For many West Virginia University students, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Years of studying and hard work have paid off. Its graduation time, and the”real world”awaits.

Whats supposed to be a time of celebration is often tempered by anxiety over the challenge of what lies ahead, perhaps even more so this year.

The prospect of landing a good-paying job in ones field of study immediately out of college will be more difficult for 2003 graduates, due in large part to the stagnant national economy, said Bob Kent, director of the WVU Career Services Center.

“We have seen a 37 percent decline in visits to campus by companies wanting to interview our graduates,”Kent said.”Theres no question, the state of the economy is having a tremendous impact on recruiting. Campus interviews are our best barometer in gauging that.”

Still, Kent estimates 86 percent of the graduates who utilize the Career Services Center this year will be placed. In past years, that figure has been around 90 percent or higher, he noted.

“Eighty-six percent is very good, considering,”Kent noted,”and while many industries have cut back on new hires, others like education, pharmacy and the government sector are booming. That has balanced things out.”

The Career Services Center provides resources and activities to help students and alumni in all areas of career planning and job search. Services include individualized guidance, on-campus interviewing, instructional group sessions, job search preparation, career development and recruitment events.

“They (Career Services) give you all the materials you need to get started,”said LeAnn Boron of Wheeling, who graduates today with a masters degree in public administration, and then begin work with the accounting firm of Deloitte&Touche in Pittsburgh.”The on-line services available such as provide an easy way to get in contact with businesses looking to hire.”

Kent said graduates in fields where there is not a lot of new hiring do not seem overly concerned. Many of them are opting to further their education, he noted.

“My understanding is weve seen a 25 percent increase in the number of graduate applications,”he said.”Thats indicative of a major dip in the job market. Many students have told me they plan to enroll in grad school and ride this economic downturn out for a couple years.”

Senior Michael Gustman of Morganville, N.J., will graduate with a degree in public relations, but because of the tough job market, he accepted a job more in line with his minorbusiness administration.

“Ill be going to work for Summit Capital, a lending corporation in Boca Raton, Fla.”Gustman said.”With the job market like it is, I had to look through PR.”

Both Boron and Gustman say Career Services played an invaluable role in their job searches.

“The staff gave me great advice and helped to get my resume out there,”Gustman said.”They were very helpful.”