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Cory Sanning / Photo contributed by Gene Henley

Cory Sanning pictured his final semester as a college student going differently.

Since September of last year, he had been locked in with a job covering Tennessee — his soon-to-be alma mater — athletics for Maven, the company that had bought out Sports Illustrated. He was going to graduate in May and had already started putting out feelers for other opportunities.

But then in a sense, the world came to a halt on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic that shut down his school and has taken away his graduation, which was supposed to occur on May 9th. Sanning had an interview for a job in Hazard, Kentucky, a day before the Volunteers were set to face Alabama in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. That was postponed.

He's put out other feelers and spoken with people about other potential job opportunities. Those openings have been frozen for a while due to the pandemic, and in a couple of cases Sanning has been told that the job may never be filled.

"I had expected this to be the best six-month stretch maybe of my collegiate career, my life so far," Sanning said. "It's hard for me to say I get discouraged because I'm an incredibly upbeat person for some of the stuff that I've had to deal with. ... I'll just keep honing the craft and keep doing what I can do to get better so that the next time this pops up, or if they see me again, they won't be able to turn me down. So while there's a discouraging aspect of it, obviously, there's also an encouraging aspect because it makes me want to be that much better."

(READ MORE: Coronavirus is affecting Chattanooga area college students in more ways than one)

College kids — those finishing school and still in school — typically go to their respective homes during the summer and take on jobs to make additional money for school. They find internships that are necessary for graduation. They work because they want to. Those jobs haven't been available because only essential businesses are open. Additional jobs have been created at places such as Amazon, Walmart and Publix to help those in need, but those jobs have been gobbled up by people who are in more dire need than an 18-22 year-old kid looking for additional income.

Those graduating college and looking for full-time careers are especially vulnerable.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, which is conducting an ongoing survey regarding trends in college recruiting, hiring, and internship, reported last week that 19% of employers have revoked offers to interns, and 3.5% are revoking offers to new college graduates for full-time positions.

Though 59% of employer respondents report plans to maintain their offers to interns and graduates for full-time positions, that number represents a 5% drop since April 10.

Internships are by far the biggest losers in the coronavirus shuffle. On April 10, 65% of employers reported they were changing their summer internship programs. Now, that number has jumped to 78% with 42% moving interns to a virtual program and 40% reducing the length of the internship by delaying the start date.

Jake Griffin is a junior public health major at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was planning on doing an 80-hour internship this summer in either the District of Columbia area or in his hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee, which would have sped up his graduation date. But of course, all of that has been put on hold. He has received a number of emails from places saying they're not taking applicants at the time.

(READ MORE: UTC postpones spring graduation ceremonies until August amid coronavirus crisis)

"It's a little frustrating," he said recently. "I kind of set aside this summer to get some of this done. If it continues into the summer, I guess I'm going to have to find something I can do during the school year, either during the fall or spring because I have to have the 80 hours to graduate."

Griffin added that he'll lean on his advisors to help him navigate the process. For Sanning, there is no additional time. He was expecting to cover Tennessee's Orange and White (spring football) game this past weekend, but has instead picked up a landscaping job with his brother, where he logs 11-14 hour days before going home to do homework.

That part of the process will be over in a couple of weeks, but that just leads to the realization that his desired career field isn't hiring right now, as is the case with so many other fields.

Still, he remains optimistic.

"All you can do is not get discouraged, no matter how grave the situation may seem," he said. "You just have to keep pushing forward and everything will work out the way it's supposed to."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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