How is the Pandemic Affecting College Freshmen?


Lily Grazioso, Video Team

As the second semester starts at most colleges in America, many college freshmen are going back with a grim outlook on the rest of the year. Many colleges and universities have decided on a hybrid model, in-person and online learning, similar to our own school. 

I interviewed three 2020 SHS graduates who attend colleges in three different states to gather the freshman outlook on their first college experience: Louise Benning (American University, D.C.), Hayden Startzell (Emerson College, Boston, MA), and Hailey Sanchez (Penn State, State College, PA). 

All three freshmen were both excited and skeptical about their college experience. “Five days after graduation and about three weeks before we were supposed to move in, all students received an email stating that no students would be allowed on campus,” Benning stated regarding American University’s communication during the summer. 

Sanchez was less impressed with her school’s communication skills: “[Penn State] was communicating less and less about how they would handle the situation…I realized I was uncomfortable being on campus for the fall semester.” 

Startzell tried to prepare himself by looking at his friends’ college plans and basing Emerson’s plan on that. Once Emerson chose a hybrid-based curriculum, he decided not to defer his acceptance, which he might have if Emerson chose a fully online option. 

Sanchez stated that she chose to drop an online course “in favor of having it in person someday.” She had reservations about the lack of a fully established plan at Penn State, but eventually, she understood their plan. She said, “It took them a while, but now a precedent is set.” 

Benning stated that she appreciates how seriously American University is taking the pandemic by doing an almost fully online curriculum: “I understand that they probably couldn’t even handle if there was an outbreak due to the lack of housing,” Benning remarked. 

Startzell thinks positively of Emerson’s plan; however, he thinks they should have canceled the fall semester: “I think they’re handling it as well as a college could if they still really wanted to do in-person. For what it is, Emerson has done a good job.”

All three freshmen did have at least one positive experience through online learning. Startzell says the asynchronicity of his schedule forces him to plan out his days, which was a skill he “really needed to work on.” Sanchez says the virtual experience hasn’t hindered her learning; however, many students have struggled with this format. Benning says that online learning has forced her to expand her ways of communication: “I’ve definitely figured out new ways to try and stay focused and how to meet people.” 

All three of these freshmen have similar outlooks overall: this stinks. 

Nevertheless, they also are trying their best to be patient and figure out how to adapt during these unprecedented times. This isn’t ideal for anyone, and starting college during a pandemic is especially difficult, but these students are just a small portion of the students who have successfully been able to adapt and further their education.