What has changed in the college admission process this past year? “Everything!” according to Dean Duck, Director of admissions at Tufts University. The coronavirus has upended the entire application and admissions processes, cancelling college tours and standardized test dates, causing disruptions to athletics, extracurricular activities and student employment, forcing students to learn remotely, and ultimately obliging students to choose their college decision based on digital communication. The level of uncertainty has impacted families in an unprecedented manner, with high school seniors reaching out to their college friends for “live” campus information.
How are college students faring this year at their selected colleges? The themes are common and the responses are varied. Here is what we’ve learned from some of our local residents about attending college during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
I am a junior at Gettysburg college, where my fall courses were online. Only freshmen were allowed to live on campus, so I spent the semester at home. A lot of my friends rented houses and lived together but I did not want to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 or spend the extra money. I did not like taking online classes, I felt they were a waste of my time. The professors were significantly less engaged with the material and the students and it was extremely difficult to participate. There was limited social interaction, minimal learning and all the material had to be altered. This semester everyone except freshman will be back on campus and most classes will still be offered online. I chose not to go back to campus this semester, and took the opportunity to travel abroad, and I am currently in Berlin, Germany. I cannot be more excited to be in a new city and have started classes here and absolutely love them. Looking back on my past two semesters (spring 2020, Fall 2020) which were mostly spent at home doing online learning I wish I had taken the semesters off and waited until the world started to be normal again. I really feel as if my education has been hindered due to online learning and not having the full campus experience. I have loved my experience at Gettysburg up until the pandemic hit, and look forward to returning to normalcy.
I am currently a sophomore at Lehigh University where all of my classes have been virtual. I personally do not like online school because it’s more difficult for me to pay attention and to be fully engaged with the class. I am on the baseball team, and this semester we are lucky to have a spring baseball season — but first we are required to go into quarantine before entering into a bubble-pod-format as our season progresses. We will not be able to see anyone outside of our team at practice and can only hang out with our house mates at home. It is going to be difficult considering our limited social life, but in the end, it is a great opportunity to play baseball and hopefully win a championship.
This past semester at the University of Vermont I opted to do a combination of both in-person and online classes. Having the majority of my coursework online definitely created a challenge for me. I missed interacting and connecting face-to-face with my peers and professors. I also felt less motivated to learn the material than in past semesters because it was difficult to stay as engaged. My college experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been different than most have experienced at other colleges in that Vermont has been taking the virus quite seriously. I was tested at least once a week and used an app through the school to schedule my tests, track my symptoms and contacts, as well as view my test results. Most of my peers adhered to this same system. I am hopeful that the university will stay focused on keeping one another safe and healthy so that I may attend my graduation ceremony in the spring.
At Connecticut College, classes were taught in person as well as online. All my Fall classes happened to be taught online. In the beginning of the semester, I moved back onto campus to take classes in my dorm. When my online classes started, I soon realized I wasn’t happy living on campus. I would sit in my (quite cramped) dorm room and stare at my laptop either in class or doing work all day. After about 2 weeks of being on campus, I moved back home where I took classes online from my bedroom in my parents’ house in Greenwich. I personally enjoyed online classes. My situation allowed me to have a pleasant and private space to do work, and my parents were very respectful in giving me privacy and making sure my conditions were optimal for learning. Occasionally, I was able to visit friends at their universities. In these cases, I could take my classes with me. This was such a unique experience. After moving home, I found I had a lot of time on my hands. Without any on campus activities or extracurriculars, all I had to fill my time was school. With all this time and focus, I took on more classes in order to graduate early in December. Taking online classes at home in Greenwich was not at all how I imagined my senior year, however I pride myself as well as all my fellow students on being gracefully resilient these past ten months.
I’m a freshman at Bucknell University. I didn’t have any expectations about what the fall semester would be like, I was just happy to be on campus where students could take classes online, in-person, or a hybrid which is what I chose. When I had online class, I zoomed into them from my dorm room. I didn’t really like online school because I found it hard to focus. While it did give me the flexibility to just roll out of bed instead of walking across campus, I was very disengaged. As for the spring semester, it appears that things will be more or less the same. We had a lot of policies specifically about wearing masks and were required to wear them anytime we were not in our dorm room. This definitely helped contain the spread of the virus and collectively, where only 69 students and faculty members got COVID during the fall semester. Hopefully with our combined mask efforts and the vaccine we can minimize the number of cases for the upcoming spring semester.
I attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and this is my senior year. In March of 2020 our class went completely online for the rest of the semester after our spring break. In the Fall of 2020, I took 7 classes and only one of which was in-person. That one in-person class only lasted three weeks because then our school went into a 14 day quarantine. Then after the quarantine the teacher decided to continue the class online and not return to in person. In that semester I had three classes that were online synchronous and three that were asynchronous. I extremely dislike online classes, especially the asynchronous ones. I benefit greatly from face-to-face communication and continuous participation. I like structure and clear-cut scheduling and so asynchronous classes do not benefit me in that way. This semester is quite similar to last in terms of schedules and hybrid models of teaching, but this semester, all students will be required to get tested every 72 hours. There is an app that tracks all your testing and is a passport type tool to allow you into buildings on campus. If you have had a negative test in the prior 72 hours the app will show a green checkmark and that will be a way to allow you into classrooms and school facilities.
This past semester I took the majority of my classes at Villanova online through zoom. However, one of my classes was in person and another one of my classes was taught in a hybrid format where half the class would go in and the other half would attend on zoom and the halves would alternate. My in-person classes were held in the larger lecture halls although there were only 15 people in a class to allow for proper social distancing to take place to ensure our safety during class. There was a spike in COVID cases last semester where in one week nearly 200 people got the virus, and with an undergraduate population of around 11,000 students the school did a good job of contact tracing and making sure students would quarantine for the necessary amount of time. The dining halls limited the number of students sitting at a table together and the stations where food was custom made were replaced for more premade food which was the worst part of all the policies because the quality in food severely declined.
All of my freshman coursework at UConn Storrs has been online. I made the decision to live at home this year due to the COVID restrictions. I do not mind online classes, but I’d much rather be in the classroom learning. I have done well so far with online classes, but I feel I would do better in person because it is easier to focus. Although I am not sure about the number of cases at UConn, I know a lot of people who got COVID in my hometown. Multiple people at my job contracted it as well as people that I knew socially. For the fall semester, students were not allowed to have roommates and all dining halls were take-out. They also only allowed 50% capacity on the campus itself. I also believe that the gym was closed the first semester.
Despite being offered the option of having all online classes, most of the other students at Wake Forest, where I am completing my senior year, had schedules that were half in person and half online. I personally found the in-person classes far more engaging, however, one benefit from having online classes was that it was easier to book teachers for office hours and therefore easier to create a personal relationship with them. Wake Forest had a pretty large number of positive cases this past semester. Last semester, students who lived on campus were required to wear masks at all times that they were not eating or drinking. People were only allowed to have a singular guest in their room at a time and social distancing rules were meant to be followed. I think the school tried its best to do random testing but did it in a way that was not efficient. Many people were tested five or six times after they had already had Covid, while others who had not had Covid were not tested a single time. Similarly, they randomly tested off campus neighborhoods, sororities, and frats. This semester they are continuing to do random testing, requiring off-campus students to go stay at a hotel if one of their roommates gets COVID, despite having their own room and bathroom to successfully quarantine in their own house. This decision has been very controversial between upperclassmen, who are the people who live off campus, and many fear that this new policy will make people not report their positive results to the school.
Last semester, Tulane used a hybrid system of in-person and some online classes. The larger lectures were all online, which is still the same for this semester. They built about a dozen temporary classrooms with industrial HVAC systems. These buildings are great except that during the beginning of the semester we couldn’t hear any of our professors because of the loud filtration systems but that’s all sorted now. We are also required to wipe down our desks before and after class, with hand sanitizers at every entrance, and desks spaced out 6 feet in every classroom. We have our own COVID testing program with the Med school which is really convenient. By the end of last semester, I had to get COVID tested 3 times a week and right now I am getting tested every other day due to the surge of cases. Almost all the undergrad students I know either got COVID or were exposed to it or one of their roommates had it so they had to quarantine with them. We also had three hurricane scares, once where we evacuated which ended up being a false alarm and then later a Category 2 hit and we all ended up having to get hotel rooms to stay on top of work. Definitely the toughest semester I’ve had to go through. Online classes were also much more difficult to pay attention to since you have added distractions and less structure.
My senior year classes at UConn, Storrs campus, are being taught both online and in person, but mostly online. Online classes are both synchronous (real-time class meetings on zoom) or asynchronous (pre-recorded lecture videos/assignments that you do on your own time). Some classes could also be hybrid, integrating both online and in-person components. In-person classes are tough to organize because they require social distancing and masks at all times. It had its advantages, but I did not enjoy online school. I missed going on campus, to the library, and even to those in-person classes of the past. As the semester went on I got more and more stir-crazy cooped up in my house. Definitely a lot of people got Covid, but UConn (Storrs campus) has free testing available for students at pretty much all times so that’s been helpful.
This past year school year has been difficult, presenting challenges that none of us were prepared for. Yet college students found their way and learned a lot about themselves in the process. But the big question remains: will college students be back on campus in September, able to participate in the full college experience that was so limited this past year? Several colleges, including the University of California have announced plans for in-person classes to resume in the fall semester, crediting the increasing availability of vaccines for students, staff and faculty, and hopefully other colleges will follow suit.