.
Kathryn Towle5 years ago

I totally agree with Mike B. Letting people who are very close to retirement age (say 62 on) should be able to start collecting their "full" retirement amount instead of waiting until age 66. That would most definitely relieve a good share of the job shortage we are encountering. What is the difference between paying these early retirees the money they will be collecting shortly anway over paying out so much unemployment?! Other countries have done such things in the past during times of crisis.

Christy H.

MaryAnn L - I would also like to see better use of the community college system and the idea of taking a year off. Most kids need a break from academics to work, figure things out, etc. Even volunteering for a year can help people better decided what they want to do with their lives. But so many families would be embarassed if their child didn't walk off the high school graduation stage and onto a college campus a few months later.